Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Brian Leiter's Law School Scholarly Impact Rankings- Why???

Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings-Scholarly Impact was just published. Here. Additional information and a description of other contributors can be found Here

With respect to Brian and his colleagues hard work, this ranking illustrates to me what is wrong with law schools today. How important is scholarly impact to students? How important is it to lawyers in general? The answer is that most scholarship today simply is not important at all because of its focus on legal theory. Practical scholarship is frowned upon by the full-time professorate. Amazing isn't it?

A much more relevant, measurement would be to see which schools and scholars are most cited by courts. It should not be about being cited by other professors. That is exactly what this ranking system measures and that is exactly what is wrong with law schools today. 

These rankings are also biased towards more elite law schools. This is because other professors are more likely to cite an article in Chicago Law Review than New York Law Review. You see, they all want to be published in the University of Chicago Law Review because of that schools US News ranking.  Also, if you cite a professor, he is likely to cite you back. So much for quality. 

TaxProf Blog and others often look to these rankings. Prospective law students are likely to look at these rankings. But, what do they mean? Are they any better than U.S. News and World Reports??

It is time for law professors to start recognizing that it is the students who pay their salaries. Law schools need to employ professors with practical experience to teach law students. Those professors in turn, will produce practical scholarship which can be used by courts and the practicing bar. 

Don't get me wrong. I believe scholarship has an important place in the academy. I myself have published 16 articles and am working on a book. But, the focus should be on practice, not theory. Unfortunately, law schools today are literally backwards. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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It is no more relevant whether law professors are cited by courts than it is whether English professors are cited by novelists or whether physics professors are cited by quarks. The law is both a profession that students will go on to practice and an important subject worthy of careful study. We expect professors in the academy to be both teachers and scholars. That means that, in addition to teaching, law professors should be studying, considering, and--yes--theorizing about the law. The success of the academy as a social structure depends both on the alumni graduated and the knowledge discovered. Generally, we have measured success on the second goal by the contribution of scholarly endeavors to further knowledge development--trying to measure some sort of practical contribution instead misconstrues the very nature of scholarship.

Posted by: anon | Aug 1, 2012 8:38:57 AM

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