Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Friday, November 4, 2005

Sextonism Watch: The University of Texas School of Law (!?!?)

It was bound to happen!  A student, who asked to remain anonymous, writes:

I nominate the University of Texas as this week's violator.  Check out the hyperbole in the faculty introduction:

The University of Texas School of Law has long had one of the outstandingfaculties in the nation, both in terms of the scholarly distinction of the faculty members and their success in the classroom. UT's recent recruitment of leading senior scholars from Stanford, NYU, and Michigan has pushed the school in to the very top ranks of American law faculties.

"Very top ranks?"  According to whom?  Surerly even you would consider this an exaggeration.

To which I replied in relevant part:

Touche!  ...but, "very top ranks" is somewhat ambiguous:  if "very top ranks" means, top ten, then [with respect to faculty quality] it's not even hyperbolic; if it means Yale/Harvard/Stanford/Chicago, then it is.  Thomson ISI most recently ranked the Texas law faculty #2 in scholarly impact (which strikes me as suspiciously high, but that's a different matter), partly because of some of these new appointments.  So maybe there's a defense...

And, indeed, the full text from the faculty introduction does cite some pertinent supporting evidence:

Science Watch (2002), for example, now ranks the law faculty 5th in the nation for scholarly impact based on citations to faculty work. A 1996 Chicago-Kent Law Review study found that articles by Texas faculty were cited more often by the courts than articles by any other law faculty in the nation. More than one-third of the faculty is elected to the American Law Institute (one of the highest percentages of faculty membership in the nation). Texas is one of only nine law schools in the United States with four faculty elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the nation's most prestigious learned society.

In any case, the student generously replied:

Very fair response from someone whom I admire greatly.  Texas is certainly a terrific school, but as with others, seems to have used ambiguity to protect itself.  I didn't really bat an eye when I read the claim, given the quality of the school and the obvious Sextonism that abounds elsewhere, but I thought it made for interesting discussion...

If at one Sextonism extreme is UCLA, and at the other Chicago, then perhaps Texas falls somewhat closer to the Chicago end of the Sextonism spectrum.  Kudos to my correspondent for unearthing the evidence!

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2005/11/sextonism_watch.html

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