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Fear and loathing in legal academia: Legal academics’ perceptions of their field and their curious imaginaries of how ‘outsiders’ perceive it

Priaulx, Nicolette ORCID:, Weinel, Martin, Leonard-Clarke, Willow and Hayes, Thomas ORCID: 2020. Fear and loathing in legal academia: Legal academics’ perceptions of their field and their curious imaginaries of how ‘outsiders’ perceive it. British Journal of American Legal Studies 9 (1) , pp. 17-80. 10.2478/bjals-2020-0006

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This paper concerns the question of how legal academics think 'others' think about legal academia. Centralising our empirical work undertaken at a UK research intensive University which explored the attitudes, beliefs and knowledges of non-legal academics about the field of legal academia, we focus on the findings flowing from benchmarking surveys with legal academics which invited self-evaluations of the field of legal academia as well as imagining how non-legal academics might evaluate the field of legal academia. Of particular interest here, we note the presence of a curious divergence between self-perceptions of legal academia and their ‘imaginaries’ as to how others will perceive the field. Supported by a review of the legal scholarly literature, our study reveals a persistently bleak ‘folklore’ surrounding the question of how “others” will regard our field – though critically, one which on the basis of our empirical work, finds little root in reality. Providing the first study of its kind, and offering a range of novel analytical techniques, we highlight the significant purchase of empirical meta-disciplinary work of this kind for better understanding our field, and its relationship with wider spheres. While undertaken as a scoping study, we identify important potential pathways for raising the profile of legal academia and legal research in the wider academy and social sphere; quite critically, as we argue by reference to our findings, part of that work may simply involve legal academics projecting their more positive self-perceptions of their field and the value of their work to the outside world.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff Law & Politics
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Centre for the Study of Knowledge Expertise and Science (KES)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
K Law > K Law (General)
Additional Information: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0.
ISSN: 2049-4092
Funders: British Academy (Grant number 509225).
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 July 2019
Date of Acceptance: 30 June 2019
Last Modified: 08 May 2023 22:57

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