For most law schools, Dean Christopher Edley's bottom line rings true. Stanford Law School and Harvard Law School, to name just two hyper-prestigious examples, are named for their host universities and enjoy name recognition from everything else that their universities do. Dean Edley wants the name recognition from his law school's association with UC Berkeley to fuel his ongoing $125 million fundraising campaign. No longer will he have to answer questions like this one (which he fielded during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.): "I am sorry, but I am confused. Are there two law schools in Berkeley?"
Berkeley Law reportedly paid $25,000 to Marshall Strategy Inc., a San Francisco-based marketing and branding firm, for this insight: as an academic brand name, Berkeley is less confusing than Boalt. This conclusion resonates with a recent MoneyLaw post, The Harmonious University: "Why would any division of a university, especially one whose 'product' is as esoteric as that of a law school, ever dream of isolating itself from its fellow colleges and departments?"
Why indeed. I realize that this is a highly controversial proposition, especially on campuses where the law school has agreed to take on a second identity, independent of that of its host university, in exchange for a multimillion dollar endowment. It is an even more controversial proposition at law schools that adopted a separate branding strategy for no money whatsoever (and thereby foreclosed a potentially lucrative naming opportunity). But I am willing to subject the entire proposition to a thought experiment drawn from a slightly different manifestation of higher education in America: the NCAA basketball tournament.
Berkeley's decision to deemphasize the Boalt name leaves, by my count, 33 American law schools that are named for some person or place besides their host universities. This is just one over the beautifully symmetrical number of 32, the number of teams in a five-round, single-elimination tournament. In real life, the NCAA men's tournament hosts 65 teams. If March Madness can have a play-in game, so can we.
I've assigned these 33 schools to a tournament I call the Law School Name Game. What is the point of this tournament? To see which schools' alternate names are the most obscure, the most confusing, and ultimately the most destructive of a simple marketing strategy that roughly 150 other law schools have no trouble following: [name of university] + Law. The schools in this tournament are not identified by names you might expect to see in the real NCAAs. Rather, they are identified by names known only among lawyers and law professors, if at all. For instance, whereas you might expect to see Cal or Berkeley in a real NCAA bracket, you would see Boalt here. Though Boalt has never won the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Cal (also known as Cal-Berkeley) beat West Virginia for the title in 1959.
To play along, download this Excel file. I've assigned the 33 schools in the tournament to four "regionals," or (somewhat) geographically coherent preliminary rounds. I used the NCAA's four traditional regions: East, Midwest, South, and West. Even with Berkeley's elimination from tournament consideration, the western United States has a disproportionately large number of entrants. In classic NCAA fashion, I arbitrarily reassigned these schools to other regions. I sent the westernmost school to the East regional, simply because I could. I sent the three schools in the Mountain time zone to the otherwise underpopulated Midwest regional.
Kentucky presented a special problem. Since the residents of Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties are likelier to refer to themselves as Midwesterners, as opposed to the prevalence of self-identified Southerners in Jefferson County, I assigned one Kentucky school to the Midwest regional and the other to the South regional.
Here are the resulting regionals:
Precise seeding is left as an exercise for the reader. Since the tournament field was defined ahead of time, and I have usurped the privilege of defining and populating the four regions, I want you all to have a pleasure reserved in real life for the NCAA selection committee. For the sake of convenience, though, my Excel file has arranged each region's entrants by alphabetical order. Reseed at will. The mathematics of tournaments being what they are, reseeding may yield interesting variations in the ultimate outcome.
Wait! There's more. What would bracketology be without a few bubble teams? Here are four schools that fell just short of the tournament, on account of recent decisions to remove or deemphasize their alternate names:
- Detroit College of Law