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February 9, 2007

Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch: Why the University of Chicago Law School is NOT This Week's Winner

MOVING TO FRONT FROM 9/16/05, AS A COUPLE OF FOLKS HAVE NOMINATED THIS ONE LATELY.  I AM ALSO SWAMPED AT THE MOMENT, SO THIS IS EASIER THAN POSTING NEW MATERIAL!

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Several folks have suggesed the University of Chicago Law School based on this:

The faculty is, by a wide margin, the most productive, widely cited, and influential law faculty in the country and perhaps the world.

Strong claims, to be sure, but given that every study of scholarly productivity and impact as measured by citations (over the last decade at least) does show Chicago to be #1 in the U.S., these appear to be true strong claims, and thus not cases of ludicrous hyperbole.  "Perhaps the world" is perhaps overreaching (I know of no relevant data), but at least they put in a "perhaps"!

UPDATE:  Len Cleavlin writes:  "As Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean is supposed to have noted: 'It
ain't bragging if you can do it.'  And that's what gets Chicago off the hook."

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 9, 2007 in Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch | Permalink | TrackBack

February 8, 2007

"National" and "Regional" Law Schools

MOVING TO FRONT FROM FEBRUARY 6, 2006, SINCE I STILL GET INQUIRIES ABOUT THIS.

Students, academics, and law schools themselves often talk in terms of schools being "national" or "regional," though there doesn't seem to be an agreed-upon set of criteria at work in such discussions.  The vast majority of ABA-approved law schools are "national," for example, in offering a curriculum that is not specific to the state jurisdiction in which the school is located, so in terms of course offerings, "national" is the norm.  More interesting to prospective students, and more likely what is at stake when students wonder whether a school is "national," are the employment prospects of graduates.  Genuinely "national" law schools draw prospective employers to campus from around the nation, not just from the immediate area in which the school is located; more "regional" law schools mainly draw employers to campus from the immediate region.  (The best advice for students is:  ask to see a list of employers recruiting on campus--that will tell you more about employment prospects, and the "national" reach of the degree, than just about anything else.)

Data from the National Association for Law Placement on the number of firms interviewing on campus (and reprinted in the September National Jurist) gives some picture about which schools are "national" and which "regional", though the data is very crude for a variety of reasons:  (1) it tells us nothing about how many positions each firm is looking to fill (a typical large Texas firm, for example, will often be prepared to hire a half-dozen or more UT grads in a given year); (2) it tells us nothing about the caliber of the firms interviewing on campus; and (3) employers have a variety of reasons for interviewing at a school apart from the quality of the legal education--for example:  the school is near the firm's offices (a boon for schools in cities like New York and D.C. with huge numbers of law firms); the firm has been successful in recruiting students from the school in the past; size of the school (the more students, the more likely an employer is to land a graduate); affirmative action considerations; and so on. 

Although Duke has more firms coming to campus than Yale according to the NALP data, this surely isn't because anyone is in doubt about the relative merits of these schools, but because many employers find they stand no chance of getting Yale grads, who are being sought after by the most attractive/lucrative employers in the nation.  That more firms go to Virginia than Columbia surely has far more to do with the fact that Columbia grads overwhelmingly stay in New York City, where there are a multitude of attractive practice opportunities, whereas most Virginia grads leave the area, since none of the local markets compare to New York or Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles.

Given the limits of this information, noted above, I've listed the schools in broad categories based on the number of firms interviewing on campus according to NALP: 

Over 800 firms:  Georgetown, Harvard [note, of course, that Georgetown and Harvard are the two largest top law schools in the country in terms of student population]

Over 700 firms:  Virginia

Over 600 firms:  Duke, Michigan, NYU

Over 500 firms:  Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Penn, Stanford

Over 400 firms:  George Washington, Howard, Northwestern, Texas, Yale

Over 300 firms:  Cornell, UCLA, Vanderbilt

Over 200 firms:  Boston College, Boston Univ., Emory, Fordham, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Southern California, UC Hastings, William & Mary (and Washington & Lee is very close, with 197)

