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No prospect of agreement on a dominant value that defines the “best law departments”

One of the many powerful ideas clearly expressed in Amartya Sen, The Idea of Justice (Harvard Univ. 2009) at 15, is the “plurality of competing principles” put forth to explain different notions of justice. Sen believes that no single value will ever be recognized widely as the ultimate for purposes of defining and dispensing justice. As Sen concludes, “There may not indeed exist any identifiable perfectly just social arrangement on which impartial agreement would emerge.”

Likewise, I believe, we will never settle on a definitive value to choose which law department is “best” if only because those who care will never agree to a single litmus test for best. Consider some of the contenders.

Someone will say that the best law department delivers the most shareholder value. Another disagrees, and puts forward the advancement of law as the right measure. A third person argues for productivity and quality while a fourth would base the judgment on personnel self realization of members of the department or advancement of corporate social responsibility. Sen’s point is that we will never reach agreement on which of these or other values stands above the others as the measure of legal department quality.