Thursday, January 3, 2008
Michael O'Hear (Marquette) asks what explains the apparent increase in lateral hiring in the last decade or so. One possibility he considers is this:
[T]he importance of the U.S. News survey has made law schools more sensitive to their reputation within the national legal academy, and lateral hiring seems more likely to provide an immediate reputational bump than entry-level hiring.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that responses to the U.S. News reputation survey track actual changes in faculty quality; indeed, there are several cases where the reputational score of a school declined when faculty quality quite clearly increased (NYU in the mid-to-late 1990s was a striking example of this phenomenon). As Jeffrey Stake (Indiana/Bloomington) has persuasively documented, the academic reputation scores in U.S. News primarily track the overall U.S. News rank, i.e., the nonsense number that is primarily determined by unreliable and/or manipulable factors unrelated to academic quality. The best way to improve your reputation scores, in other words, is not to improve your faculty, but to improve (or simply make up) the relevant "objective" numbers that go into the U.S. News formula.
Of course, it may be the increase in lateral hiring reflects the perception that improving the faculty improves one's U.S. News rank, but I suspect my pointing out that this isn't so is not going to slow down the pace of lateral hiring. On the other hand, improving your faculty does improve a school's ranking in another well-known ranking service , but I am reasonably confident that doesn't explain the increased pace of lateral hiring either.
So questions fo readers: (1) Do you think there has been an increasing in lateral hiring at all level of the market in the last decade? (2) If the answer to the first question is affirmative, then what explains it?
Post only once; comments may take awhile to appear. Non-anonymous comments strongly preferred, as always.