Over 150 firms:  UC Davis

Over 100 firms:  American, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Houston, Illinois, Iowa, Loyola/Los Angeles, Minnesota, SMU, Tulane, Wake Forest, Wash U/St. Louis, Wisconsin

72-94 firms:  Baylor, Brigham Young, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Case Western, Catholic, George Mason, Indiana, Miami, Ohio State, Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, San Diego, Santa Clara, Temple, Villanova, Washington/Seattle

49-66 firms:  Chicago-Kent, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Denver, Florida State, Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seton Hall, South Carolina, South Texas, St. John's, Tennessee.  (And on the cusp:  Arizona [47], Loyola-Chicago [47], Mississippi [47], Utah [46], Georgia State [45], Missouri-Columbia [45].)

A sampling of some others:  New York Law School-36; Alabama-34; Wayne State-29; Hofstra-27; Pepperdine-21; McGeorge-19; SUNY-Buffalo-16; Syracuse-16; Cal Western-10; Hawaii-8; Chapman-4; Cooley-3.

One reasonable interprtation of this data is that there are about 20 "national" law schools, and another ten-or-so borderline national law schools.

2007 UPDATE:  For other recent data on placement, see this study (which employs a version of my older methodology) and this study (which employs a different method).

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 8, 2007 in Rankings, Student Advice | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Booth from Maryland to Villanova

Richard Booth (corporate law) at the University of Maryland has accepted a senior offer from Villanova University.  Villanova has done a significant amount of lateral hiring the last couple of years, including David Caudill (evidence, property, postmodern legal theory) from Washington & Lee University, Penelope Petner (law & literature, criminal law, postmodern legal theory) from American University, and Patrick Brennan (jurisprudence, esp. Catholic legal theory) from Arizona State University.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 8, 2007 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

Message to David Lat...

...factual information about the legal academy and profession--such as faculty moves, new Deanships and the like--is not "gossip."   It is factual information about the legal academy and profession, information that has both value and relevance to other faculty members and current and prospective students.  (Professor Bodie aptly makes the point.)

Rank speculation and chit-chat, on the other hand, about people's looks or love lives is gossip.  I suppose if I did actual gossip, I'd get paid more by Blog Emperor Caron.  But, alas, I don't find it very interesting.  And besides Mr. Lat has cornered the market!

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 8, 2007 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

February 7, 2007

The Marxist Theory of the Corporate Law Firm

From David Luban (Georgetown).

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 7, 2007 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

February 5, 2007

"Why Evolutionary Biology is (so far) Irrelevant to Law"

A revised version of this paper I wrote with the philosopher of biology Michael Weisberg at Penn is now on-line at SSRN.  This is pretty much the penultimate version, and comments would still be timely and welcome for a few more weeks.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 5, 2007 in Jurisprudence, Navel-Gazing, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

545 Law Review Articles Cite Wikipedia!

So reports Blog Emperor Caron.  He, discreetly, does not list the names of the authors of these articles, all of whom should presumably be blacklisted from scholarly careers (unless, of course, the citation was in the context of, "Wikipedia reflects the popular prejudice that..." or "Wikipedia records this error as though it were fact, proving yet again the unreliability of the Internet..." or "In this instance, actual scholarly sources confirm what Wikipedia reports...").

UPDATE:   A timely example, involving the philosopher David Chalmers at the Australian National University, one of the world's leading authorities on philosophical and psychological work about consciousness, trying to correct some errors regarding the Wikipedia entry on the subject.

AND ANOTHER:  One academic department has (quite correctly, I think) barred its students from citing to Wikipedia in their submitted work.  (Thanks to Dean Rowan for the pointer.)

ONE MORE:  Mary Dudziak (USC) brings us Steve Colbert's take on Wikipedia, which sums it all up:  "the Encyclopedia where you can be an expert even if you don't know what the hell you're talking about."  Kind of sounds like Cyberspace and the blogosphere more generally, doesn't it?

