Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Ranking Methods: Suggestions for MoneyLaw?

cosonsalenow0705.jpgOK, so Christine Hurt, building on Joe Liu's brilliant suggestion for a law faculty fantasy league, thinks law profs should get points for being quoted in the New York Times, WSJ, Washington Post, and LA Times. I agree; that's an indication of who's opinion counts. (Though I'm not so sure it's as important as the points suggested. Let me get this right: 10 quotations in the NYT are worth the same as a book from Harvard University Press, which publishes brilliant books like this one?! Let's leave that aside for a while.)

And lose a point for a quote in USA Today? That's just pure prejudice against Gannett. I think it springs from the same sentiments that lead some to call the USA Today the McPaper. Incidentally, my colleague Norman Stein (who's quoted frequently on pension law in the NY Times and WSJ) thinks USA Today is the hardest newspaper in the country to get quoted in, because they seem to have a snob-factor.

Be that as it may, there may be some other venues that are even more meaningful in ranking faculty. No, not the United States Reports. I mean pop-culture magazines--like Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. You don't see many law profs quotes in Sports Illustrated, though sometimes my colleague Gene Marsh is. (I can't find a Marsh quote in SI on-line--my apologies to those who are doing cite-checking on this piece. But Gene is quoted in SI now and then.)

And then the work of my colleague Bob Kuehn, who is a great humanitarian, great lawyer, person of titanium integrity, and all-around terrific person, was featured in a Lifetime movie, "Taking Back Our Town". The New York Times Magazine listed my colleague Susan Pace Hamill's idea that we should use Biblically based arguments for state tax reform as one of the fifty best ideas of 2003.

A few years ago, I started reading Rolling Stone to try to "connect" with my students--doesn't work, btw, Rolling Stone's for an older crowd than this generation of law students, I learned. When I referred to it, thinking that I'd look hip, they looked at me like I was an artifact. I'd be inclined to say, they looked at me like I was Rip Van Winkle awakened from twenty years of sleep, but I'm not sure anyone reads Washington Irving any more. Maybe the book I need is Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers.

Or, perhaps, I ought to be reading Tommyland. Recently, I was watching a perhaps little-known cable station, Vhi, and saw a weird show about some old guy (about my age), who went back to college. He wasn't all that motivated or dedicated, so he didn't do all that well. But then get this: in English class, the professor was discussing the man's autobiography. So, given that the book was worthy of discussion in a college English class, that led me to look up his autobiography. Turns out he's a really successful musician. He has this insight on narratives:
In court, in fights, and in arguments with people I love, there isn't one truth, there are many. This book is my truth.
I usually try to illustrate that principle, which happens to be rather important for lawyers, by reference to Rashomon, but I think Tommyland may do better for this generation.

So to return to my story: I saw Jessica Litman (then of Wayne State University Law School, now of the University of Michigan) quoted in Rolling Stone. An appearance in RS must be evidence that an intellectual property lawyer has ascended to the top of the field.

Don't forget Cosmo.

Harvard Law School Professor Randall Kennedy is a towering figue in the legal academy. He's frequently quoted in the New York Times; they review his books; even more than that, they run articles about him. He publishes major books (like Race, Crime, and Law) with leading trade presses that are so important they become best-sellers. (Race, Crime, and Law has sold an unbelievable 40,000 copies last time I heard; probably a lot more by now.)

Here's another indicator of Professor Kennedy's greatness. True, it's not as significant as the accomplishments in the last paragraph, but my favorite librarian told me recently that she was reading Cosmo in a salon and was excited to see Randall Kennedy quoted (on Interracial Intimacy.) And because she's a terrific librarian, she was able to locate a full text copy of the article; it appeared in the July 2005 issue. [I feared she might have been joking about this; if she had been, I would have looked rather foolish.] Then again, being quoted in Cosmo is small potatoes compared to the fact that Boston Public ran a whole episode about his book, on the N-word, back in the spring of 2002. You might also be interested in Professor Kennedy's discussion of Interracial Intimacy in The Atlantic. And as long as I'm talking about the N-word, I think there's some good work that remains to be done on courts' toleration--indeed invocation--of it during Jim Crow.

The appearances of law professors in the popular press remind us that law is connected in fundamental ways with the lives of ordinary Americans. And that law faculty often provide a framework for thinking about weighty matters--like marriage, copyright and real property rights, and the war on terror.

Alfred L. Brophy


Blogger Alfred Brophy said...

Ann, congratulations! Further evidence that quotations in popular magazines are a good metric for quality of law faculty.

But now I'm really curious: what were you talking about? IP? Feminist Law Professors? Monument law?

8/25/2006 2:57 PM  

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