Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fox vs. Hedgehog, The Ultimate Smackdown

Follow-ups to my previous post. Good comments by Eric Muller and Orin Kerr. Thank you both!

Eric has a lengthier follow-up at his blog, detailing his own path from hedgehogginess to foxiness and back again. It's well worth reading, even if daunting to emulate.

Dan Filler posts his own thoughts on the debate at the Co-Op. Here's a significant bite:

But there are downsides to foxhood. First, foxes find it tougher to join a community of scholars. At meetings, and all year long, academic hedgehogs connect over shared issues and interests. They invite each other to give talks and join panels. They share each others' names when law schools seek potential lateral hires. Foxes often exist on the edges of hedgehog communities but the hedgehogs rarely think of foxes as true experts. And this is the second problem: foxes may in fact be less expert than hedgehogs. The immediate cost of this is that the scholar's institution (and the world, gosh darnit!) never get the benefit of this additional quantum of knowledge. A secondary effect of this reduced expertise also relates to lateral movement potential: in many cases, better scholars have more opportunities to move. But this is a complicated claim. The truth is that social connections and article placement are absolutely critical predictors of success in the lateral market. Sociable foxes with strong (if not brilliant) scholarship and/or nice placements can move. Yet because many excellent articles never find a marque placement, many hedgehogs are unable to move...despite their expertise.

There is no right answer to this debate. If your school demands that you become a leader in some particular sub-field, you're probably best playing the hedgehog. But if you're at one of the 150 law schools that are primarily concerned about productivity (teamed with reasonable quality), the choice is up to you. And simply having that choice is one of the great pleasures of academia.

Very interesting! I didn't think I'd stir up the pot so much by blogging on music. I'll follow up tomorrow with some additional thoughts at this early stage in my career.

Next up: Why on earth am I doing what I'm doing rather than a Ph.D., as Jonathan Simon suggests.