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The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Meeting of the Law and Society Association: The Ice Cream Social

The family has returned to Madison, Wisconsin where it all started. The old-timers are in a mood for celebration and self-congratulation. The past presidents are serving ice cream to a huge crowd of people from all over the world. These founding fathers (the first female president is still in office and isn't yet eligible to serve ice cream) look pleased. This is a world they have made. It is full of old friends, recent students, ardent disciples, a few critics who have at least taken them seriously, and some strangers who (probably) know who they are. To each and all they scoop out free ice cream made by the University of Wisconsin and paid for by the association they struggled to create.

It is a charming scene: modest (no caviar, no champagne), friendly (with each cone a kind owrd or two to all), egalitarian (one scoop for each). For a moment, everyone forgets the world outside. Put aside are the scars that family members bear from the struggle to create and maintain this curious project. There have been disappointments, frustrations, no little rage. Some thought they would make brilliant careers in law and other disciplines, only to encounter hostility and indifference. Some thought they would be able to mobilize the money that is needed for empirical research, only to find that funding sources can be indifferent to scholarship that doesn't support conclusions already reached. Some thought students would be fascinated by the insights they could offer on the role of law in society, only to find that students wanted tips on how to pick juries. Some expected to reform American society through law, only to find America wanted little reform and thought it had too much law. But at the ice cream social, all these disappointments could be put aside. The family had survived, and that was enough.