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Publication Date

Winter 1993




American Bar Association




The impact of administrative law scholarship on administrative law seems at first blush both a relatively straightforward issue and one that academicians should be especially eager to engage. But there is reason to doubt both propositions. First, any effort to grapple with this topic compels the conclusion that the issue is by no means straightforward. As Peter Strauss recently observed, the question of the influence of administrative law scholarship necessarily becomes as well the influence of active engagement in the practice of administrative law on scholarship.' Moreover, the questions implicated in this assessment cannot be narrowly compassed. The topic requires consideration of the way decisions are made by all the folks who play significant roles in shaping the administrative process and appreciation of the interconnections among them.

Second, there is reason for academicians to be especially shy of this topic. Professor Warren Schwartz long ago warned that scholarship was not. an endeavor to be undertaken in the hope of tangible reward. The analogy he used to illustrate the point to newly minted professors was that of throwing stones at a mudbank: after a great deal of effort, you lift the stone, position it, take aim, and heave it out; when it hits the mudbank, it settles in, usually with only the faintest sound heralding its arrival; rarely, very rarely, it lands partly on another stone, and a pleasant "clink" emanates; but in the main, you engage in 1 his enterprise because you enjoy and value the process, not for the audible result.

That is not to say that academicians are not attentive to indicators that their work is having some effect on someone; some professors are rumored to spend a fair amount of time checking to see who is citing their work (Dean Mark Yudof has spoken of the sleepless days faculty members spend in this endeavor), which may explain why professors seem increasingly to be addressing their work to other professors. But there should be a general caution against looking too critically to see what effect scholarship is having. With that caveat, let us turn to the issue here.

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