Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Law porn via e-mail?

Several law professors have forwarded to me an e-mail sent by NYU, it appears, to every law professor in the country (I got it too):  it is basically the e-mail version of the "law porn" that NYU pioneered in the 1990s under John "I never met a bit of ludicrous hyperbole that embarrassed me" Sexton.  As Dean, Ricky Revesz (thankfully) scaled back the nonsense considerably, to the point where adults could read the NYU Law magazine without a brown cover wrapper.   But are we now about to enter the era of "law porn" via e-mail?  Ugh.

The latest blast from NYU claims that in the last eight years, 38 new faculty have been added, and that there were "no departures during the past three years" (the same can not be said of the prior eight years, no doubt explaining the abrupt change in period referenced).  If one doesn't count recent retirements as "departures" (there were several), that's almost, but still not quite right, since Gerald Lopez left NYU to go back to UCLA in the last three years, and Jeremy Waldron, prominently featured in this e-mail, has quasi-departed, now spending half the year at Oxford University as the Chichele Professor of Social & Political Theory, with his future at NYU uncertain.  The e-mail touts the surprisingly high median LSAT of the entering class, but maintains a striking silence about the median GPA.

But the real question is what this self-promotion has accomplished?  NYU's reputation score in the surveys US News conducts was, most recently, 7th (tied with Berkeley), basically what it was in 1974, when NYU was 8th, and Berkeley was 7th all by itself.   The NYU faculty is more consistently strong now, than then.  But there isn't much evidence that the blizzard of "law porn" has affected perceptions on this score much, and perhaps has even backfired.  Although the latest e-mail emphasizes faculty from Columbia who moved to NYU, our recent on-line poll (and this with an unusually well-informed readership) still had Columbia defeating NYU by a substantial margin.   Even in one of the most sensitive barometers of improvements in faculty quality--namely, placement in law teaching--NYU continues to trail Columbia, Michigan, Stanford, Chicago, and Harvard by wide margins.   "Law porn" is certainly good for fundraising and institutional morale, but maybe the NYU experience shows that no real purpose is served by sending it to law professors?

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2010/10/law-porn-via-e-mail.html

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