Today, the ELS Blog is pleased to host a one-day forum on the relationship (or lack of relationship) between teaching and scholarship in law schools. The forum is prompted by a recent empirical study by Benjamin Barton of University of Tennessee Law, which has received a lot of play in the blogosphere (see, e.g., Comglomerate, Prawfsblawg, Legal Theory Blog, Leiter, and Stuart Buck). The buzz, of course, is focused on Ben's primary finding that there is no correlation between effective teaching and scholarship.
This topic reflects a long-running debate within the legal academy, most of which occurred without data. In 1998, Jim Lindgren and Allison Nagelberg began to fill this void with a small scale study based of faculty from three relatively elite law schools which documented a modest positive correlation (.20) between scholarly productivity (as measured by citation counts) and teaching (as measured by student evaluations). See Are Scholars Better Teachers? 73 Chi. Kent L. Rev. 823 (1998). Barton's study is much broader in scope. It includes four years of teaching evaluations for 623 faculty members at 19 ABA-approved law schools. In addition, it includes five discrete measures of scholarly output: academic-oriented books and articles; practice-oriented books and articles; total publications; citations per year; and total citations.
As Ben notes in his conclusion, the lack of a empirical relationship between teaching and scholarship creates quite a quandary for legal education, especially as law school competition increasingly takes the form of attracting and retaining more productive scholars.
To probe this issue further, the ELS blog is pleased to welcome Ben Barton, who will open the forum with some additional remarks on this research. To provide commentary on Ben's study, we also welcome Jeffrey Evans Stake (Indiana Law), who is particularly well-suited for this forum. In addition to his innovative work on law school rankings (see, e.g., 81 Ind. L. J. 229 (2006); 80 St. John's L. Rev. 301 (2006)) and the Rankings Game website, Jeff is an award-winning teacher who has done extensive service work to improve the teaching evaluation process.