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March 31, 2022

Ristroph v. Sklansky

Here and here.  I've not read enough of the work of either of these authors to have an opinion on the merits.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 31, 2022 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

March 28, 2022

Law Schools Unfairly Ranked by U.S. News


I've occasionally commented in the past about particular schools that clearly had artificially low overall ranks in U.S. News, and readers e-mail me periodically asking about various schools in this regard.   Since the overall rank in U.S. News is a meaningless nonsense number, permit me to make one very general comment:   it seems to me that all the law schools dumped into what U.S. News calls the unranked lower tiers--indeed, all the law schools ranked ordinally beyond the top 25 or 30  based on irrelevant and trivial differences-- are unfairly ranked and represented.  This isn't because all these schools have as good faculties or as successful graduates as schools ranked higher--though many of them, in fact, do--but because the metric which puts them into these lower ranks is a self-reinforcing one, and one that assumes, falsely and perniciously, that the mission of all law schools is the same.  Some missions, to be sure, are the same at some generic level:  e.g., pretty much all law schools look to train lawyers and produce legal scholarship.  U.S. News has no meaningful measure of the latter, so that part of the shared mission isn't even part of the exercise.  The only "measures" of the former are the fictional employment statistics that schools self-report and bar exam results.  The latter may be only slightly more probative, except that the way U.S. News incorporates them into the ranking penalizes schools in states with relatively easy bar exams.  So with respect to the way in which the missions of law schools are the same, U.S. News employs no pertinent measures. 

But schools differ quite a bit in how they discharge the two generic missions, namely, producing scholarship and training lawyers.  Some schools focus much of their scholasrhip on the needs of the local or state bar.  Some schools produce lots of DAs, and not many "big firm" lawyers.    Some schools emphasize skills training and state law.  Some schools emphasize theory and national and transnational legal issues.   Some schools value only interdisciplinary scholarship.  And so on.  U.S. News conveys no information at all about how well or poorly different schools discharge these functions.  But by ordinally ranking some 150 schools based on incompetently done surveys, irrelevant differences and fictional data, and dumping the remainder into a "second tier", U.S. News conveys no actual information, it simply rewards fraud in data reporting and gratuitously insults hard-working legal educators and scholars and their students and graduates.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 28, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink

March 24, 2022

Yale Law School's public relations disaster continues

David Lat (who went to YLS, subsequently founded the abysmal online tabloid Above the Law, and then wisely bailed from that) shares on his substack a recent letter from a current Yale Law student:

Students here seem unwilling to have their beliefs and actions challenged. Many of my peers see the expectation of rigor and precision in classroom discussions and in community deliberation alike as somehow distracting from the normative urgency of their ends (many of which I share).


I’ve heard students deride decidedly liberal professors Dan Kahan and [former YLS dean] Tony Kronman as conservative or bigoted for clearly articulating challenges to student intuitions for pedagogical purposes in classroom discussions. In some cases, student commentary has become absurd in its near-purposeful missing of the point. For example, several classmates accused Kahan of hating women, even as he took pains in the classroom to demonstrate where the law incorporates misogynistic norms.5


Even as a progressive, I’ve felt uncomfortable sharing even friendly amendments to certain student views in the classroom. I have a lot of folk explanations for why the intellectual climate is like this (students are increasingly coming back to law school after spending time away from challenging academic environments, the teaching at YLS has never been exactly renowned for its excellence, etc.), but it’s nevertheless frustrating to see truth be treated as unimportant here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 24, 2022 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

March 23, 2022

Blast from the past: Per capita expenditures is the tail that wags the US News ranking dog

Back in 2009, and it's still true.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 23, 2022 in Deja vu all over again (reposting of earlier items of interest), Rankings | Permalink

March 21, 2022

USNews.com makes more arbitrary changes to the ranking formula...

...and one can rest assured that U.S. legal education-- which is run by a defunct news magazine with a website--will adjust accordingly.  One change will be a boon for law libraries:  1% of the score (why 1%?  no one knows, not even Bob Morse) now consists in the ratio of full-time law librarians to students at a school.  That metric will also exacerbate the general bias in many aspects of the USNews.com formula that favors smaller schools over larger ones, due to economies of scale.  Bar passage rates will also account for 3% rather than 2.25% (why not 10% or 15%?  no one knows, and certainly not Bob Morse), but will take into account how a school's graduates perform across jurisdictions.  If one is going to count bar passage rates, then that at least makes some sense, even if the relative weighting is inexplicable.

Unknown at the time of this writing is which other factors in the ranking stew had their weight reduced.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 21, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink

March 17, 2022

Professor Stith to Yale law students: "Grow up"

Story here.  The "Alliance Defending Freedom" is awful, no dispute about that, but in an academic institution a lawyer for that organization gets to speak if invited; indeed, in this case, the lawyer was matched with a speaker opposing her views.   The law students can protest, but they don't get to disrupt and derail the event.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 17, 2022 in Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

March 14, 2022

Top 15 Law Faculties in scholarly impact (2016-2020) based on their faculty under age 60, 2021

This is a complement to the original Sisk study of scholarly impact for the period 2016-2020.  As many readers have noted, the scholarly impact of many schools depends on their older faculty.  Using the Sisk data, we looked at the ten most-cited faculty under age 60 in 2021, calculating the weighted score the same way as in the original study:  the mean score times two, plus the median.  Some schools--Chicago, Harvard, NYU, Berkeley, Michigan--performed comparably (or slightly better, or slightly worse) in this study as in the original study of all tenured faculty, regardless of age.  But other schools under-performed--for example, Yale and Stanford--suggesting that their "scholarly impact" performance depends heavily on an "old guard," as it were.  Some other schools outperformed their overall rank noticeably--UCLA and Virginia, for example--suggesting they are going to be likely recruitment targets for other law schools.

