Paul L. Caron

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Brophy on The Relationship Between Law Review Rankings and U.S. News Law School Rankings

We previosuly blogged Al Brophy's paper demonstrating a close connection between the citation rankings of law reviews and the ranking of their parent law school (The Relationship between Law Review Citations and Law School Rankings).  His new paper examines changes in both the U.S. News law school rankings and Washington & Lee law journal rankings over the past few years (The Emerging Importance of Law Review Rankings for Law School Rankings, 2003-07).  Al finds some support for the view that as law schools improve (or decline), there is a corresponding change in the quality of their main law journals (as measured by citations in other journals).  Al notes on our sister PropertyProf Blog:

I suggest that if you want to know where a law school is heading, in addition to the glossy material that the school sends out (which announce new hires, student successes, faculty publications, and talks sponsored by the school), one should spend some time studying the scholarship their law review publishes. The idea here is that what students (and perhaps increasingly faculty) are able to recruit (as well as what they select) for publication tells something about the intellectual orientation and reputation of the school.

There are several fascinating tables in the paper, including compilations of:

  • "Hottest" law reviews (biggest improvement in citation rank).  Here are the Top 5:
    1. Michigan State #109 (up 54 places)
    2. Lewis and Clark #100 (up 49 places)
    3. William Mitchell #65 (up 40.5 places)
    4. George Mason #70 (up 35.5 places)
    5. Alabama #54 (up 33.5 places)
  • Most "undervalued" law reviews (law review ranked significantly better than ranking of parent law school).  Here are the Top 5:
    1. Albany (+51)
    2. Hofstra (+45)
    3. DePaul (+39)
    4. South Carolina (+36)
    5. William Mitchell (+35)

  • Most "overvalued" law reviews (law review ranked significantly worse than ranking of parent law school).  Here are the Top 5:
    1. Washington & Lee (-42)
    2. Utah (-41)
    3. Maryland (-37)
    4. George Mason (-33)
    5. Nebraska (-32)

Based on his data, Al predicts that these law schools are poised to climb in the U.S. News rankings in light of the comparative strength of their law reviews in the citation rankings:

  • Albany (Tier 3 in current U.S. News rankings)
  • Cardozo (53)
  • Catholic (Tier 3)
  • Chicago-Kent (60)
  • DePaul (80)
  • Fordham (32)
  • Marquette (Tier 3)
  • Michigan State (Tier 4)
  • South Carolina (97)
  • South Texas (Tier 4)
  • William Mitchell (Tier 4)

Al concludes:

In part I think law schools ought to spend money (and attention) on their law journals. An increase in law review quality will not necessarily lead to an increase in peer assessment, but I think people are going to increasingly focus on law reviews as an indicator of law school quality. In part I think they will do that because we're all looking around for indicators of law school quality and we know that there's a high correlation between perceived quality--as measured by US News peer assessment--and law review citations by journals. (Paul Caron and Bernard Black, whose important paper urges attention to ssrn downloads, are two among many people who are seeking better indicators.) And when that turn to scrutinizing law journals happens, I think deans will want to be able to point to a high quality law review. And even if law journals aren't used as measures of quality of their parent institutions, spending time and money improving reviews will help improve legal education--which is one of the points of this whole rankings business anyway, I thought.

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