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20 September 2006

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i like this part of the post:"The dynamic of national/regional law schools and a thick market for lateral talent is certainly no less true today. But we can tease out a couple of specific lessons from the enduring nature of this equilibrium." is verygood

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anona

Thanks for your compelling post re money-law - wow, that was a lot to digest in one posting. Money-law is a favorite blog of mine, so I was at first a bit taken back a bit by your post taking Jim and the Money-Law crew to task. However, it appears (from your prior post) that you are generally on board with Jim's idea but are appropriately challenging him to refine it.

A few quick takes on your post:


1) I think that this a "ships passing in the night" problem to a degree - Jim seems to me to be acting as more of an advocate and you are thinking about it from a social science and theoretical perspective and
a perhaps more strictly moneyball practical standpoint - does it get "bang for the buck" in scholarly productivity for law schools. I think that Jim likely mixes in a concern
over societal fairness and disdain for elitism along with the practical
money-ball "does it work" perspective. You appropriately challenge him to provide the causal mechanism.

2) The causal mechanism - you make a good point that this is actually a pretty complicated situation. Assuming that a law school desires scholarly productivity (which I address below as a problem),obtaining good faculty (often with very little helpful
information) is difficult, and retaining really productive faculty may be even
harder, especially when a law school has limited resources relative to other schools. However, there are a variety of ways that schools can do this (or make retention more likely)- there is enough on this point for an extended discussion - perhaps more appropriate for another post or exchange. I'd be happy to address these "moneylaw retention strategies" if anyone is interested. But your concern over whether moneyball works in law school rankings is noted. Law schools dont play for the annual world series - it's a long term game with a great deal of sluggishness (as you demonstrate).

3) However, and this is a big 'however', the alternative to moneylaw - for all practical purposes, seems to be the type of "elitist folk wisdom" you denounce in your previous post on Conglomerate. I think that Jim actually makes a pretty modest claim that "past performance predicts future performance" better than the existing default axiom that "elite pedigree predicts performance". Jeff Harrison's post on moneylaw and his blog suggests some research of his to support this (although I cant
claim much here, as I haven't read it). Additionally, my experiences in academia seem to corroborate the "past performance as a predictor of future performance" idea that moneylaw promotes.

4) As you might guess, on your previous post on Conglomerate, I am the anon_cd commenter. I stand by my anon argument as to why schools dont play moneylaw - they dont *really* want to win and there isn't consensus as to what win is anyway. I dont mean everybody at a law school - but enough faculty - simply want to pay lip service to the importance of scholarship and productivity. They have strong personal incentives for perpetuating the status
quo (pedigree rules). Look at law schools and how they work - it's quite apparent - they hire pedigreed people like themselves (see Leiter's analysis). It retains the currency of the pedigree degree. What's the point of having a degree from Yale/Harvard/Stanford if it's all about scholarly performance after graduation? Why would a pedigree grad in a power position to hire or promote/tenure choose to change to scholarly performance merit system that essentially obviates or works to undercut a clear market advantage that he enjoys? Fairness? I think that we know better than that.

5) As person with a similar record (to your friend) who is also experiencing little success on the AALS scene, I empathize with your friend's situation. I think that situations like this are perhaps what drives money-law thinking and Jim's convictions. As you might guess, I'd also be happy to offer my record to interested hiring committees - just provide your email here and I'll send it to you directly. I challenge them to consider me under objective moneylaw criteria against their other applicants.

To be quite frank I think that while we are on the cusp of understanding the problem of elitism in law school hiring, we have a long way to go before people are really willing to draw a line in the sand and stand up
for the proposition that performance matters. Perhaps your planned (although yet unfunded study) will go some ways toward addressing this issue.

Anon.LawProf

You post, Bill, is infused with a palpable sense of both humility and humanity. Thank you very much for it.

Vic Fleischer

Great post, Bill. But I wonder (focusing on the end of your post) if you underestimate the institutional value of having great scholars who migrate up. They bring energy to the school and can help create a culture of productivity that benefits everyone. And I suspect they actually tend to be better teachers, too, than scholars who don't migrate.

If that's right, the moneyball strategy might be to find scholar/teachers with great potential who will enhance the school's reputation ... but also who might tend to stick in one place (people w geographic ties, couples, women - see Rosa Brooks' article in the recent YLJ pocket part). Some will leave anyway, but even if that happens, the school still gains something in the meantime.

Just a moneyball theory.

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