Time permitting, we'll try to expand this beyond the top 15.

Full results below the fold:

Top 15 law schools in scholarly impact (2016-2020) based on faculty under 60 in 2021


Law School

Weighted score



Ten most cited faculty under age 60 in 2021

Overall Sisk rank (all faculty, including those 60 and older)


University of Chicago




W. Baude, O. Ben-Shahar, C. Bradley, T. Ginsburg, D. Hemel, A. Huq, B. Leiter, J. Masur, E. Posner, L. Strahilevitz



Harvard University




O. Bar-Gill, J. Coates, N. Feldman, J. Freeman, J. Goldsmith, A. Natapoff, H. Smith, M. Stephenson, R. Tushnet, A. Vermeule



Yale University




H. Gerken, A. Gluck, O. Hathaway, C. Jolls, D. Kahan, A. Kapacynski, D. Kysar, T. Meares, D. NeJaime, C. Rodriguez



University of California, Los Angeles




D. Carbado, S. Cummings, I. Eagly, J. Kang, R. Korobkin, M. McKenna, K. Raustiala, J. Salzman, E. Volokh, A. Winkler



New York University




R. Barkow, S. Choi, A. Cox, J. Fromer, R. Goodman, M. Kahna, D. Levinson, T. Morrison, K. Strandburg, K. Yoshino



University of Virginia




D. Citron, J. Duffy, M. Gulati, D. Law, M. Livermore, C. Nelson, S. Prakash, R. Re, R. Schragger, M. Schwartzman



University of California, Berkeley




K. Bamberger, E. Biber, J. Chacon,  S. Farhang, I. Haney Lopez, O. Kerr, F. Partnoy, J. Simon, S. Davidoff Solomon, J. Yoo



Duke University




K. Abrams, M. Adler, J. Blocher, S. Buell, B. Garrett, L. Helfer, M. Lemos, A. Rai, N. Siegel, E. Young



Columbia University




S. Balganesh, J. Bulman-Pozen, J. Greene, B. Harcourt, M. Heller, G. Metzger, D. Pozen, K. Pistor, J. Purdy, E. Talley



Stanford University




D. Engstrom, N. Engstrom, R. Ford, D. Ho, M. Lemley, M. Mello, C. Milhaupt, A. O’Connell, L. Ouellette, N. Persily



Georgetown University




A. Chander, J. Cohen, L. Donohue, B. Galle, D. Hyman, N. Katyal, A. Levitin, A. Macleod, P. Ohm, J. Thomas



George Washington University




M. Abramowicz, D. Braman, B. Clark, T. Colby, E. Hammond, C. Lee, J. Rosen, J. Siegel, P. Smith, D. Solove



University of Michigan




S. Bagenstos, N. Bagley, M. Barr, D. Crane, K. Logue, N. Mendelson, N. Price, R. Primus, A. Pritchard, M. Schlanger



University of Pennsylvania




M. Berman, C. Coglianese, J. Galbraith, D. Hoffman, G. Parchomovsky, E. Pollman, K. Roosevelt, J. Rothman, P. Wagner, C. Yoo



Vanderbilt University




L.  Bressman, J. Clarke, B. Fitzpatrick, D. Gervais, C. Guthrie, J. Rossi, C. Serkin, G. Sitarman, K. Stack, I. Wuerth



Runner-up for the top 15


Cornell University




S. Colb, M. Dorf, S. Garvey, J. Grimmelman, R. Hockett, J. Ohlin, S. Omarova, J. Rachlinski, N. Tebbe, B. Wendel


Posted by Brian Leiter on March 14, 2022 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

March 11, 2022

Applications and applicants are down a bit this year

From the ABA Journal:

As of March 7, 50,375 applicants had submitted 363,581 applications to law schools for the 2022 school year, Law.com reported. Last year at this point in time, 55,680 applicants submitted 395,870 applications to law schools.

That’s a 9.5% decline in applicants since last year and an 8.2% decline in applications.

The applicants and applications are higher than two years ago, however.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 11, 2022 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

March 8, 2022

LSAC acquires "Law School Transparency [LST]"

Here.  At a time when the LSAT is at risk of being displaced by the GRE, this was not a smart move, given LST's dubious history:  e.g., here, here, or here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 8, 2022 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

March 7, 2022

"Web of Science" may record "impact" in some disciplines, but not necessarily *inter*disciplinary impact

Kevin Gerson, the Director of the law library at UCLA, writes:

You’ve noted several issues with the Vanderbilt scholarly impact study. I’d like to add to the list another issue with interdisciplinary scholarly impact studies.

A non-law article written by someone currently on a law faculty may not, by those facts alone, be widely regarded as “interdisciplinary” with law. Take, for example, this article: The 1000 Genomes Project Consortium, A map of human genome variation from population-scale sequencing, Nature 467, 1061–1073 (2010), https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09534. This article is purely computational genomics. It has had no impact on legal scholarship, yet one of its scientist/authors currently sits on a law school faculty. The article in Web of Science shows over 5300 citations, which would make that particular author one of the most cited legal scholars of all time if the article is included in measuring legal scholarly impact. The irony is that the other 400+ authors of that article would also be considered among the most impactful legal scholars of all time by virtue of that single article as long as they could get a joint appointment on a law faculty. That seems like an undesirable outcome.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 7, 2022 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink