One of the jobs of a law professor is to look at long-held beliefs with a critical eye and offer insights that may change widespread understanding of pressing legal issues. Erin F. Delaney, associate dean of faculty and research, sat down with three professors who are in different stages of doing just that: Martin H. Redish, Louis and Harriet Ancel Professor of Law and Public Policy; Ronald J. Allen, John Henry Wigmore Professor of Law; and Deborah Tuerkheimer, Class of 1940 Research Professor of Law. Below is an excerpt of their conversation.
All three of you have contributed significantly — or are contributing — to paradigm shifts in how we think about certain areas of the law. Ron, to start, can you define “paradigm shift” for us?
Marty, what was the paradigm before your groundbreaking 1971 article, “The First Amendment in the Marketplace: Commercial Speech and the Values of Free Expression”?
But a paradigm shift doesn’t just happen in a 3L law review article, and it doesn’t happen in isolation. Other people have to buy into your ideas, which has happened for you in the four decades since your article was published. Tailspin, by Steven Brill, even credits you with changing the entire view of the First Amendment. And, of course, a majority of the Supreme Court has agreed with you.
Of course, as paradigms shift, there are bound to be holdouts. Ron, in your article “Relative Plausability and its Critics,” you engage with the shifting paradigm about juridical proof. How are you dealing with the holdouts?
This concept of a paradigm in transition is a way of explaining what you are doing, Deb. What is the dominant paradigm in how we think about sexual harassment, and how is it changing? Your article, “Incredible Women: Sexual Violence and the Credibility Discount” does a beautiful job identifying the law as it currently stands.
Your article came out barely a month before The New York Times and New Yorker reports on Harvey Weinstein.
What are you working on now?
To summarize this conversation: You need to be an irritant of some sort, right? Part of the role of the law professor is to challenge and test perceived wisdom about the law?
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