Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Law Review Ranking Table and Apologies to the Houston Law Review

A quick correction here on the law review citations, which I announced in a post on law school rankings a little more than a week ago.

I inexplicably left the Houston Law Review off the list of under-valued reviews in my paper "The Emerging Importance of Law Review Rankings for Law School Rankings, 2003-2007."  The Houston Law Review is ranked 37, 33 places above its parent institution.  I would expect, given their law review's strong performance, that the University of Houston is ripe for reconsideration and improvement in next year's US News ranking.  In fact, as Brian Leiter has recently commented, the University of Houston deserves a higher ranking, for other reasons as well (like its high quality faculty).  My apologies to my friends at the University of Houston and especially the Houston Law Review, which has done admirable work in recent years in getting strong articles, which are well-cited.  As faculty advisor to the Alabama Law Review, I've spent some time reading through our competitors' journals, to get a sense of what they're doing.  And I've been mighty impressed with Houston Law Review in particular.  They're a journal to emulate.

The corrected draft is now up on ssrn.  In cased you downloaded the old version of the paper, here's the correct table of "undervalued" law reviews--reviews that are performing significantly better in terms of citations than their parent institutions (the first number is the number of places the review's rank is above its school's US News rank; the second number is the law review's rank in citations by journals).

Most Under-Valued Law Reviews

Albany Law Review 51+ 49
Hofstra Law Review 45+ 55
DePaul Law Review 39 41
South Carolina Law Review3661
William Mitchell Law Review3565
Catholic University Law Review3466
Houston Law Review3337
Chicago Kent Law Review3228
Cardozo Law Review2726
Marquette Law Review27+73
Indiana Law Review26.550.5
Fordham Law Review22.59.5

Schools outside of the top 100, have been assigned a rank of 100 for purposes of computing the difference between law review citation rank and US News rank.

There are also a number of law reviews at fourth tier schools that are ranked in the top 100.  Those are South Texas Law Review (ranked 81); New England Law Review (ranked 84); John Marshall Law Review (ranked 89); Tulsa Law Journal (ranked 93).  As I've predicted before, look for all those schools to improve in the US News rankings.

And now there's this story from the Houston Chroncile, which Brian Leiter linked to recently.  It suggests that the University of Houston's dip in the US News rankings (down to 70 from 50 a few years ago) was the flash-point for the dean's resignation.  If true, that's more than unfortunate.  In part because based on other indicators of quality--like citations to the Houston Law Review--the school is significantly better than its US News rank suggests.  It's also bad news, becasue the US News rankings simply ought not to matter that much.  The possibility that a dean would leave a school because of a fluctuation in rankings is beyond troubling.  And as a bunch of people have been arguing, we shouldn't pay nearly so much attention to US News.  John Maule has a nice summary of recent posts on all sorts of rankings issues, along with his thoughts on the rankings mania.  He concludes with a call to stop obsessing about rankings:

Nothing in the U.S. News rankings is affected by or affects the quality of, or demand for, my writing, my blog posts, my listserv messages, or my courses. And I do hope that the rest of the law faculty in this nation can adopt the same attitude. Do what is right, and don't sell out to the rankings game.

I fear that Professor Maule is at least partly wrong; the rankings affect decisions about whether to go to Villanova University's law school and, thus, who're in his classes.  We hear this in a paper by Michael Sauder and Ryon Lancaster and it is partially confirmed in a paper by William Henderson and Andrew Morriss.  The latter find that students at non-elite schools are price sensitive and for them rankings are less important.

Given their apparent importance, we really need to try to influence the factors used in ranking, to make them fit more closely what we think are important.  I've previously said that we ought to lobby for US News to take include diversity in some way--and I suspect that US News is getting ready to ready to take that long walk.  I've already started campaigning to take law review citations into account.  They're not a perfect measure of law school quality, but I think what a law journal publishes is one good indicator of the intellectual orientation of the parent institution and of how that parent institution is viewed in the profession.  As Dave Hoffman has pointed out, there are some things that law student editors can do to improve the quality of their journals.

Oh, and by the way, Houston's Hylton rank is 61.  So once we remove the clutter, University of Houston is doing well.

Endnotes: Thanks to Michael Herz and Alex Roberts for correspondence on related issues.

Alfred L. Brophy
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