TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Anderson: A New Method Of Law Faculty Compensation — Scholarly Residuals From Citations

Robert Anderson (Pepperdine), Scholarly Residuals for Faculty Compensation:

In many law schools and other university departments, faculty are recruited, evaluated, and granted tenure largely based on their research productivity and influence. That system works reasonably well to motivate faculty members prior to tenure, but degrades after that. The best faculty members often are recruited by other institutions and have little incentive to stay other than a "match" by the home institution. Some other faculty members embark on a decades-long "transition" to retirement. One problem is that the compensation of faculty is often not adjusted directly, regularly, and contemporaneously according to scholarly performance to create optimal incentives to maximize output and tie faculty members to the original institution.

In this post, I outline a proposal for compensating faculty based on scholarly productivity and influence based on a "scholarly residuals" model. The model is loosely based on the residuals concept in the entertainment industry, compensating faculty each time their work is cited as creators and performers in films and TV shows are compensated when the film or show subsequently appears. The proposed system will (1) create strong monetary incentives for performance, (2) tie compensation more transparently to performance, and (3) enhance a school's ability to retain productive faculty members. Although there is merit in also tying compensation to teaching performance and service responsibilities, I leave those matters aside in this post. ...

I propose that schools develop a clear, transparent, and fine-grained compensation system tied to citation counts, which I call the "scholarly residuals" system. For each citation to each article or other scholarly work published during a faculty member's time at School X, the faculty member would be compensated monthly according to a formula. The value of citations would be weighted according to the influence and visibility of the citing article, rather than merely counted. The payment system would cease once a faculty member leaves. ...

Many might find the scholarly residuals compensation scheme crass, in that it proposes to reward faculty members based on objective metrics. Get over it. This already occurs; it just occurs inefficiently. A more important objection is that of course citation counts are an imperfect measure of scholarly impact, and an even more imperfect measure of scholarly quality. However, subjective judgments about the quality of work by deans or committees are imperfect too. Equally problematic is that they are not transparent, which decreases incentive for effort and increases rent seeking.

Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink


Crass or not, this proposed system can be very easily gamed and manipulated.

Posted by: Enrique | Feb 11, 2018 10:40:14 AM

Professor Robert Anderson's musings about creating "Law Faculty Compensation — Scholarly Residuals From Citations" poses a serious risk to future research on social justice. In a new law review article that I am writing, "The Inimical Effects of Law Review Ranking on Junior Faculty and Social Justice Research", I demonstrate how promotion, tenure, and salary decisions based on law review publication outputs create incentives regarding young scholars' choices of what to research and write about. My data demonstrates,for instance, that the top 100 ranked law reviews publish a disproportionate number of articles on a vary narrow range of substantive law, such as constitutional law and intellectual property, but rarely, if ever, publish articles on other topics such as juvenile and children's law. For instance, from 2005 to 2012 the top 10 ranked law reviews published 69 articles on intellectual property but only published 5 on children's law related issues. My article will demonstrate the very narrow substantive publication bias of the top ranked law reviews. Since many law schools factor the quality of the law reviews in which young faculty publish in their promotion and tenure decisions, I think that Professor Anderson's new emphasis on "citations" and salary will exacerbate the publication problem. Put yourself in a young faculty member's position who must choose topics for publication for tenure. If the top law reviews almost exclusively publish articles on some topics and almost never publish articles on other substantive issues, how will the young faculty member's scholarly path be influenced? It is easy for those of us senior tenured faculty to answer that we would simply write on what we are interested in. But what will young faculty do in this contemporary environment in which few tenure track teaching jobs exist and in which "outcome" measures, such as publications in top journals, is the coin of the realm for promotion, tenure,and salary. Hopefully, Professor Anderson is writing about this issue in his study.

Posted by: William Patton | Feb 11, 2018 12:45:53 PM

Citation rates vary significantly from discipline to discipline. Citation rates in tax are relatively low. Citation rates in critical legal studies tend to be quite high. I wonder whether we really want to compensate faculty in different fields differently.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Feb 11, 2018 5:36:52 PM

Hey Enrique, if you know of a way I could game and manipulate my way up to Cass Sunstein citation levels could you send me an email with the secret? Asking for a friend.

Posted by: Rob Anderson | Feb 11, 2018 5:54:36 PM

"For instance, from 2005 to 2012 the top 10 ranked law reviews published 69 articles on intellectual property but only published 5 on children's law related issues. "

And how many articles did they publish about hedge funds, mutual funds, or private equity?

What about banking? Or finance? Taxation? Securities regulation? Bankruptcy? Derivatives? Anti-trust? M&A?

Since students from the top law schools are going to Wall Street firm, shouldn't the law reviews be publishing relevant articles?

Not a whole lot of Harvard grads decide to throw in the towel to teach kindergarten.

Posted by: Um | Feb 11, 2018 5:57:17 PM

Prof Seto, it's an interesting question, and one I wish I had explored more in the post. My guess is that we already do tend to compensate different specialties differently, in part because of the factors you suggest. It is possible to adjust for different citation patterns in different fields, as well as for gamesmanship and the like. This is what search engines do all the time with links (which are similar to citations), and therefore there is a rich body of theory and practice on the subject.

Posted by: Rob Anderson | Feb 12, 2018 9:08:10 AM

...And the Venn Diagram overlap between Um/data/random other descriptors and Stephen Miller continues.

"Not a whole lot of Harvard grads decide to throw in the towel to teach kindergarten."

Isn't TFA one of the most popular destinations for Harvard grads? Hmmm...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 12, 2018 10:03:38 AM

Yup, about 1 in 5 Harvard students applies to Teach for America. This is to say nothing of the Harvard grads that wind up in primary or secondary education via other paths.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 12, 2018 11:21:08 PM

Reply to Rob: if you cite my work, I’ll go ahead and cite yours! As far as Sunstein is concerned, he is the Babe Ruth of law review article citations. (Also, his high number of citations reflect the sheer Dick Posner-like number of papers he has written and posted to SSRN.)

Posted by: Enrique | Feb 13, 2018 6:08:31 PM

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