Thanks for the Thanks: An Appreciation of the Author Note


Legal scholars’ public expressions of gratitude – those thank-yous that fill law review author notes and law book prefaces – have inspired a good deal of legal scholarly commentary in recent years. Much of that commentary deals with the theory that authors write those thank-yous with an eye more to the future than to the past. This work – “prospective thank-you theory” might be a good name – has numerous variations and complexities, and occasional hilarities. One thread involves the idea that some authors curry favor with great (or at least powerful or rich or famous) legal figures and institutions by thanking as many of them as possible for their support, no matter how slight their connections may be to an author’s work. The result, such an author hopes, is that the thanked great ones will think kindly of him or her and bestow favors in the future. But is it true? Does this aspect of prospective thank-you theory match reality? Discovering the truth might be both difficult and uncomfortable. There may, however, be a sunnier side to the study of schmoozing via author note, a side that might show that expansively grateful authors of author notes can make the world a happier place at no cost to anyone other than themselves. But could that be true? I suspect the answer is mostly Yes. And I even have a little bit of antique, but concrete, evidence.