The ELS Blog and our friends over at MoneyLaw continue to debate if and how the MoneyBall philosophy can be applied to the law school universe. See, e.g., here, here, here, and here. My original "treatise length" (by blog standards) statement of MoneyBall/MoneyLaw is archived here.
My bottomline on MoneyLaw/MoneyBall is simple: The metric is money. Sure, MoneyBall can be used to identify future professors who will produce more and better scholarship, but that will take an institution only so far. MoneyBall principles therefore need to be deployed to build a better institution. Better institutions engender loyal alumni and attract benefactors who want to finance a powerful vision of the future. That money can be used to recruit gifted students and buy and keep academic talent--and the institutional mission and culture of the law school could be just as magnetic as the extra funds. The longer the track record, the more exponential the effects.
So how would a "Billy Beane" administrator build a better institution? The answer to that question became much clearer recently as IU Law assembled a longitudinal dataset of five years of information from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE). The survey includes a wide range of questions, such as:
- Student evaluation of their academic and intellectual experiences
- Law school assessment methods (e.g., exams and graded assignments)
- Type and quantity of law school writing
- Type and quantity of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities
- Student satisfaction with various types of counseling and academic and technical support
- How students allocate their time
- Student evaluation of the educational environment on several dimensions
- Quality of students relationships with peers, faculty and administrators
The five years of data shows trendlines for IU Law internally (i.e., to see if our scores have gone up, down, or sideways) and IU Law externally as benchmarked against (a) other public law schools, (b) other schools of comparable size, (c) selected peer schools, and (d) the sample as whole.
Having just reviewed this data, it is remarkable how well the pieces fit together--the comparative strengths, weaknesses, and, mostly importantly, where we may have been fooling ourselves. In short, we have an empirical basis to evaluate our institution, set priorities, allocate scarce resources, and actually measure our progress--just like any first-rate organization.
IU Law is one of two law schools in the nation that has participated in LSSSE every year since its inception. We are now poised to garner a large return on this investment. Kudos to our Dean, Lauren Robel, for her early and steadfast commitment to this important initiative.