September 12, 2006
"Info-antics" or How Chapman School of Law Beat Out Harvard to be Number 1 in a "Key Scholarly Output Ranking"
In an amazing display of hubris, the Chapman School of Law released the following press release on September 8, 2006:
Chapman School of Law Hits #1 in Key Scholarly Output Ranking
- Chapman Bests Harvard, NYU, Yale and Other Top Law School
ORANGE, Calif., Sept. 8, 2006 – In an increasingly important objective measure of scholarly productivity, the Chapman University School of Law has been ranked #1 in the nation in terms of the number of scholarly articles posted in the past 12 months on the Social Sciences Research Network, or SSRN (www.ssrn.com), a key online distribution network for legal scholarship.
The rankings, which became available this week based on data through September 1, 2006, list Harvard Law School at #2 , New York University at #3 and the University of Minnesota at #4. Rounding out the top ten were UCLA (#5), Yale (#6), Duke (#7), and the University of Chicago, University of Illinois and George Washington University (tied at #8). Chapman law professors also took top honors in the number of scholarly articles posted by author, out of 1,500 professors listed nationwide: Professor Jeremy Miller was #1, Professor John Eastman was #3, and Professor Donald Kochan was #21.
The Chapman law faculty also broke into the Top 100 on SSRN in terms of the number of articles downloaded over the past 12 months, an indication of the interest that the Chapman School of Law’s scholarship is generating among peers. Chapman ranked #71 out of more than 350 law schools worldwide in this important objective measure. In August, the Chapman tax law faculty ranked #8 in the nation in terms of SSRN downloads.
Parham Williams, dean of the Chapman School of Law, noted that the accomplishment was even more impressive than it first appeared, as the majority of Chapman faculty only began posting their scholarship on SSRN this past summer. “This is further proof,” Dean Williams noted, “that the Chapman law school is truly a community of scholars. That, combined with our commitment to small class size and student-focused personalized education, which resulted in a top ten ranking by the Princeton Review this past year in the 'Faculty Rocks' category, makes Chapman an exciting place for cutting-edge legal education and scholarship.”
Wow! How does Chapman Law best the likes of Harvard et al.?
Let's start by just comparing Chapman and Harvard for a moment using US News & World Report for our reference point. US News ranked Harvard the second best law school in the country in its 2006 report. Chapman, well, Chapman is a Fourth Tier school. Harvard's academic peers rated the school and its faculty 4.8 on a scale of 5.0. Chapman's peer assessment score is 1.5, only four law schools scored lower than Chapman in peer assessment. I conclude, reasonably I think, that these two schools aren't exactly playing in the same league, not even in the same law school fantasy league.
Yet based on the press release's headline, one might think Chapman's faculty is kicking Harvard butt. With less than half as many law profs, Chapman's "scholarly output" was almost 17% higher than Harvard's. Click on the table (left) to view a larger version.
Hum. Let's flesh out Chapman Law's claims.
As Dean Williams states, it is absolutely true that "the majority of Chapman faculty only began posting their scholarship on SSRN this past summer." In fact, of the 145 Chapman Law documents posted in the SSRN digital depository in the last 12 months ending on September 1, 2006, a whooping 108 were submitted in August 2006 (and most of those were submitted on the last day of August). This has to be the most creative jag any law school faculty has ever experienced -- just-in-time productivity, no less. But a closer examination reveals that the only person who was really productive in Orange, California in August was the person who uploaded the documents to SSRN, documents whose dates of publication ranged from 2006 to ... wait for it ... 1981. Yes, 1981!
So is an objective measure of scholarly productivity the number of scholarly articles posted in SSRN in the last 12 months? Most of us might say "yes" but certainly we would only entertain the proposition if the documents were actually produced within a reasonable amount of time before being posted. In the case of Chapman Law, only 41 of the 145 SSRN documents can be dated to 2005-2006. That's only 28.3 percent. Click on the pie chart to enlarge it for viewing the entire breakdown.
This next chart illustrates the chronological distribution of Chapman Law documents posted in the last 12 months by date of publication, where publication date means publication in a journal, law review, or some similar publication. Where no such publication date is given, the SSRN-listed document is assumed to have seen the light of day on the date it was posted on SSRN. Granted, that assumption is not entirely valid because several documents have not even been viewed once, let alone downloaded.
I have also charted the Chapman Law claim as a percentage of total documents by certain milestones. Documents actually published (not SSRN-posted):
before 2000: 38.62%;
before 1995: 25.52%; and
before 1990: 11.03%.
Click on the image to view a larger version of the chart.
Remember, we are referring to a set of 145 documents. Clearly some very out-dated legal analysis just became available for reading via SSRN.
So which law school actually ranks number one in scholarly productivity as measured by documents posted on SSRN that were produced in a reasonable amount of time before being posted? Harvard Law, of course. There is no similar publication date range issue for Harvard's SSRN-posted documents.
