Friday, February 24, 2006
A student reader writes with the following reasonable query:
As a law school hopeful participating in the current application cycle, I read your Law School Reports with interest. I'm especially intrigued by your characterization of Mark Tushnet's possible move from Georgetown to Harvard as a "huge loss" for Georgetown. Could you be a bit more specific as to what you mean by this? I often see you mention that this or that hire is a big deal, but I'm not precisely sure what you mean by it.
Are you mainly pointing toward the overall reputation or ranking of the affected schools? Toward the quality of the teaching or the research? Would a Tushnet departure be 'huge' for the students or the other faculty? I just wonder what one law professor more or less means to an institution as a whole, especially when we're talking about institutions in the upper echelons. From my snail's eye view of academia, and my worm's eye view of law school, I'm genuinely not sure.
My editorial comments are almost always strictly about the effect of a move on the scholarly quality and reputation of the faculty--the only kind of judgment an outsider is ordinarily able to make. Of course, "reputation" in U.S. News is completely unhinged from actual faculty quality, as we have had occasions to note before; but there are, at least, sounder measures of reputation in which these kinds of moves are more likely to register. I should add that when I comment on "scholarly quality and reputation" I am usually trying to register what I think is the likely consensus view among those in the field, not my personal opinion. Some faculty moves that may, indeed, be perceived as enhancing the scholarly stature of a school by others involve faculty whom I, personally, would never hire. But I do try to bracket my personal judgments on that score.
I've posted a lot of news about faculty moves lately--'tis the season for these kinds of moves--and it occurs to me that it may be useful to articulate a policy about which moves I will be reporting. Since a lot of prelaw students are interested in this information, and are trying to use it in conjunction with my law school rankings, I am going to confine news about faculty moves to moves to or from schools that figure in the various rankings of faculty quality. I am going to limit future reporting this way also to save myself time: with 180+ ABA-approved law schools, there are a lot of faculty moves going on out there, and I really can't keep on top of all of them. I apologize to those readers who would like the net to be cast more widely, but until Law Blog Emperor Caron increases my cut of the profits from this site, I can't justify investing additional time on this score!
And many thanks, of course, to readers who provide tips on faculty moves! I can only report them here if I learn of them, so the help is invaluable.