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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

On Citations & Gender

There's been a lot of citation lists coming out in the past few weeks - 

The Brian Leiter 2021 rankings (covering 2016-2020) lists top-ranked scholars, including by law faculty and by subject matter lists. A new list is Labor & Employment which used to just be lumped with public law.  A just-published University of Chicago Law Review article, The Most Cited Legal Scholars Revisited, is a citation study which includes citations in books as well as in articles and provides all-time lists--that is to say not limited to just the past five years. Notable for us Prawfs (remember Dan Markel coined the name of our blog nodding to the fact us founding bloggers were newbies - that is RAW professor) is a Most Cited Younger Legal Scholars (born after 1970) list in the new Univ of Chicago Law Review Article authored by Fred Shapiro.

There is a lot that can be said (and has been said) about the methodologies of citation lists, and more generally, the comparative significance of various metrics through which we measure success in legal academia. I invite others on this blog to chime in on various aspects of this discussion. Shapiro in the Chicago L Review article has a very good discussion about the debates on citations, including the recent decision to not include citations in US News rankings. But I wanted to highlight something about the gender disparities of the various lists. 

In the Chicago L Rev study, only two of the fifty most-cited legal scholars of all time are women. Shapiro writes: "I attribute the low number of women scholars on that list to the historical scarcity of women in legal academia and the legal profession, prejudice against those women who did participate in law, and sociological factors such as the greater demands on women to juggle work and family obligations." I think the middle part mentioning prejudice is misleadingly phrased as in the past. And there is much to say about the vicious cycles in the advancement of women's careers, especially in places like academia. I'll point to two articles I recently wrote on gender pay gaps, Knowledge Pays Columbia Law Review 2020, and on the silencing of women's voices and opportunities in research, Innovation, Exit and Voice, Houston Law Review 2020. The thing about inequity is that it isn't caused by one thing. There are those who want easy explanations (and thereby caricature claims about bias) and easy fixes. But the multiple factors that contribute to inequality and bias create vicious cycles and self-fulfilling prophecies. In academia, women face barriers in unequal evaluations, expectations, geographic immobility, #manels, prestige associated with different fields of research that are gendered, leaky pipelines, and disparate perceptions when it comes to sharing ones work. For example, when women share their research, they are far more likely to be viewed as self-promoting. When they are contrarian to conventional wisdom, they are far more likely to face resistance and mansplaining. When they participate in online forums, they are far more likely to be personally harassed (and oh, the courage of the anonymous harasser). I recently heard a speaker - a fierce successful woman - who pointed out how every time she witnesses this she calls out the person who shamelessly doesn't give credit where credit is due at conferences when a woman just provided an insightful comment or question prior to his. All of these dynamics range from the very subtle, some subconscious, to the very conscious and not at all subtle. It isn't one thing, but all of these many thing become one big thing in their impact and results.

Shapiro finds hope in the future, and I am happy to cautiously share his optimism. He writes: "there is, however, evidence of progress to be found in my list of most cited younger legal scholars. Here, we see that six of the top sixteen are women." 

Shapiro continues: "It is highly likely that in the future the percentage of women among most-cited legal scholars will continue to increase. Over 52% of law students are now women. The most eye opening statistic is that, in 2020, every one of the editors-chief of the flagship law reviews at the sixteen law schools highest-ranked by U.S. News and World Report was female."

Hope indeed!

I will close though with the statement, which Shapiro quotes as well, by the Society for Empirical Legal Studies on the danger that relying too much on citations may pose on diversity: "Law faculties for many years were mostly closed to women and members of marginalized minority groups. Under a HeinOnline-driven ranking system, law schools would go to great lengths to retain faculty members with long tenures and publication records, even those who have more recently become less productive. This in turn would reduce schools’ ability to hire and tenure junior faculty members, who increasingly hail from more diverse demographic backgrounds. Simply put, using HeinOnline is bound to negatively affect these groups and, therefore, to harm faculty diversity nationwide."

Ah yes. From the perspective of appointments, I concur. 



Posted by Orly Lobel on November 10, 2021 at 12:42 AM | Permalink


It might be indefensible to measure impact through law reviews alone in a small subset of specialty fields, like law & economics or law & history or health law, but for the vast majority of legal academia, there really isn't all that much influential legal scholarship happening outside of law reviews. And I think much of what does -- books, for example -- typically track closely with law review publications, i.e., there are very few outlier scholars who publish a lot of influential books but not a lot of influential law review articles.

Posted by: a non | Nov 10, 2021 4:53:46 PM

It remains indefensible to measure impact through law reviews alone, a strategy which excludes important forums for scholarly exchange among law professors. This is particularly egregious in the "law and social science" rankings. Credibility in empirical disciplines is inversely proportional to the share of studies published in law reviews. And I don't know of any law and economics or law and social science scholar who isn't reading AER, APSR, and like publications.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 10, 2021 10:47:14 AM

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