Brian Leiter, who knows a few things about rankings, describes the Legal Affairs Top 20 Legal Thinkers poll as a “meaningless publicity stunt”:
The list of candidates is–to put the matter gently–absurd, not because there aren’t substantial “legal thinkers” on the list (there are some), but because there are far too many on the list who aren’t leading legal thinkers by anyone’s lights, and some who aren’t even capable of thinking based on any evidence I’ve seen.
Hyperbole aside, this seems basically right. The list of nominees is a list of well-known academics, judges, and journalists – not a list of top legal thinkers. This raises an interesting question, though: What does it mean to be a top legal thinker? And maybe another: Why the fascination with rankings?
I would be interested in reading what you think about this; I have enabled comments.