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November 24, 2007

South Carolina's Bar Exam Scandal Gets Worse

Jim Chen (Louisville) has the latest details.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 24, 2007 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

November 23, 2007

Mary Dudziak isn't happy with the new citation rankings

Her comments on the "Legal History" listing are here and she felt the need to post a link to her comments here as well after I linked to that post.  Professor Dudziak was actually one of the runner-ups in "Legal History," so this isn't just sour grapes on her part.  But let's see what she has to say and whether it has any merit:

Brian Leiter's rankings are not a true measure of "scholarly impact," especially in a field like legal history. The study is confined to the Westlaw JLR database which only includes legal publications.
The study is a "true measure" of what it purports to measure, namely, scholarly impact in legal scholarship.  It is, as I explicitly note, an imperfect measure (of influence, of quality, of importance, etc.), but that's a different matter.  Whether or not a different database would produce significantly different results is an empirical question; Professor Dudziak appears to assume an answer, but I don't know of any actual evidence supporting her assumption.  Contrary to the impression Professor Dudziak gives, the Westlaw JLR database includes a large number of interdisciplinary journals (including, e.g., American Journal of Legal History and Law and History Review), as well as many foreign legal periodicals (the majority from Anglophone countries not surprisingly).
What does this miss? Leading scholars will have an impact that ranges beyond their fields and beyond their nations. But the Westlaw database cannot measure impact beyond the legal academy, and the important global reach of many American legal scholars is not measured. All but a very few journals in the database are U.S.-based.
Some "leading scholars will have an impact that ranges beyond their fields and beyond their nations" and some won't, so it's silly to generalize.  It will depend on what we mean by "leading," and, more importantly, by the sub-field we are discussing.  Many specialties within legal scholarship are nation-specific which, quite reasonably, means their influence "beyond their nations" tends to be slight. 
It is true that the Westlaw JLR database is a lousy database if one is trying to measure influence "beyond the legal academy."  Should anyone have thought that's what this exercise was about, I hereby reiterate that it is not. 

The impact of interdisciplinary scholars, in particular, will be under-counted. For serious interdisciplinary scholars, especially J.D./Ph.D.s, the true measure of scholarly success is to be seen as leading figure both within the legal academy and within the Ph.D. field. To further one’s scholarship within the Ph.D. field, an interdisciplinary scholar will publish in the field’s leading peer-reviewed journals. If in the humanities and perhaps social sciences, they will publish books.
I am puzzled, again, by the confidence with which Professor Dudziak issues pronouncements about what interdisciplinary scholars aspire to achieve.  No doubt she speaks for some (maybe even the majority), but not for others.  Surely Professor Dudziak knows that there are some non-law disciplines in which the study of law and legal phenomena is not held to be very important or held in high esteem; that is one reason some interdisciplinary scholars might prefer to be in law schools and to write for academic lawyers.
This leads to two under-counting problems. First, the Westlaw JLR database will miss citations to the scholar’s work in journals other than law reviews -- this includes journals in the Ph.D. field.
This is indisputably true, but what does it mean?  On the evidence I've seen in books and non-law journals, I'm probably the most-cited Nietzsche scholar in the English-language secondary literature in recent years, and all of that, alas, counts for naught in my own study!  How sad.  But is it significant?  Not in a study measuring impact in legal scholarship.
For American legal historians, this would include citations in the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, and other history journals. Second, legal scholars often confine their research to the same Westlaw database, and so they don’t find and cite to relevant books and articles.

Fair point:  the case of legal historians may be quite different.  Perhaps if citations in these journals were counted, the top ten list would change a bit (maybe quite a bit, though I'm skeptical about that).  I hope Professor Dudziak will do the study, since this would illuminate the empirical issue she raises.

The limitations of this sort of study are not ameliorated by separating out a field like legal history. Using the Westlaw database will undercount those scholars who have a stronger impact across scholarly journals (beyond those in the legal database), and who do more publishing in books and peer reviewed history articles.  Even a more comprehensive citation study will skew in favor of scholars in larger sub-fields (e.g. American history as compared to medieval studies).

Again, these are empirical claims, that may be true, or may not.  The one I'm confident is true is that the Westlaw JLR database will be skewed, as Professor Dudziak notes, towards American history, which explains the under-counting of extremely eminent and influential legal historians like R.H. Helmholz who work on earlier and non-U.S. periods.

It is also important to point out that Leiter does not count legal historians with appointments outside of law schools. A number of leaders in the field have such appointments.
I'm not sure why it's "important" to point out what should be obvious, given that the study was explicitly confined to law professors, i.e., those holding tenure-stream positions in law schools.  It was so confined because my "law school ranking" site (that's its name) is a source of information for prospective law students, not prospective PhD students in history.
UPDATE:  More thoughts from Professor Dudziak here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 23, 2007 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

November 21, 2007

Citation Rankings as a Monopoly Board

This is pretty funny (as well as revealing).

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 21, 2007 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

How to Pass the South Carolina Bar Exam

Be related to someone politically powerful, it seems:

The South Carolina Bar has called on the state's high court to explain why it changed the grades of 20 people -- including the children of a judge and legislator -- from "fail" to "pass" on the state bar exam taken in July....