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 5, 2007 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

February 4, 2007

From the Bowels of Cyberspace: The Myth of "the top 14"

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 19, 2006; MOVING TO FRONT BECAUSE STILL TIMELY AND SOME OF THE UNDERLYING DATA HAS BEEN UPDATED IN THE LAST YEAR, CONFIRMING THE MAIN THESIS

In the real world of lawyers, judges, and law professors, it has been conventional wisdom that there are 15 top law schools, with a few others (UCLA, USC, perhaps Vanderbilt) on the cusp, and then a drop-off in quality and reputation (though not necessarily in national placement).  I can recall this as my perception when applying to law schools more than twenty years ago; I can recall it as the conventional wisdom when I practiced law in New York in the late 1980s, and when I entered law teaching more than a dozen years ago.  It seemed to be the operative premise in Justice Thomas's dissent in Grutter when he singled out Michigan, UVA, Boalt, and Texas as the top state schools, and it seems to be borne out by almost all measures of educational quality of law schools, including even U.S. News since they corrected in 1999 for the most horrendous methodological mistake in their rankings, namely, their failure to make any adjustments for cost-of-living in expenditures.

Outside the real world, though, in the bowels of Cyberspace, a new and very odd category seems to have caught on, at least among some pre-law students:  "top 14" (or "T14") has become a popular locution on some prelaw discussion boards (another example).  The "top 14" excludes Texas, UCLA, USC, and Vanderbilt from the top ranks of law schools, but includes Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Columbia, NYU, Virginia, Michigan, Boalt, Penn, Georgetown, Cornell, Northwestern, and Duke. 

Here's the bizarre part:  the only rationale for this grouping is that all these schools have been ranked in "the top 14" by U.S. News and World Report since roughly the early-to-mid-1990s!  (Since 1999, the same 16 schools have been in the top 16, and perhaps in a few years that locution will catch on too!)

It's hard to quarrel with the fact that the same 14 schools have been ranked in the top 14 by U.S. News since circa 1994.  The question one might have expected someone to ask is:  so what?  The "top 14" by this measure correlates with nothing of any interest to anyone:  it does not correlate with faculty quality, quality of student body, job placement, placement in law teaching, or Supreme Court clerkships.  In other words, "top 14" correlates with nothing that would matter to anyone informed about legal education and the legal profession.  (Needless to say, "top 15" doesn't correlate much better.)

My correspondence with pre-law students over the years suggests that the better students realize that this category makes no sense.  But for a significant number of students, including some admitted to "top 14" and "top 16" and "top 18" law schools, they seem to think it means something.  And, in one sense, it does:  it means that the damage done by U.S. News is gradually seeping into the public legal culture.  As noted above, I wouldn't be surprised to find in a few years that "top 16" is the category of choice, insofar as the U.S. News rankings stabilize into a new pattern. 

To be sure, far more serious than the distortion of perceptions about schools at the elite end of legal education is the damage done by the meaningless and arbitrary demarcations among law schools lower in the great U.S. News hierarchy:  between, e.g., those ranked in the 90s, and those in the "third tier," and so on.  Rankings--even carelessly designed and gameable rankings like U.S. News--can provide genuine information; but they provide nothing but naked misinformation (misinformation that can even change careers and lives) when they turn into literally meaningless categories like "top 14" and "third tier."

UPDATE:  For more on the subject, see here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 4, 2007 in Rankings, Student Advice | Permalink | TrackBack

February 3, 2007

Penn Law Student Suspended...

...after shooting up the door of an apartment belonging to two Drexel students whom he believed were terrorists.  Very weird story.

UPDATE:  This is quite odd, but several different readers e-mailed to say that when they first saw this, they thought (before reading, obviously) that it was about Anthony Ciolli, the Penn Law student who runs the most infamous cesspool of infantile morons in law-related Cyberspace!  Mr. Ciolli lacks maturity and judgment, to be sure, but he's no delusional paranoid like the sad individual at issue in the story linked above.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 3, 2007 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

February 1, 2007

UNC's Marshall to Become Ohio's New SG

William Marshall, a distinguished constitutional law scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has accepted appointment as the new Solicitor General of Ohio.

Posted by Brian Leiter on February 1, 2007 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack