It's that coveted time of year again -- at least for law librarians -- when the Michigan Law Review releases its annual Survey of Books Related to the Law.
My mentor taught me to use the Survey for collection development. Because the Michigan Law Review is prestigious, they would help vet out the important books of the past year (and the previous two years).
As far as I'm concerned, I would say that Brian Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools is the most important book of the last year. I haven't read Tamanaha's book yet, so I can't fully speak to it assertions, but one thing is certain -- this book got people talking about law school reform.
From Paul Horwitz's review What Ails the Law Schools: "Many critiques of law schools focus on either economic or culture-war explanations. It is possible that how we identify the primary problem will shape the course of our reform efforts (if there are any). It certainly, in any event, will say a great deal about our preoccupations, and about what different audiences see (or fail to see) when they look at law schools. This split between economic and cultural visions of the law school crisis is evident in the two books under review here. Brian Tamanaha’s Failing Law Schools takes a largely economic approach to its examination of the law school crisis, focusing on the financial and economic causes of the crisis and advocating both financial reform and partial deregulation of the law school market. Walter Olson’s Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America takes more of a culture-war approach, arguing that law schools are a breeding ground for “liberal-left wing” ideas; they “helped bring us the Sixties,” among other sins, and are still at it today."
This is the first I've heard of Olson's book and the liberal crisis of law schools. Most lawyers tend to be pragmatic folk (it's the nature of the work), so Tamanaha's economic explanations are easier to swallow in terms of reform. Dollars and cents makes more sense.
I will check to make sure that my law library owns these titles. If not, then I'll use the Survey to determine if it is something we should purchase.