Monday, May 16, 2005


The supposed joy of being an academic is that one has the time to think and then compose those thoughts into scintillating prose, and hopefully have some effect on the world.

Rarely does it work out that way.

Academics are essentially insecure beings constantly in search of praise, plaudits and power. The last one derives from how much of the first two one receives. Academics hate criticism. They dole it out to others all the time--it's part of the job--but when they are on the receiving end all criticism is vitriol. Alongside this runs the fear of being ignored. Having others being indifferent to you will make academics paranoid.

The upshot is that no academic will turn down a request to contribute something to a journal, a symposium or a book. If you do refuse, will you ever be asked again? You might be forgotten. It doesn't matter how loaded with assignments one is, there is always room for one more. It will always be possible to juggle the deadlines...perhaps.

Of course deadlines are sentient beings who know exactly when the other is due. They will lurk in dark places, apparently forgotten and then jump out just as a deadline thinks it has made it to safety by being completed. No such luck! It's like Arnie in Terminator, they will be back.

My deadlines have been plotting against each other in finest rabid manner. I have the article I'm doing with my colleagues, Julian and Andy. I have revised that on the basis of their critiques. (When you want to be nice to someone, even though you don't like what they said, you don't say they criticized your work; no, you say they critiqued you. Much grander.) The article is due the journal at the end of May. I was a day late with the revision.

I have a paper due for a conference in June on transnational law practice that is should be circulated to the other participants this week. I have another five or so pages to write and I have to listen to recordings to do them. I'm doing this with colleagues at the University of Bremen. More about the big project of which we are part can be found here.

I have submitted a paper to Civil Justice Quarterly on the lessons legal aid can learn from abroad. The editor likes it, but wants me to revise it by cutting out what I thought was some of the good parts. But they are to do with crime and it is about civil justice. I must do this in the next two weeks.

I and three other colleagues are doing some research on the ways courts allocate cases to judges. We are linked with researchers at the University of Utrecht and the Dutch Judiciary Council. We are meant to interview judges, but the bureaucratic hoops we have to jump through to do these means our time line is awfully awry. We are frantically trying to work out how to do the research with as few interviews as possible. On the back of this we submitted a research proposal to a foundation for an international comparative project on this topic. Our outline received favourable feedback, but to deal with the reviews (another way of saying criticisms) by the final submission deadline of May 20 would have entailed not sleeping for up to 14 days straight. We've elected to aim for the next date of September. That deadline is snoring heavily.

I also submitted a proposal to re-study barristers' clerks. (See my earlier article.) Fortunately, that one can fit into a small grant category that has no deadline. What does that mean? Will it ever be done?

On top of this lot I am trying to write a book on law and why am I blogging? Now avoidance tactics are another story.

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