Following up on Tuesday's post, Chronicle of Higher Education, How Conservatives Captured the Law, and in particular this statement:
Academics associated with the Federalist Society have educated a new
generation of conservative law students, played a role in the rise of
openly conservative law schools like Pepperdine's and George Mason's,
and succeeded in gaining respect and traction for conservative legal
Mark Tushnet (Harvard), Reflections (I) on the Federalist Society Conference on Intellectual Diversity (Balkinization):
idea is that institutions offer bundles of attributes to consumers
(applicants), and each consumer chooses the bundle that, from her point of
view, maximizes the achievement of her preferences as she understands them at
the moment of choice. I used Pepperdine as my primary example, because it’s a
school with a strong public law faculty that leans more conservative than other
institutions (but I could have offered others – San Diego and St. Thomas in St.
Paul, for example). So, consider a conservative student applying to Harvard and
Pepperdine. If she gets in to Harvard, she’s certainly going to get into
Pepperdine, and the LSAT and GPA numbers suggest pretty strongly that she’ll do
better at Pepperdine than at Harvard. So, her choice is between (a) a
liberal-leaning school where she’ll probably do all right but might not be at
the top of the class, and the job opportunities associated with having a
Harvard degree and (b) a conservative-ish law school where she’ll probably do
quite well, with the job opportunities available to a student at the top of
For more, see:
The article concludes with an identification of those law schools whose
academic reputation scores have improved or declined the most during the
fifteen year period, along with a brief discussion of some potential
causes for those changes.
... Undoubtedly there are a number of other ways in which a school’s administration can, at
least under certain circumstances, significantly influence their school’s academic reputation
scores. It is quite possible, for example, that Pepperdine’s substantial gains over the period (a
rise of .4) could in some ways be related to the notoriety of their dean (Ken Starr). Chart Q plots
Pepperdine’s academic reputation scores with the timing of Starr’s arrival and departure at the
I identified three research-oriented law schools where, compared to
the rest of the legal academy, conservatives have fared well during
faculty hiring: George Mason, San Diego, and Pepperdine. Why these
three? (If there are other law schools that have tried to build a strong
conservative faculty brand, they have escaped my attention.)
- George Mason's Law & Economics emphasis.
- San Diego Law is a conservative Catholic law school that hosts The Right Coast blog.
- Pepperdine Law is a Christian-centered law school that hired Kenneth
Starr to serve as dean as dean after he rapped up this tenure as
Independent Counsel of the Clinton Whitewater investigation.
As show in the scatterplot above, all three law schools have fared
very well in Academic Reputation: GMU (#76 to #51, +25), San Diego (#69
to #51, +18), and Pepperdine (#107 to #65, +42).
But wait, fellow academics vote in the USN Academic Reputation
survey, and supposedly we are an overwhelmingly liberal. So why did
these three conservative school fare so well? This could be combination
of three factors:
- Discounts on productive scholars. ...
- USN "echo chamber" effect. ...
- USN Voters. ...
If moving on USN Academic Reputation is really important to a faculty,
the lesson here is, "make a hard, high-profile right turn, and wait a
decade." That said, there are probably not enough spoils to go around
for more than a handful of conservative law schools to use this
Richard Garnett (Notre Dame), Intellectual Diversity and Institutional Pluralism (PrawfsBlawg):
[T]hinking about the fact that the "conservative" schools Mark identified
are all schools with a religious character or affiliation -- I think we
need to be careful about equating a school's distinctive religious
character with a "conservative" ideological character. A Catholic law
school, for example, might have more than the typical number of students
and faculty who support closer regulation of abortion, but that same
school might also have more than the typical number of students and
faculty who are skeptical of certain forms of libertarianism or who
support an arguably inefficiently (by some measures) generous level of
Mark Tushnet (Harvard), Comment (PrawfsBlawg):
On Rick's last point, I think I wrote that the three faculties had
strong conservative public law faculties, not that the schools "were" in
some general sense conservative, although maybe at some point I did use
the summary label. In my remarks at the Federalist Society conference I
mentioned the possible "social justice" orientation of some Catholic
institutions. (Also, it's not really a quibble to point out that
Pepperdine isn't a Catholic institution!) I may be posting some
additional thoughts on across-institution diversity over the next few