Do you want to increase your SSRN downloads? If so, you should consider publishing a law school ranking. (If not, congratulations, you are far healthier than most of your colleagues. Of course, it does prompt one to wonder why you’re reading this post.)
In April 2005, I participated in the Indiana Law Journal Symposium on “The Next Generation of Law School Rankings” organized by Paul Caron and Rafael Gely of Cincinnati and ELS blog’s own Bill Henderson and Jeff Stake of Indiana. Invited to discuss ranking methodologies, I opted to create my own ranking. For me, the choice of focus was obvious: Empirical Legal Scholarship (ELS). Why? An ELS Ranking identifies schools leading in this burgeoning field and perhaps incentivizes others to invest in it.
The paper ranked each of the top 41 schools in US News based on an ELS-score that I constructed. The score included three variables: professors with social science doctorates, professors holding secondary appointments in social science departments, and articles in ELS-oriented publications. First posted on SSRN on August 9, 2005, the paper has been viewed more than 4,000 times and downloaded more than 860 times. (By contrast, my paper with Jeff Berger on judicial entrepreneurs posted at the same time has been downloaded only a fraction of that number – help here!) UC-Berkeley and George Mason each boasted on its webpage that it tied for first. Legal Affairs and various law blogs all provided short discussions of the piece. Obviously, law professors and their groupies love law school rankings.
I have revised, updated, and expanded the ranking and will post the new results over each of the next four days. The ranking now includes the top-50 schools in US News and looks at faculty as of 2006-2007 (as opposed to 2003-2004 in the original). This week, I will describe each measure and the new results, focusing on educational background and training on Tuesday, secondary appointments on Wednesday, and empirical research output (the only measure that has been completely changed) on Thursday. And, the 2006 ELS Ranking will be available on Friday.
My purpose here is not simply to navel gaze but also to seek input on the measures. Operationalization is hard. And the power of any empirical results necessarily turns on the soundness of those measures. I invite comments on the value of rankings (particularly given the substantial research costs including time away from other work) as well as thoughts on the components of the ELS ranking. Thanks to Jason Czarnezki for inviting me to be a guest blogger and to Geoff Turvey for exceptional research assistance.