Friday, October 19, 2007
David Bernstein, who as chair of George Mason's faculty appointments committee is being deluged with publicity material sent by various law schools to influence his vote in the U.S. News reputation survey, offers tips on what constitutes "effective and ineffective law porn":
- If you're going to brag about something, make sure it's something worth bragging about. Exhibit A is the fourth-tier law school that sent a brochure of faculty publications over the last decade. I noticed that I had personally published more than this entire faculty. This school did not rise in my estimation. Exhibit B is the low-ranked school that sent a large placard bragging about the fact that it now has four former Supreme Court clerks on the faculty. ... Exhibit C are schools, that, assumedly to make their faculty feel better, include everyone in their publication lists, including faculty who haven't published anything outside a bar journal or a new edition of their casebook in a decade, and including faculty who aren't even expected to publish, such as legal writing faculty and librarians.
- Give stuff, not brochures. I was just thinking about how I needed a new flash drive. The University of Kentucky sent me one, with its school logo ...
- Don't send alumni magazines. These are meant for alumni, and they typically focus on things alumni care about, not things that professors at other law schools care about.
- Don't address the brochure to "chair, faculty hiring committee" as opposed to actually finding out who the chair is, and addressing it personally. ...
- Don't focus on recent and upcoming endowed guest lectures. Any law school with enough money can get just about any professor to speak on just about any topic. The fact that Richard Epstein, or Akhil Amar, or Bruce Ackerman, swung by last year tells me nothing substantial about your law school. On the other hand, if a law school has a surprisingly vigorous weekly workshop program, do send a brochure about that, because it shows that your school has an ongoing, interesting intellectual climate, not limited to when the famous stars show up once a semester.
Co-Conspiratory Orin suggests in the Comments: I think UVa Law School does it best. They send out a journal that has excerpts from scholarly articles and detailed profiles of particular faculty members. It's a very interesting read. ...
What should a law school that actually wants to improve its U.S. News reputation rank do? The only thing I know that definitely works is to get acquired by a more prominent university (see Michigan State and Penn State law schools), and bask in the reflected glory.