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Monday, December 29, 2008

Fantasy Prawfs

A few years ago I sat down to write a little Green Bag-esque article where I planned to set out some proposed rules for a fantasy law professor league, based on the popular fantasy sports leagues that lots of people play and can't ever stop talking about--fantasy baseball, fantasy football, fantasy scrabble, etc. etc.  (my own fantasy scrabble team is taking a huge hit this year, and I blame it all on Edley's recent troubles, but that's something for another post.)  Sadly, I wasn't able to come up with anything satisfactory, and so I shelved the project.

Now that I've started hanging out in the blogosphere, I thought maybe I'd try to revive the idea and see if my fellow blogospherians can help fill out the details.  There are at least two major issues that must be considered: (1) what are the key stats; and (2) what constitutes a team?  On #1, citation counts, SSRN downloads, publications, conference appearances, committee assignments (weighted to reflect more onerous assignments), and teaching evaluations would be likely choices, if indeed the data on these things are available (the latter would be made a lot easier if more students would start using the rate my professor website--indeed, perhaps that website could be brought on as a sponsor).  On #2, maybe each team would consist of one public law prof, one law and econ prof, one historian, and one crit, or something like that.  I'm very open to ideas on this, and I hope you'll share them in the comments.

Posted by Jay Wexler on December 29, 2008 at 10:31 AM in Jay Wexler, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Maybe we can get aging rock stars to own teams.

Posted by: Brian J. Foley | Dec 31, 2008 10:40:54 AM

Now I've started to worry about the effects on faculty collegiality from creating such a league. What if you draft your colleague in an early round and then he/she all of a sudden decides to shelf the multi-law-review-article project he/she was almost done with and instead spend the year doing extensive research on some book that won't be out for years? Won't you stop inviting him/her to happy hours and be kind of irritated? Might you not vote for his/her curricular reform that he/she has brought before the faculty? Or ask an extra hard and perhaps not quite fair question of his/her book in progress presentation at the next faculty workshop session? And this doesn't even scratch the surface of the problems involved in being a non-tenured faculty member on a tenured prawf's team. Despite my worries on this score, however, my instinct is to let the individual schools come up with rules governing their own faculties to deal with these potential problems, rather than creating the rules at the league level. If your school thinks the league will have deleterious effects on faculty collegiality, then it can vote to ban having co-faculty on your team or whatever.

Posted by: Jay Wexler | Dec 30, 2008 10:10:11 AM

Of course as law prawfs we spend all our time making up the rules. Come on - playground rules: start picking your team from the crowd.
My pick: Brian Leiter. I saw him speak yesterday morning at the American Philosophical Association annual conference (Eastern Division) presenting his new book, NATURALIZING JURISPRUDENCE, published by Oxford.
He's really smart.
Then, if we wish, we can see who's on each team and do empirical studies of them, to identify (and debate) the criteria.

Posted by: Brian J. Foley | Dec 29, 2008 11:02:15 PM

In many real fantasy leagues, if that oxymoronic phrase makes any sense, the numbers tracked include both "counting categories" (absolute numbers like home runs, strikeouts) and "ratio categories" (batting average, ERA). For counting categories, having a poor player is like (and no worse than) having no player at all. For ratio categories, though, this isn't true: a bad hitter is worse for your team than a non-playing hitter.

I would think a fantasy-prawfs league should similarly include ratio categories as well as counting categories. I have no idea what they would be, however. I appreciate the idea, though, if only because it makes my fantasy-baseball league seem WAY less dorky by comparison.

Also, to be slightly serious for a moment, this topic ties into my earlier post about the difficulties of gauging "quality" or "success" for prawfs. Someone would need to explain to me why any of the categories proposed thus far has any significance, even if only as a proxy for something else.

And of course you can take yourself in the draft -- so much the better, in fact. I'd be so motivated to help my fantasy team!

Posted by: Michael Cahill | Dec 29, 2008 8:55:54 PM


11 should work. I think the teaching stat could be teaching awards, and the other stat could be google count as a proxy for media appearances and general exposure.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Dec 29, 2008 7:57:36 PM

This post may be of interest:


"Identify the complex tasks we need to perform — akin, perhaps, to cut-blocking, bull-rushing, or route-running — and design tests that tests the full complex of skills."

Posted by: Frank | Dec 29, 2008 6:47:54 PM

I agree with Orin about how to make up the team (and also of course with poking fun of legal academia, which is of course what this is all about but also of course doesn't preclude further consideration of the details of the league, particularly if we can get some money riding on it) but I think 14-15 is a little high. Contracts, torts, criminal law, civil procedure, property, constitutional law, administrative law, evidence, tax, plus 2 open spots makes 11. That seems workable. I think it's crucial to have some teaching stat and at least one other stat that does not necessarily correlate to scholarship (media appearances? something about service, which is why I mentioned committees?), so that owners have to think about how to diversify their talents, much like baseball owners have to think about speed in addition to power, for example. One further question to ponder: can you take yourself in the draft?

Posted by: Jay Wexler | Dec 29, 2008 5:27:50 PM


I was poking fun of legal academia, actually.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Dec 29, 2008 4:31:30 PM

I don't understand why you'd want #4, Orin, if the point is to create a fantasy team from people who might be anywhere. The individual prawf doesn't add anything to his new team by virtue of the fact that the school he/she is at is highly ranked. (I suspect otherwise, people would just want Yale people all the way through.) I would add SSRN downloads too to the mix.

And b/c the top 20 is hard to define, I wonder if there's something better to be said about using the Roger Williams productivity study's list of journals, which is a bit more interdisciplinary in scope.

Indeed, it would make very good sense to see the spreadsheets for schools in the RW productivity study; and to see how schools in the top 50 did also on that metric.

Posted by: anon | Dec 29, 2008 2:49:48 PM

A team should be one person to teach each of the 1L classes, plus someone for the big 2L/3L classes, plus 2 or 3 open positions, for a total of something like 14 or 15 spots.

For stats, sticking to the public numbers, I would think you could have 1) citations in JLR, 2) number of top 20 law review placements, 3) teaching awards, 4) US News rank of current institution (the last being a bit circular, but that's legal academia for you).

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Dec 29, 2008 2:18:03 PM

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