Vanderbilt Law Review


Walter Barnett

First Page



Most of the current debate over academic neutrality has centered on whether the university as an institution--the faculty and students as a corporate body--should take formal positions on political issues, such as the war in Vietnam. This article will address the related, but perhaps more mundane, question whether law professors should take a more active role in providing legal services to government and to the public when this activity might provoke attacks on academic freedom. Traditionally, law professors who have sought to serve society in ways other than educating lawyers have engaged in the following five extramural activities:' (1) The production of scholarly writings that are published in the form of horn books and other treatises, monographs on specialized topics, articles in law reviews, and casebooks; (2) Legal aid to the poor; (3) The continuing legal education of the bar; (4) Research and consultation services provided on request to other lawyers and to government agencies on especially difficult legal questions,usually for remuneration. Occasionally, however, law professors have offered their services gratis to organizations or private clients in important test cases, or as amici curiae; and (5) A variety of tasks too multifarious to catalogue associated with the improvement of legal education. This article will examine how this traditional conception of a law school's extramural roles has resulted in two very important needs of American society going virtually unmet, and what can be done to remedy this neglect. The thesis of this article is that law professors, by limiting themselves to these activities, have failed to help government devise rational laws and have neglected to educate the public on the importance of the law in their daily lives. The article examines two ways that law professors could help American society meet these current needs. It concludes with an evaluation of whether these proposed activities would signal a departure from the principle of academic neutrality and therefore pose a danger to academic freedom.