The Bar encouraged the state Supreme Court to "further explain what happened and take steps to avoid a recurrence of these events." The Bar also said it regretted that the controversy had generated criticism of the state's legal profession....

Would-be lawyers must pass the bar exam to practice law in South Carolina, and the Supreme Court has the final say on the grades.

In an earlier statement, the high court said it decided Nov. 1 -- a week after grades were posted -- to throw out the test section on wills, trusts and estates, increasing the number who passed to 448, after its clerk learned of a "scoring error" by the section's grader. The Supreme Court has issued no further explanation.

The additional 20 included Catherine Harrison, daughter of House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison, R-Columbia; and Kendall Burch, daughter of Circuit Court Judge Paul Burch, raising questions on blogs and media reports about good ol' boy politics.

Both Rep. Harrison and Judge Burch have acknowledged contacting court officials but say it was not to lobby on their daughters' behalf.

Harrison said Friday he called George Hearn, chairman of the Board of Law Examiners, after his daughter told him "almost everybody she talked to had failed that one section." He said he asked only whether the failure rate for the section was abnormally high.

With Hearn out of town, Harrison called the Supreme Court's clerk to ask the same question. Harrison said he had no other contact with court officials and knew nothing about the court's reasoning.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 21, 2007 in Legal Profession | Permalink | TrackBack

November 20, 2007

Most Cited Law Professors by Specialty--A Few More Corrections...

...are now on-line, including two scholars who were wrongly omitted from the prior top ten lists:  Paul Finkelman (Albany Law School) in Legal History, and Steven Lubet (Northwestern) in Legal Ethics.  An up-dated listing of the top 15 schools based on representation on these lists is being compiled.  I've also added in "Other highly cited scholars" who don't work exclusively in one of the ranked areas, but who had more than 1,000 citations, a change that was important, in particular, for NYU and, to lesser extents, Stanford and Michigan.  (The top five will now be 1.  Yale, 2.  Stanford, 3.  Chicago, 4.  Harvard, 5.  NYU.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 20, 2007 in Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

The *Real* Reasons Some Canadian Law Schools Are Switching to the JD

My friend Leslie Green--a longtime faculty member at Osgoode Hall School of Law of York University, Toronto, who is now Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford University--writes:

Ms McNish shows a surprising lack of interest in the real reasons why a couple of Canadian law deans were eager to adopt the US label for their undergraduate law degrees. She uncritically reports that, 'Unlike in Canada, British law graduates are not required to earn an undergraduate degree as a prerequisite... As a result, global law firms typically pay law grads with JDs substantially more than Canadians packing LLBs."

There is no evidence whatever for this claim.   A lower salary is not "typically" offered to LLB graduates from Canada's best law schools.

Nor are global law firms in London paying Oxford and Cambridge graduates less than those from Harvard or Yale--and here the first degree in law is called a BA. The claim is simply false.

Moreover, everyone in the Canadian legal academy knows the real origins of this change, which include (in no order): (a) an attempt at brand-differentiation by a couple of law schools keen to ration access by price; (b) a cheap sop to law students who are being charged much higher fees for the same, and sometimes, worse legal educations than students got in those very schools not so long ago; and (c) continentalist sucking-up.

I taught for many years in elite law schools in both Canada and the US.

Here, at Oxford, where law is an unabashed first degree, our students are no weaker than those who start it as a second undergraduate degree in the US or Canada. There is no evidence that they make worse, or worse-paid lawyers than their equivalent cohorts in the same or comparable firms. Do people really think that market-savvy global law firms do not know that, other things being equal, BA=LLB=JD? (Which is not to deny, of course, that they are also savvy about the quality of the education the students received under the various labels.)

No anonymous comments; post only once, comments may take awhile to appear.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 20, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Controversy at Queen's in Canada: Switching from the "LL.B." to the "J.D."

The University of Toronto made the move in 2001, and now Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario is thinking of following suit, but not without controversy:

JD. As in Juris Doctor. That's the law degree introduced by U.S. schools in the 1960s to certify that graduates had successfully earned both a law degree and an undergraduate degree in another discipline.

In a bid to rectify the discrepancy, Dean Flanagan sent an e-mail to Queen's University law school alumni on Friday afternoon to advise them that the Dean's Council of eight alumni lawyers had agreed to support a recent student referendum in favour of switching the school's law degree to a JD designation.

Within hours of the e-mail, some furious alumni were dashing off scalding retorts. Apparently, the irate lawyers believed they were privately replying to Prof. Flanagan. But instead, some e-mail writers hit the "reply to all" button and about 3,000 former graduates of the university found themselves on the receiving end of furious messages, many blasting the "Americanization" of the school.

"Never has the importance of remaining distinct from the U.S. legal market been of more value," wrote Robert Amsterdam, a Queen's alumnus and prominent litigator practising in London.

Gerald Thomas, a barrister practising in Kobe, Japan, warned the move would "draw us closer to a country that is increasingly at odds with the global community."

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 20, 2007 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack

November 19, 2007

On an Alleged "Contradiction" Between Justice Scalia's Originalism and His Opposition to Considering Foreign Law

A philosophical discussion, with reference to a recent paper alleging the contradiction, here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 19, 2007 in Jurisprudence | Permalink | TrackBack

UC Irvine Law School: The Fundraising Challenge

The Los Angeles Times reports.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 19, 2007 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack