August 03, 2020

Ten lateral moves that made law professors take notice during 2019-20

Based on my in-box and conversations with others, these were the ten moves that transpired this past year that were thought to be the biggest hiring coups (I omit any lateral moves my school was part of and those that won't officially happen until 2021):

*Kimberly Kessler Ferzan (criminal law, law & philosophy) from the University of Virginia to the University of Pennsylvania.


*Tara Leigh Grove (federal courts, constitutional law, civil procedure) from College of William & Mary to the University of Alabama.


*Alexandra Natapoff (criminal law & procedure) from the University of California, Irvine to Harvard University.


*Michael Pardo (evidence, law & philosophy, law & neuroscience) from the University of Alabama to Georgetown University.


*Frank Pasquale (law & technology, cyberlaw, privacy, health law) from the University of Maryland to Brooklyn Law School.


*Christopher Robertson (health law, bioethics, torts) from the University of Arizona to Boston University.


*Lawrence Solum (constitutional law & theory, civil procedure, law & philosophy) from Georgetown University to the University of Virginia.


*A. Benjamin Spencer (civil procedure, federal courts, military law) from the University of Virginia to the College of William & Mary (to become Dean).


*Karen Tani (legal history) from the University of California, Berkeley to the University of Pennsylvania.


*Hannah Wiseman (energy law, environmental law, administrative law) from Florida State University to Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

August 3, 2020 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

June 25, 2020

Supreme Court clerkship placement, 2013 through 2019 terms (CORRECTED)

This covers the 2013 through 2019 terms of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The “per capita” rate reflects the total number of clerks from each law school during those seven terms divided by the average number of students per year at each school (based on ABA data), rounded to the nearest 25 (that number appears in parentheses after the school name).

Rank by “per capita” SCOTUS clerks, 2013-2019 terms (for schools with at least two clerks during this time)


School (avg. class size rounded to nearest 25)

“Per  capita” SCOTUS clerkship placement


Yale University (200)



Harvard University (575)



Stanford University (200)



University of Chicago (200)



Columbia University (400)



University of Virginia (325)



Duke University (225)



New York University (450)



Northwestern University (250)



University of California, Berkeley (325)



University of Michigan (375)



University of Notre Dame



Georgetown University (650)



University of Pennsylvania (250)



University of Texas, Austin (325)



Vanderbilt University (175)


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June 25, 2020 in Rankings | Permalink

May 15, 2020

Lawsky's Entry-Level Hiring Report for 2019-20

Professor Lawsky (Northwestern) has released her typically excellent entry-level hiring report for this academic year.   I'll have more to say about some of what we learn from these results in a subsequent post.

I'll add one data point:  Professor Lawsky reports the number of graduates by school who got law teaching job, but not how many were on the market.  Using the first FAR distribution (not a perfect metric, since it includes LLMs as well as JDs, but that effect probably washes out across schools), here are the schools ranked by the success rate of their graduates on the market (for all schools that placed at least two graduates and had at least five graduates on the market):

1.  University of Chicago (57% [4/7])

2.  Stanford University (53% [9/17])

3.  Yale University (51% [18/35])

4.  University of California Berkeley (46% [5/11])

5.  Harvard University (33% [12/36])

6.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (23% [3/13])

7.  New York University (20% [6/20])

8.  Columbia University (15% [2/13])

9.  Georgetown University [14% [3/22])

Northwestern had only three graduates on the market, but placed two of them, so 67%!

I've calculated this a couple of times before:  here are the results for 2019 and 2016.

May 15, 2020 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

May 04, 2020

Average academic reputation scores in have been increasing since 2015 (their low)

Law professor Robert Jones (Northern Illinois) documents the trends here.  Why is this happening?  Maybe because the fortunes of law schools started to improve in the last few years, so evaluators are being more generous?  Just speculation, I'm not sure there's any clear answer.

May 4, 2020 in Rankings | Permalink

March 17, 2020

New "program" rankings for law schools "program" rankings for law schools have usually been even more worthless than the "overall" rankings of law schools, mostly tracking how well schools market a "program" than the actual quality of faculty or offerings.  (Tax is the classic example.)   This year they added four new categories:  "Business and Corporate Law", "Contracts and Commercial Law," "Criminal Law" and "Constitutional Law."  Although there were some halo effects from school names, the results are actually more sensible than one might have expected.  Here's the top ten in each of these categories (outside the top 10-15, the lists mostly just track a school's overall U.S. News rank it seems to me).

Business and Corporate Law

1 Columbia University (NY) 4.8
1 Harvard University (MA) 4.8
3 New York University 4.7
4 University of California--Berkeley 4.6
5 Stanford University (CA) 4.5
6 University of Pennsylvania Carey 4.4
7 University of Chicago (IL) 4.3
8 Georgetown University (DC) 4.2
8 University of California--Los Angeles 4.2
8 University of Virginia 4.2
8 Yale University (CT) 4.2

NYU should have been tied with Columbia and Harvard at #1, but that's minor.  Not quite sure, however, how evaluators would be interpreting "business law" apart from corporate.  I suspect many were including some of what might also belong under commercial law.

Constitutional Law

1 Yale University (CT) 4.9
2 Harvard University (MA) 4.8
3 Stanford University (CA) 4.7
4 University of Chicago (IL) 4.6
5 Columbia University (NY) 4.5
5 New York University 4.5
7 University of California--Berkeley 4.4
7 University of Virginia 4.4
9 Duke University (NC) 4.3
9 Georgetown University (DC) 4.3

This one is a little quirkier.  NYU and Chicago are both plainly stronger than Stanford in constitutional law, which should be in the top ten, but not the top five.  The rest of the top ten is fairly plausible, although I wouldn't take the precise ordinal ranking very seriously.   University of San Diego came in at #28 (score of 3.3), some indicator that evaluators were actually thinking about the faculties and not just the "brand name," although #28 still seems low for USD.

Contracts/Commercial Law

1 Columbia University (NY) 4.7
1 University of Chicago (IL) 4.7
3 Harvard University (MA) 4.6
3 New York University 4.6
3 University of California--Berkeley 4.6
6 Stanford University (CA) 4.5
6 University of Pennsylvania Carey 4.5
8 University of Michigan--Ann Arbor 4.4
8 University of Texas--Austin 4.4
8 Yale University (CT) 4.4

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March 17, 2020 in Rankings | Permalink

February 12, 2020

Law review EICs at the top 16 law schools are all currently women

A conference in their honor was recently held in Washington, DC.  (Top 16, by the way, is a far more sensible demarcation than "top 14," which designates nothing of significance in the real world.)

February 12, 2020 in Legal Profession, Rankings | Permalink

February 03, 2020

"Academic feeder judges"

This is useful, from Professor Howard Wasserman (Florida International University).  Note that it includes judges who are no longer on the bench, as well as many who still are.

February 3, 2020 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Professional Advice, Rankings | Permalink

January 21, 2020

A preview of what Hein citation rankings might look like (courtesy of Ted Sichelman)

Recently, Professors Paul Heald (Illinois) and Ted Sichelman (San Diego) released law school faculty rankings that combined SSRN downloads and HeinOnline citations (here). (I'm skeptical about the value of SSRN rankings, as I've noted many times in the past:  e.g., here and here).  In their study, Heald and Sichelman included Hein-only rankings, combining both historical (all-time) and recent (2016) citations. In order to get a better estimate of recent scholarly impact, plus to get an initial view of what the US News citation rankings will look like, Professor Sichelman has kindly provided me rankings just based on Hein citations over a 5-year period (2012-2016).

Total scores were calculated based on 2 x mean + median (like the Sisk et al. methodology). Although U.S. News has not decided on its ultimate approach, it appears likely it will use a similar metric. Additionally, like US News plans to do, Professor Sichelman has included pre-tenure faculty. 

Some differences between Heald & Sichelman's data (which Professor Sichelman used to construct the rankings below) and US News are the following:   (1) Heald & Sichelman used spring 2016 faculty whereas US News will use fall 2019 faculty; (2) about two-thirds of the schools responded to Heald & Sichelman's requests for faculty name variants, whereas presumably a much higher fraction responded to US News's requests (those schools not responding effectively reduce their citation counts); and (3) Hein will use a slightly different citation identification methodology for the US News rankings than Heald & Sichelman's. All of these differences will lead to some shifts in the US News rankings from what appears below.

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January 21, 2020 in Rankings | Permalink

December 10, 2019

On filling out the "peer assessment" (i.e., academic reputation) survey

A young legal scholar elsewhere writes:

I'm my faculty's most recently tenured member, so I got a US News peer assessment survey. Or, I should say, peer "assessment," since it doesn't actually ask for any assessment of anything. I knew that the methodology was shoddy for these things, but I'm still kind of shocked at what this is: just a list of all the law schools and a request to rate them on a 5 point scale. No faculty or publications or any information about them. It's just a test of what schools I happen to have heard good things about lately.


So, given that this survey cannot produce any credible measure of quality or anything else (except of who I happen to have heard good things about lately), what should I do? Should I simply ignore this nonsense? Or is there some penalty (to me? to others?) if people who recognize this as nonsense refuse to participate? Should I rank everyone outstanding? Everyone except the top twenty schools?

A few observations and suggestions: 

(1)  any recently tenured faculty member (and that certainly goes for this young scholar) will, in fact, know a fair bit about the quality of scholarship (at least in his or her fields, and often cognate fields) at anywhere from a dozen to several dozen law schools.   Evaluate those schools, being either generous or stingy with the scores as you see fit:  e.g., give just five or six schools a "5," or give two dozen schools a "5."  In general, I think evaluators should be generous, especially since higher scores will have more influence on the overall results:  avoid 1s and 2s (unless you really are confident in the weakness of a particular school), and there's no  harm in giving lots of 4s and 3s.  (In the past, USNEWS.COM used to drop a percentage of the highest and lowest scores as a check on strategic voting, I'm not sure if they still do that.)   Most importantly, when you "don't know" much about a school, choose "don't know."  "Don't know" does not count against (or for) a school.

(2)  The academic reputation survey is, in fact, one of the few "reality checks" in the whole charade:  without it, the rankings would be based on nothing more than wealth and the extent to which schools "massage" the self-reported data like employment statistics and expenditures.  Unfortunately, the academic reputation surveys increasingly track the prior years' overall rank in, which impedes its utility as a reality check.  (This is one reason why adding citation data would, if done rightly, be salutary.)   But evaluators can counteract that by actually thinking about (1) the quality of scholarship produced by a school's faculty (not the school's name!), and (2) looking at other data as a check on their impressions. 

Here's a suggestion:  everyone should give the University of San Diego at least a "4" this year in the peer assessment survey, since its overall rank is preposterously low relative to the strength of the faculty (which is made up of folks who have had tenured positions or offers at lots of excellent schools, including Berkeley, Northwestern, Cornell, Minnesota, George Washington, Boston University, and elsewhere).  If this works, I'll nominate more schools in future years who deserve a boost for their faculty excellence, even as they are punished by on other metrics.

December 10, 2019 in Professional Advice, Rankings | Permalink

December 04, 2019

Jonathan Turley (George Washington) is not "the second-most cited law professor in the country"...

as The New York Times misleadingly reports today; indeed, he's not even one of the ten-most cited members of the GW law faculty.   On Professor Turley's website (the source for the NYT claim), the context was clearer:  in Judge Posner's 2003 book Public Intellectuals, Turley was the second-most cited law professor due almost entirely to references to him in the media.  On the other hand, he is poised to soon displace Alan Dershowitz as the "most-cited law professor by Donald Trump"!

UPDATE:  This is not atypical of the reception accorded Professor Turley's performance today.

December 4, 2019 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink