So what does this have to do with law teaching? As Michael Lewis explained in Moneyball, Billy Beane came to embrace statistical analysis as his primary, even exclusive, tool for player evaluation after realizing that other tools yielded wildly inconsistent and unreliable results. In particular, raw speed and scouting judgments based often on nothing more than a hunch led teams like the Mets to waste first-round draft picks on players like . . . Billy Beane.
By now the conflict between credentials and performance has become standard fodder on MoneyLaw. Still, one question demands an answer. Given "only two variables ha[ve] any predictive power for 'more and better' scholarship: (1) number of articles before first tenure-track job, and (2) publication of a student note" (per Bill Henderson), why do law school websites, appointments committee scouting sheets, and the like ever bother counting anything else? You can easily discover how many former Supreme Court clerks, Rhodes Scholars, and law review editors work at almost any American law school. If the website doesn't tell you outright, proudly written faculty biographies highlight these credentials. But no one ever reports, at least in readily digestible form, the number of articles and/or books, the number of pages, or the number of citations, even though those numbers are more reflective of the productivity of a law faculty.
Not too long ago, law school faculties hired entry-level candidates without an expectation that rookie law professors would have started writing scholarship before they began teaching. In that sort of market, elite credentials and law school grades supplied an indirect way of assessing a candidate's marginal propensity to write and to contribute meaningfully to the intellectual life of a law faculty.
S.E. Hinton and friends
All this explains why I, whenever I am asked to describe my qualifications as a law professor, mention my current position, my publication record, and my current research agenda. If someone asks where I went to law school, whether I served on the law review, or whether I clerked, of course I'll answer. Being a Beane counter does not require that you be an Arschloch. But I don't pretend for one second that these increasingly remote experiences have any significant bearing on what I do, can do, and will do as a member of the legal academy.