Is There a Lingua Franca for the American Legal Academy?

Mary Anne Case

This chapter examines translation between languages within the legal academy, evaluating the push for rational choice as a kind of lingua franca for law professors as opposed to the traditional "vernacular" provided by legal doctrinal language.  The paper suggests that for much of the American legal academy in the last generation, the language of law-and-economics and rational choice bears the same relationship to the language of legal doctrine (including what is left of law French) as French did to Russian for most Russian aristocrats. In other words, whether or not there is a lingua franca in the legal academy, there is a vernacular, which is the language of doctrine. While rational choice has gained widespread acceptance as a language among some law professors, insights from other disciplines have been more selectively incorporated, in the process often losing the distinct trace of their original disciplinary settings.