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Monday, August 29, 2005

More Ferment on Prawf Political Contributions

Jim Lindgren over at Volokh highlights yet another article which analyzes political contributions by law school professors.   The article, by  John McGinnis, will appear in the Georgetown Law Journal soon, and is summarized by the NYT here.   Bainbridge and Leiter have, not surprisingly, taken opposite positions on the significance of the work.   As I've previously written, I think conservatives entering the job market today have some significant advantages over their liberal counterparts.  This is especially true if you properly ignore the exceptional - and statistically insignificant - practices of the  top-tier schools - which is why Lindgren's Republican Harvard thought experiment doesn't speak to me.

I will say that this particular iteration of the old debate introduces one new idea.  Northwestern Law Dean David E. Van Zandt, commenting on the article, told the Times that:

"[The phenomena of left-leaning professors is]  a little worse in law school.]  In other disciplines, there are more objective standards for quality of work.  Law schools are sort of organized in a club structure, where current members of the club pick future members of the club."

Do our readers agree with the statement that law school hiring is less objective than other disciplines? 

I'm not sure how to get a grip on this problem.   Is the perception that we are less "objective"   driving the pro-Ph.D. bias exhibited by top-schools?  What does it mean to be objective in hiring?  Given that lack of objective quality is sometimes a synonym for non-peer reviewed journals, is Dean Zandt implicitly claiming that student run  law reviews are causing  prawfs to tilt left(er) than they otherwise would?

Posted by Dave Hoffman on August 29, 2005 at 10:10 AM | Permalink


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There's no question that at least most folks outside the legal academy believe that publication decisions made by law students looking over huge batches of non-annoymous submissions is a less reliable and probably a less "objective" way of getting an important hiring credential than publications submitted to one journal at a time, annonymously, that are then peer-reviewed (be it journal or book). But I don't see the connection between that and "leaning left."

One could also say that many undergraduate programs have more potential for abuse, given what I understand to be the greater number of folks applying for any one position. Although I'm still not saying there is any abuse, anywere.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Aug 29, 2005 2:13:11 PM

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