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Author Topic: Posner Paper on Law School Rankings  (Read 2316 times)

jwilcox1024

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Posner Paper on Law School Rankings
« on: July 27, 2005, 03:30:52 PM »
Richard Posner has a paper out on law school rankings that looks at alternatives to USNWR. It might be interesting for all the rankings junkies here on LSD. He also addresses a question I have thought about for awhile regarding Leiter's rankings. Why does the research quality of the faculty at my law school matter?

Quote
Most applicants to law school expect to practice law; and faculty publication, the basis of Leiterís ranking, is increasingly removed from the concerns important even to practitioners, let alone to students, though this phenomenon is more pronounced at the elite schools. Current faculty scholarship is, for example, disproportionately concentrated in constitutional law, which few practicing lawyers specialize in.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=703821
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J D

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Re: Posner Paper on Law School Rankings
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2005, 09:04:39 PM »
Why does the research quality of the faculty at my law school matter?

Maybe because one is generally "better" at, or more comfortable, teaching a subject which one does research on.  Every professor I have ever had (regardless of field of expertise) has said that such is true for them: they feel more confident and more comfortable teaching topics they know best (i.e. those they have dedicated time and effort researching) than other subjects that they may have a less intimate knowledge of.  If they feel more confident and comfortable teaching the topic, it seems likely (although it wouldn't necessarily be the case) that they are going to be more effective teachers in that subject.  It's just a thought.
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jwilcox1024

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Re: Posner Paper on Law School Rankings
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2005, 11:11:02 PM »
I agree one is "better" at, or more comfortable, teaching a subject which one is familiar with, and doing research on a subject makes one very familiar with a subject. However, almost all the profs at a law school, and particularly ones in the top 40 like Leiter looks at, have done good enough research to land a tenure-track position. I think the correlation breaks down between research quality and teaching quality when you are comparing the-best-of-the-best versus an average researcher.

As Posner points out, most legal scholars focus on the constitution. You would therefore expect a heavy weighting towards strong constitutional faculties in a faculty ranking. Constitutional research is important, and I want to understand it well, but in my day-to-day duties as an attorney there are probably other areas that will be more helpful.
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J D

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Re: Posner Paper on Law School Rankings
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2005, 11:44:39 PM »
I agree one is "better" at, or more comfortable, teaching a subject which one is familiar with, and doing research on a subject makes one very familiar with a subject. However, almost all the profs at a law school, and particularly ones in the top 40 like Leiter looks at, have done good enough research to land a tenure-track position. I think the correlation breaks down between research quality and teaching quality when you are comparing the-best-of-the-best versus an average researcher.

As Posner points out, most legal scholars focus on the constitution. You would therefore expect a heavy weighting towards strong constitutional faculties in a faculty ranking. Constitutional research is important, and I want to understand it well, but in my day-to-day duties as an attorney there are probably other areas that will be more helpful.

I dispute Posner's assertion.  Doubtless, many law professors are interested in Constitutional law and/or legal theory/history (who isn't, on some level?).  But I am reasonably sure that a law professor whose primary interest is in, say, employment law will probably write a hell of a lot more on interpretations of or amendments to ERISA than anything in the US Constitution.  Heck, even the SCOTUS isn't doing a hell of a lot of constitutional law of late (under Rehnquist's Chief Justiceship, we have seen a mared drop not only in the number of cases heard, but also in the proportion of cases granted cert which concern constitutional issues.  Most of the cases now concern statutory or administrative law interpretation, I think).  You may already know of this, but for a look at what law professors are currently researching/publishing, please read the Legal Theory Blog by Lawrence Solum (a law professor at San Diego) at http://lsolum.blogspot.com/.  Lots of really good stuff there.
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jwilcox1024

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Re: Posner Paper on Law School Rankings
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2005, 12:08:09 AM »
I agree one is "better" at, or more comfortable, teaching a subject which one is familiar with, and doing research on a subject makes one very familiar with a subject. However, almost all the profs at a law school, and particularly ones in the top 40 like Leiter looks at, have done good enough research to land a tenure-track position. I think the correlation breaks down between research quality and teaching quality when you are comparing the-best-of-the-best versus an average researcher.

As Posner points out, most legal scholars focus on the constitution. You would therefore expect a heavy weighting towards strong constitutional faculties in a faculty ranking. Constitutional research is important, and I want to understand it well, but in my day-to-day duties as an attorney there are probably other areas that will be more helpful.

I dispute Posner's assertion.  Doubtless, many law professors are interested in Constitutional law and/or legal theory/history (who isn't, on some level?).  But I am reasonably sure that a law professor whose primary interest is in, say, employment law will probably write a hell of a lot more on interpretations of or amendments to ERISA than anything in the US Constitution.  Heck, even the SCOTUS isn't doing a hell of a lot of constitutional law of late (under Rehnquist's Chief Justiceship, we have seen a mared drop not only in the number of cases heard, but also in the proportion of cases granted cert which concern constitutional issues.  Most of the cases now concern statutory or administrative law interpretation, I think).  You may already know of this, but for a look at what law professors are currently researching/publishing, please read the Legal Theory Blog by Lawrence Solum (a law professor at San Diego) at http://lsolum.blogspot.com/.  Lots of really good stuff there.

I am going to trust Posner on this one. He has been a legal academic longer than I have been arrived, and a well-respected on at that, so he probably has a better pulse on the modern academy than I do. Solumn's blog is interesting, but I wouldn't assign it too much weight. It is simply one blog pointing out things in legal theory it happens to find interesting. I will also point out that if  you look at Solumn's CV he writes a decent number of articles about the constitution  and other areas that are not going to impact lawyers on a very regular basis such as "Alternative Court Structures in the Future of the California Judiciary" and "To Our Childrenís Childrenís Children: The Problems of Intergenerational Ethics" to name two picked quasi-randomly.

I am not arguing that legal theory, etc., isn't interesting or valuable. I look forward to it in my legal studies. But as far as my day-to-day life as a lawyer it probably will not be nearly as valuable as understanding securities law or the federal rules of evidence (and not how the rules of evidence should be).

Also, being taught by an all-star in a certain area would be exciting as well, but once again what schools produce and have the research all-stars is probably more interesting to legal academics than it is to practicing lawyers.
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shae

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Re: Posner Paper on Law School Rankings
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2005, 08:58:22 PM »
he's a liar and everything he says is wrong; i bet he couldnt even pass that bar   ;D

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Re: Posner Paper on Law School Rankings
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2005, 11:40:47 AM »
Can anybody find a paper that'll tell me that Suffolk should actually be ranked in the 2nd Tier?
GPA - 2.095 (It was a long time ago and I wasn't trying.)
LSAT - 161

In - Suffolk, New England School of Law
Out - BC, Northeastern
Pending - Nothing pending . . . now what?