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Category: Law School

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Swiftly Shrinking? Toward the Lilliputian Law Review Article

book-tiny1.jpgThis law review article submission season, a bunch of law reviews banded together to create a page limit for law review article submissions. According to the policy as announced by the Harvard Law Review and followed at several other law reviews:

In an effort to address the growing length of law review articles, the Harvard Law Review has adopted a new policy limiting the length of articles we will accept or publish.

The Review will give preference to articles under 25,000 words in length — the equivalent of 50 law review pages — including text and footnotes. The Review will not publish articles exceeding 35,000 words — the equivalent of 70-75 law review pages — except in extraordinary circumstances.

Eugene Volokh of the VC has some data on the effectiveness of the policy:

Here’s an early data point: Jean-Gabriel Bankier of Berkeley Electronic Press’s ExpressO submission service . . . reports that, based on “more than 1,000 unique submissions in both 2004 and 2005,” the averages were:

2003-69.1 pages

2004-73.3 pages

2005-64.0 pages

So that’s about 9 pages shorter on average. Thus, in total, this season saw over 9000 fewer pages of law review article text. Where did those 9000 pages go? That’s roughly 2.7 million words . . . vanished. They are lost forever, gone, never to be read and enjoyed. Oh, the verbosity!

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Faculty Recruitment Practices

Brian Leiter has this interesting recent post on some high-pressure AALS faculty recruitment practices. Coincidentally, I just received an email from the “AALS Special Committee on Faculty Recruitment Practices,” which states, in relevant part:

The special committee’s specific charge was to determine whether, in light of [certain] complaints, something like a statement of good practices in faculty recruitment was appropriate. Of course, a prerequisite first step in fulfilling that charge is determining what practices are occurring and whether or not they are sufficiently problematic in frequency and type that a statement of good practices is necessary or appropriate. To that end, a survey of current practices seemed appropriate. Hence, this email message, which is being sent to faculty members who participated in the faculty recruitment conference within the past two years and are now full-time faculty members at an ABA approved law school/AALS member law school. We know that you are very busy individuals.

Busy, yes. But not too busy to blog.

My guess, based on anecdotes from the law clerk hiring process and discussions about international norms with colleagues, is to doubt that AALS will succeed at stamping out abuse in the absence of a real enforcement hammer. But you’ve got to give them credit for trying, because the current market is set-up to produce some unhappy marriages between candidates and schools.

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A whole lot has changed in the last fifty-six years

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I recently had the pleasure of introducing Paul Jones to speak to the Black Law Student Association at the University of Alabama. Dr. Jones is one of our nation’s leading collectors of African American art. He was born in the 1920s in Bessemer (a town near Birmingham) and grew up there. He shared a dream of generations of boys in this state–to play for the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide. But he could not realize that dream. Instead, he played for Alabama State. Then, in 1949, as a student at Howard University, he applied to the University of Alabama’s law school. Again, he was a generation too early. He was told that while the administrators here were aware that the United States Supreme Court might mandate that the University admit students like him, he should not pursue a lawsuit:

While this may be gratuitous, I am adding that we at the University of Alabama are convinced that relationships between the races, in this section of the country at least, are not likely to be improved by pressure on behalf of members of the colored race in an effort to gain admission to institutions maintained by the State for members of the white race. On the contrary, we feel that inter-racial relationships would suffer if there is insistence that the issue be joined at this time. The better elements of both races deplore anything that tends to retard or jeopardize the development of better relationships between the races. For these reasons, therefore, we hope that you can persuade yourself not to press further your application for admission here.

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Does this insight apply to law professors as well?

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Some years ago (I’m guessing sometime around 1997 from internal references, as historians would say), I saw in a newspaper a quote attributred to “Veteran horrormeister and Scream 2 director Wes Craven”:

After you stop moaning about being stereotyped as a horror guy, you can say, “I’m employed doing interesting movies that can be called, in some sense, auteur work. Nobody’s telling me what to do, I have final cut and there’s virtually no limitation except my imagination, and I have to stay within a certain subject matter. But you can put as much comedy as you want in the movie, as much romance or philosophy; anything, as long as you scare the bejesus out of people six or 10 times.”

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On Rankings Bias; or, Why Leiter’s rankings make Texas look good — and why that’s not a bad thing

Recent blog posts by Paul Caron and Gordon Smith note that creators of alternate law school rankings often seem to create rankings systems on which their own schools excel. A possible implication — not an implication that Smith or Caron make, but one that various Leiter critics have been making for some time — is that these alternative rankings are merely a form of naked self-promotion by their creators. In its simplest form, this argument would go something like this: “Brian Leiter promotes his rankings because they rank Texas higher than the U.S. News, and this makes Leiter look better.”

In response, Leiter has asserted through blog posts and comments that his rankings do not necessarily make Texas look better. His recent statements focus on the fact that he lists student quality on his new rankings page. He writes:

My institution, Texas, ranks 8th in faculty quality measured by reputation, 9th in faculty quality measured by impact, and 16th or 18th in student quality, depending on the measure used. Texas ranks 15th in US News, as it has for quite some time now. Texas thus ranks both more highly and more lowly in my ranking systems, depending on the measures used.

