Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Relationship Between Law Review Citations and Law School Rankings

Thanks, Jim, for the kind introduction. It's an honor and pleasure to be part of your shop. I'm a huge fan of your work and Paul's, Ronen's, and Tim's. And I'm grateful that you folks are bringing some social science rigor to the important task of ranking schools and scholars--and thus making it easier for the academy to improve our hiring and promotion practices.

Alabama Crimson TideI thought I'd begin my time here with a simple question: what's the relationship between a law review's quality and the quality of its parent institution? This is an important question for money-law folks, because it raises some possibilities for measuring the quality of law schools. But I arrived at that question because I have been working as faculty advisor to the Alabama Law Review for a few years. And I'm interested in what the Alabama Law Review could do to improve itself. Basically, I wondered whether I could argue that an increase in the quality of scholarship in the ALR would benefit the school. There are a lot of other reasons why this is important. In addition to the two already mentioned, it has implications for decisions about where to publish.

Thankfully, John Doyle, law librarian extraodinare at Washington and Lee, has a terrific website that contains data on recent citations to law journals by other journals and by courts. And the data on citations by other journals is available in two forms: overall citations and by impact (total citations divided by number of pieces, such as articles, notes, book reviews).

So let me begin with some data that I think you'll find of some interest: the correlation between the peer assessment scores for the US News top 100 schools (according to the April 2005 ranking) and the overall citations to their main law reviews in the period 1997-2004 is .89. A rather remarkable correlation, it seems to be--especially given the criticism that's been leveled against the US News peer assessment scores.

I'm going to be talking more about the correlation between US News data and law review citation data over the next few weeks (including using the US News data released in 2006)--and that I hope will give me a chance to finish up some work I'm doing on the importance of secondary journals as a measure of school quality. Shortly I'll discuss what use we can make of law journal citations for ranking law schools; I'll also make a few predictions about what schools will rise in US News.

Alfred L. Brophy

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