David Bernstein, serving this year as George Mason's appointments chair, offers a fascinating set of tips on effective and ineffective law porn. David rightly observes that "the faculty reputation portion of rankings has been remarkably stable" and that schools' increasing "investment in propaganda" lowers the effectiveness of law porn. Nevertheless, on the admittedly shaky premise that law porn "is actually going to affect U.S. News rankings," David offers these tips:
If you're going to brag about something, make sure it's something worth bragging about.
Exhibit A is the fourth-tier law school that sent a brochure of faculty publications over the last decade. I noticed that I had personally published more than this entire faculty. . . .
Exhibit B is the low-ranked school that sent a large placard bragging about the fact that it now has four former Supreme Court clerks on the faculty. . . . First, what could be more gauche than bragging about how many former Supreme Court clerks are on your faculty? Second, Supreme Court clerks are overvalued in the academic market . . . .
Exhibit C are schools, that, assumedly to make their faculty feel better, include everyone in their publication lists, including faculty who haven't published anything outside a bar journal or a new edition of their casebook in a decade . . . .
Give stuff, not brochures. I was just thinking about how I needed a new flash drive. The University of Kentucky sent me one, with its school logo, and a file with info about how great the school is. I may never read that file, but I'll keep and use the flash drive . . . . Thanks, UK! . . .
Don't send alumni magazines. These are meant for alumni, and they typically focus on things alumni care about, not things that professors at other law schools care about.
Don't address the brochure to "chair, faculty hiring committee" as opposed to actually finding out who the chair is, and addressing it personally. . . .
Don't focus on recent and upcoming endowed guest lectures. Any law school with enough money can get just about any professor to speak on just about any topic. The fact that Richard Epstein, or Akhil Amar, or Bruce Ackerman, swung by last year tells me nothing substantial about your law school. . . .