Tuesday, September 12, 2006
An unsung virtue of law school blogging
Over at the Law Librarian Blog, Joe Hodnicki has a super post puncturing Chapman School of Law's inflated claim to outperform Yale, Harvard, etc. in terms of its "key scholarly output ranking." Joe's post (which is akin to Brian Leiter's shrewd observations regarding Sextonism in the law schools) is an example of a larger service performed by law bloggers that hasn't been sufficiently appreciated (at least I saw no mention of this in the recent YLJ Pocket Part canvassing of views on the matter.) That service is facilitating truth-in-marketing to students, firms, and other professors. These absurd claims to preeminence are now vulnerable to, gasp, fact-checking and exposure in a way that would have been much harder to perform just a few years back. With some luck, law school PR offices (and the deans who serve with them) will think twice before they wildly declaim the greatness of their schools.
H/t: the inimitable Mary McCormick of FSU's can't be beaten law library :-)
Update: Tom Bell responds here. He writes:
Chapman perhaps committed a gaucherie, granted, in trumpeting its success. And perhaps, as a member of Chapman's faculty, I lack a sufficiently objective view of the matter. It seems to me, though, that Chapman caught flack for truthfully reporting that it did a good job at sharing its scholars' work with the world.
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Sheesh. Can't a law school engage in a little puffery? No one is going to think that CHAPMAN IS BETTER THAN HARVARD after reading Chapman's press release.
Is it really necessary to bash any low-tier school each time that it tries to celebrate an accomplishment (even if that accomplishment is somewhat dubious)?
The celebration of non-accomplishments is hardly limited to fourth tier schools. I'm tempted to pick out a statement from FSU's web site to make fun of, but instead I will take the high road and point out that my own alma mater, Michigan, boasts a 99.71% employment rate for the class of 2005. I am completely certain that that number is inflated (personally knowing several unemployed members of that class), but if Michigan boasts inflated numbers, or perhaps (via usnews) suggests that its employment rate is on par with other top 10 schools, no one will notice.
But a fourth tier school announces that it has posted a considerable amount of scholarship on SSRN, and immediately it is "hubristic," and its claims "absurd"? I feel like I'm in middle school again.
Posted by: andy | Sep 12, 2006 8:12:37 PM
Andy, the issue is not the ripeness of bashing 4th tier schools, but rather the celebration of the non-achievement. That issue goes to all schools including Mich and FSU and HLS. My point, which is quite banal, was that posts like Joe's, and those of Chapman's own Tom Bell's work on the inaccuracy of USNews rankings, are welcome signs of a better working information market and hopefully will serve to deter absurd claims by all, not just 4th tier schools. Tom's posts are helpfully collated at this link: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2006/08/bell_on_reformi.html
Posted by: Dan Markel | Sep 12, 2006 8:51:33 PM
Fair enough. Apologies if I mischaracterized your sentiments.
Posted by: andy | Sep 12, 2006 9:25:59 PM