This is a singularly unconvincing fig leaf. Everyone knows that the 2000 and 2002 Leiter rankings did not weight student quality particularly heavily; they measured mostly faculty reputation, and they clearly gave an edge to Leiter’s school. (This is readily apparent from a look at Leiter’s archives section). Thus, for some time now, the Leiter rankings have placed Texas higher than the U.S. News list.

Is this cause for concern? Does this suggest that the Leiter rankings are simply self-promotion? Actually, there is a much more innocuous explanation.

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Rating Academic Reputation

book17a.jpgThere’s lot of talk recently about how to rate an academic’s reputation. As scholars, we’ve devoted extensive thought and discussion to the issue. Some ingenious techniques we’ve devised:

1. Count citations to a scholar’s work. Of course, for the reasons Brian Leiter documents, citation counts aren’t an indication that a particular article is any good. Jack Balkin and Sanford Levinson have a hilarious discussion of the foibles of citation counts in their article, How to Win Cites and Influence People, 71 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 843 (1996). They write, for example:

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Does Yale Law School Owe Anything to Alito?

yls.bmpA New York Times article queries whether Yale Law School has been institutionally too harsh to its former professors and alumni who are nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Robert Bork was a former Yale Law School faculty member and Justice Thomas was a Yale Law School alumni. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito is also an alumni.

According to the article:

Faculty members testified on both sides both times. But the school was generally opposed to their nominations, said professors, students and alumni. Justice Thomas was thought to be unqualified, and Judge Bork’s views were considered too extreme.

In his 14 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas, of the Yale class of 1974, has refused to return here, and Judge Bork, who was on the faculty for 15 years, chortles during speeches when he cites “a bit of populist wisdom” he once saw on a bumper sticker: “Save America. Close Yale Law School.” . . . .

The two earlier conservative nominees may never overcome their anger at what they considered the school’s disloyalty, said Steven Brill, a legal journalist, entrepreneur and law school classmate of Judge Alito’s.

“They both think,” Mr. Brill said, “that the law school betrayed them.”

I find the suggestion here rather odd. Is Yale Law School supposted to support every graduate nominated for the Supreme Court or running for political office? Is this a duty that a law school owes its alumni?

I think not. The faculty and students of a law school should decide on the merits of the Alito nomination without putting a special thumb on the scale because he has a connection to the school. This isn’t a betrayal because I don’t believe there’s any duty owed. Each professor and student is an individual who can make up his or her own mind. And just because many professors at a school take a particular position doesn’t mean that this is the institution’s position. In fact, if things were different — if professors and students were to feel any obligation (however slight) to support a nominee because he or she has an institutional connection — then I’d be very worried about the independence of thought at the school.

Hat tip: Althouse

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Back from the Hiring Conference

I just returned from the AALS hiring conference. Temple saw some wonderful folks, including several confessed readers of this blog.

Because of the swirl of events, I didn’t get to see others who I would have liked to, even though I did mill around the Friday night reception for that very purpose! (For a pre-conference take on whether going to such receptions makes sense, see here.) Despite Al and Mike‘s fashion tips, I admit to not wearing a tie. And that is about as much as I think I can say about the experience, as the deliberative process privilege probably applies to the rest of what went on.

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A Modest Defense of Law Reviews

librarystacks.jpgIt is a pretty common place observation that one of the virtues of markets is that they manage to aggregate a great deal of disaggregated information. Obviously, folks disagree rather vehemently as to how effectively markets do this, but most people, I suspect, would admit that the market is frequently smarter than particular actors within the market. The same is true, I think, of law reviews.

The classical critique of law reviews is that they are staffed by dumb students who don’t know anything. Obviously, there is a lot of truth to this. However, I think that the case for the incompetence of law reviews can be overstated. While obviously no law review is doing a perfect job, citation studies suggest that the article selection process is far from random. All things being equal, articles that appear in top journals get cited more often than articles that don’t appear in top journals. Of course, it may be that law professors are simply dolts who are taking the name of the journal as a signal of quality. However, it seems at least equally probable to suppose that the law reviews — or at least the top law reviews — are identifying important legal scholarship considerably better than the classical critique suggests.

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AALS Law Professor Meat Market

meatmarket1a.jpgFor aspiring law professors, the infamous hiring conference, known as the “meat market,” is this week. Best of luck!

Here are some helpful posts from Concurring Opinions:

1. Solove’s advice on job interviews

2. Kaimi’s advice on getting to your job interviews

I’d like to say that my post is more instructive and Kaimi’s is more humorous, but if you can’t get to your interview . . . well, you probably won’t get a callback. As Woody Allen famously said: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

More advice on law teaching can be found at:

1. Solove’s roundup of PrawfsBlawg teaching interview advice

2. Brad Wendel’s advice and roundup of useful links to more advice

3. Brian Leiter’s advice

4. Jack Chin and Denise Morgan’s advice and roundup of useful links to more advice

5. Michael Madison’s advice and useful links