I have spent the last several days at the AALS Conference in New York City listening to some interesting panels and having lots of interesting conversations with colleagues from other law schools or law-related institutions--stuff that impacts both my teaching and scholarship (and what I will be blogging about in 2008).
If anyone doubts the substantive value of attending AALS, check out David Hoffman's post on paths for corporate law scholarship, which flows from his conversations with professors from other law schools. Dave outlines six potential paths, and five draw on some form of empiricism. Here is an excerpt.
I've had a few conversations at the AALS this year revolving around the same topic: where is corporate law scholarship going? These conversations are naturally framed by being a (still relatively) junior scholar, not wanting to pick a research agenda or field that will be seen to be a dead-end in a few year's time. Over these conversations, folks have suggested several different types of corporate law research agendas. Obviously, the categories overlap and over-simplify, but it seemed useful to me to list them here, with a few thoughts on the obvious promises and perils of each.
1. Market Quant-heads: Using Tobin's Q and other quantitative methods to evaluate governance. Pros: still lots of low-hanging fruit, interesting results, multiple papers per data set. Cons: some barriers to entry if you aren't afraid of being publicly wrong, severe barriers to entry if you are; co-authorship with finance folks is useful but quality proxies are unreliable; probably little connection with your day-to-day teaching responsibilities; unclear value-added over business school professors; not clear how easy it is to place this work in flagship mainstream law reviews, if your law school values this currency (which it shouldn't).
2. Contract Quant-heads: Evaluating databases of agreements to shed light on private law-in-action. Pros: great work being done in entrepreneurial law, and huge areas of private corporations and LLCs are still basically unexplored; the learning curve, once you are familiar with STATA, is not steep; lawyer competencies are essential to the project. Cons: coding takes time, and projects can take >18 months to complete; finding appropriate data sources requires connections you likely do not have at the beginning of your career; you will almost certainly eventually want to get a grant, which creates its own set of bureaucratic issues.
3. Doctrinalists: Careful reading of Delaware cases, often informed by some L&E or BL&E theory. Pros: there are always new cases to write about; consulting gigs abound; lots of tie-in with teaching; influence over development of law; doctrine probably still places pretty well. Cons: in a globalizing economy, Delaware may be a declining stock to ride; elite law schools will likely not hire you; the "grand theory" field is very rich and possibly occupied.
Dave also discusses modelers and historical analysis, experimental design, and qualitative comparative governance. Very thoughtful stuff.