It's not unusual for the have-nots in the academic prestige department to gulp the kool-aid of self-delusion. That's OK, I guess. It can even be the source of infotainment. Who doesn't enjoy a little "law porn", a dose of "Sextonism", every now and then? Chapman Law's "info-antics" is another example, but it is not just any sort of example. As law librarians we know that this silly side of document counts has become pandemic in the legal academy. Will it never end?
I hope the Chapman Law Library staff didn't spend its entire summer tracking down hardcopies for scanning!
Ultimately, what can we say about Chapman Law? I think it's fair to say, "this school posts!" [JH]
- List of SSRN Top Law Schools (Beta) (September 1, 2006)
- SSRN Top Law Schools: Chapman University, School of Law Stats Page
- List of Chapman Law Profs and Librarians with Links to Their SSRN submissions
- SSRN Top Law Schools: Harvard Law School Stats Page
- List of Harvard Law Profs with Links to Their SSRN Submissions
Editor's Note: I leave the matter of Chapman Law's remarks about Law Profs Jeremy Miller, John Eastman, and Donald Kochan for you to ponder on your own and the matter of download counts to another day. Breaking the top 100 in terms of download counts isn't as much of a screamer as "Hit[ing] #1 in Key Scholarly Output Ranking."
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When I was at BPP studying my famous law professors the, vast, majority of my class at Holborn had TCs. I can't speak for Waterloo though, didn't know anyone over there but did here that the situation was almost the opposite. Really strange.
Posted by: lawschoolexperience | May 20, 2011 12:29:14 AM
The 2006 issue of U.S. News' rankings (at least my copy) ranked Harvard third, not second. Academics gave Harvard a 4.9 average reputational score, not 4.8. This doesn't affect the validity of your comments. Just wanted to correct the numbers.
Posted by: Theodore Seto | Sep 17, 2006 1:58:40 PM
1st in papers uploaded, 71st in papers downloaded. Hmm. If a paper is posted in cyberspace and no one reads it, does it really have scholarly impact?
Posted by: Keith Rowley | Sep 15, 2006 10:02:42 AM
Check out Chapman Law Prof Tom Bell's comments to my post in "SSRN v. USN&WR v. Truth" (Sept. 13, 2006) at http://money-law.blogspot.com/2006/09/ssrn-v-usnwr-v-truth.html
Tom is well-known for his meticulous research into the deficiencies of the US News rankings of law schools. His "Reforming the USN&WR Law School Rankings" should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in this topic. See http://money-law.blogspot.com/2006/09/ssrn-v-usnwr-v-truth.html
Perhaps someday Tom and I will work together to evaluate the quality, use, and misuse of SSRN-generated data. - Joe
Posted by: Joe Hodnicki | Sep 14, 2006 11:27:38 AM
I write representing no one but myself -- not Chapman, not its faculty, not the SSRN, no one.
It is absurd that the U.S. News and World Report, a non-law magazine, has apparently hijacked the "intrinsic" worth of a law school.
But I mispeak. The real issue is the USNWR has a grip on the economic health (via admissions, need for scholarships and dollar enrollment) for many law schools. So, we have now simply followed the money first, and the ego second.
When I learned late of the SSRN, my perception was that it was an opportunity to share, in one place, my writing -- some of which I and others found insightful (via posting on the Legal Theory Blog), some of which I hoped to be provocative, some of which I hoped to evidence humility (because I have changed my mind on that particular issue), some off beat (I included several published combination legal essays and pieces of drama), and some of which I hoped would change the law (it is unfortunate that although there is an enemy standard regarding judicial recusal, the far more damaging problem of cronyism is ignored).
I became a professor because I enjoy writing and re-thinking ideas with others. The SSRN is a marvelous opportunity to put decades of work together so that a few more can share in this process.
As I see it, the purpose of life is the learning of love and wisdom; and then the sharing of love and wisdom.
The purpose is not to make money; it is to make peace.
In 100 years, most all (likely all) law professors will be dead and forgotten. Their incricate ever-so-brilliant academic pieces will be forgotten or ignored. Whether they taught at a "tier 2" school or a "tier 4" school will mean nothing.
The present professors who live to be 80, will be more concerned with their congestive heart failure, loss of eyesight, and love of their family than they will that they were "tier 1" or ranked highly by SSRN.
Then one moment, the last breath will be taken; and perhaps we will know whether and what was the meaning of life. This present "debate" will, I believe, be of zero meaning then and in the future.
Did this person make the world a better place? Did he or she increase tolerance, non-denomonational spirituality? Or, were they caught up in competitivenes and triviality?
Posted by: Jeremy M. Miller | Sep 14, 2006 7:15:54 AM
Check out what Dan Markel has to say about this post placed in the context of law school truth-in-marketing at Prawfsblawg
Posted by: Joe Hodnicki | Sep 12, 2006 9:42:41 AM