Friday, October 19, 2007

David Bernstein's advice to purveyors of law porn

David BernsteinDavid 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:
  1. If you're going to brag about something, make sure it's something worth bragging about.

    1. 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. . . .

    2. 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 . . . .

    3. 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 . . . .

  2. UK WildcatsGive 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! . . .

  3. 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.

  4. Don't address the brochure to "chair, faculty hiring committee" as opposed to actually finding out who the chair is, and addressing it personally. . . .

  5. 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. . . .
Herewith three reactions from my office:
  1. I'm glad I didn't mail out our alumni magazine. That decision carried the same fiscal impact as inducting several new members into my dean's circle.

  2. From MoneyLaw's earliest days, I've known that Supreme Court clerkships mean little to nothing in legal academia. When it comes to appointments and communications, I try to remind my colleagues (gently) and MoneyLaw's readership (harshly) to ignore what law professors and faculty candidates did when they were 27 years old and to focus instead on what they can do now. But cf. Nanci Griffith, "I Wish It Would Rain,"  on Little Love Affairs (1988):
    Nanci GriffithOnce I had a love from the Georgia pines
    Who only cared for me
    I wanna find that love of twenty-two
    Here at thirty-three

    Hear generally Dueling banjos over "I Wish It Would Rain."

  3. I've already instructed my technology staff to send David one of our new University of Louisville | Law-branded flash drives.
Hat tip: TaxProf Blog.


Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Jim: Thanks for trying to stop the madness. The recycling bin at my law school is a virtual pornocopia. From mailbox to trash heap without a second look.

How about recycling like Christmas cards. Cross out the name of the sending (offending school) write your school's name on it and send it on.

Actually here is where economics comes in handy. Just ask law professos to assume they have received a glossy from every law school announcing publications including every op-ed piece and a glossy listing speakers.

10/19/2007 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about stopping the madness of music that comes on automatically when I look at your blog? Ew.


Anonymous Coward 2L from a no-tier school

10/20/2007 6:29 PM  

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