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April 19, 2012

Is there a success story?

Law schools across the country seem to share a common belief:  That if their faculty publish more academic scholarship, and place it in better journals, then the U.S. News ranking of the school will improve.  Schools have expended great time and expense on this project, and reshaped their faculties in pursuit of this goal.  In hiring and at tenure review, most places view scholarship as being more important than teaching, in part for this reason.  This belief has played a role not only in restructuring our institutions, but our values.

Is it a myth?

Looking back over several years of rankings, I have trouble identifying schools for whom this tactic was successful.  After all, if scholarship can result in a long-term improvement in the rankings, shouldn't there be success stories? 

So tell me-- where are they?  What are the schools that managed, through increased scholarship rather that other factors, to significantly improve their rankings over the long-term (as opposed to brief jumps)?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

-- Mark Osler 

April 19, 2012 | Permalink


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i've heard it said -- but can't vouch for it myself -- that the only schools who jumped from the scholarship side were the few that "went conservative." your thoughts on that? the claim is that conservative scholars were under-valued, creating an opportunity for arbitrage.

Posted by: not a prof | Apr 19, 2012 10:47:49 AM

Not a Prof--

Hard to say about that, since I can't really think of any schools that made a sudden switch that way. The schools I know of that are identified as "conservative" (ie, George Mason) have been that way since I entered the academy in 2000.

I'm not disputing the idea that conservative scholars are under-valued, though, since I suspect that sometimes they are.

Posted by: Mark Osler | Apr 23, 2012 11:22:41 AM

Florida State, perhaps? The improvement (in rank--it was always a good school) might be due to other factors, but it seems that FSU engaged in a deliberate program of pumping up its scholarly profile right around the time it began to gain ground on Florida, with which it is now basically tied. It's possible that Alabama fits this profile, as well, but it's hard to isolate the causes without knowing the z-scores of each school on all of the factors for several years going back. They could have both just started spending a lot more money per pupil, which has its own (I think pernicious) influence on the US News rank.

Posted by: Scott | Apr 23, 2012 11:30:49 AM

See my TaxProf Blog post, in which I suggest that Pepperdine fits the bill:

Posted by: Paul Caron | Apr 23, 2012 1:01:27 PM

Conservative legal scholars are undervalued in the same manner that economists who argue that cutting marginal tax rates increases government revenue are undervalued.

Posted by: GHugh | Apr 23, 2012 1:37:20 PM

Universities are too focused on their bottom line that it seems unimaginable that they are in it to the advancement of society. At least in my experience.

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