Monday, April 23, 2012
Law schools across the country seem to share a common belief: That if their faculty publish more academic scholarship, and place it in better journals, then the U.S. News ranking of the school will improve. Schools have expended great time and expense on this project, and reshaped their faculties in pursuit of this goal. In hiring and at tenure review, most places view scholarship as being more important than teaching, in part for this reason. This belief has played a role not only in restructuring our institutions, but our values.
Is it a myth?
Looking back over several years of rankings, I have trouble identifying schools for whom this tactic was successful. After all, if scholarship can result in a long-term improvement in the rankings, shouldn't there be success stories?
So tell me-- where are they? What are the schools that managed, through increased scholarship rather that other factors, to significantly improve their rankings over the long-term (as opposed to brief jumps)?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Pepperdine certainly fits the bill: the school has made the biggest move I am aware of in the U.S. News rankings, rising over 50 spots in recent years, from the unranked Tier 3 in 2004 at the start of Ken Starr's deanship to #49 this year (seventh among the twenty California law schools, after Stanford (2), UC-Berkeley (7), UCLA (15), USC (18), UC-Davis (29), and UC-Hastings (44)). Although many factors undoubtedly contributed to Pepperdine's rapid ascent, a number of high profile lateral faculty hires over the past decade likely played a major role, including:
- Robert Pushaw (2001, from Missouri)
- Kristine Knaplund (2002, from UCLA)
- Douglas Kmiec (2003, from Catholic (Dean) and Notre Dame)
- Edward Larson (2006, from Georgia)
- Thomas Stipanowich (2006, from CPR Institute and Kentucky)
- Grant Nelson (2007, from UCLA)
In addition, Pepperdine is the only law school to earn Order of the Coif membership betweem 2004 - early 2012 (when Richmond earned membership). For more on Pepperdine's growing scholarly profile, see Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, In Fairness to Pepperdine.