pageok
pageok
pageok
Effective and Ineffective "Law Porn":

As the chair of George Mason's hiring committee, and therefore a presumptive U.S. News voter, over the last several weeks I've been the recipient of huge amounts of what has come to be known as "law porn"--brochures and other materials meant to inform me about the wonderful qualities of various schools.

Most of it simply goes in the garbage. But I have looked at some of it, and I've made some relevant conclusions about effective and ineffective law porn:

(1) If you're going to brag about something, make sure it's something worth bragging about.

Exhibit A is the fourth-tier law school that sent a brochure of faculty publications over the last decade. I noticed that I had personally published more than this entire faculty. This school did not rise in my estimation.

Exhibit B is the low-ranked school that sent a large placard bragging about the fact that it now has four former Supreme Court clerks on the faculty. The school gets points for originality in design. This 9 X 12 placard is beautifully designed, and, unlike the average law porn, requires no opening to read, so the information is conveyed very efficiently, and can even easily be absorbed on the way to the trash can. Unfortunately, the information that this school has four Supreme Court clerks is likely to make readers think less highly of it. First, what could be more gauche than bragging about how many former Supreme Court clerks are on your faculty? Second, Supreme Court clerks are overvalued in the academic market (though not as much as they used to be). It turns out that I happen to know, or know of, two of this school's former clerks, and they are excellent scholars. But someone less familiar with this school's faculty would be tempted to conclude that this school is hiring clerks just to be able to say it has former clerks. Finally, one of the four trumpeted faculty members is actually a "visiting professor." There is probably more to this story, but the message conveyed from the limited text of this law porn is "we're going to spend a lot of money to tell you how proud we are to have this individual on our faculty, even though we don't think highly enough of this individual to offer him/her a tenure-track position."

Exhibit C are schools, that, assumedly to make their faculty feel better, include everyone in their publication lists, including faculty who haven't published anything outside a bar journal or a new edition of their casebook in a decade, and including faculty who aren't even expected to publish, such as legal writing faculty and librarians. The achievements of the faculty the school should focus its bragging on are lost in the sea of information about the clinicians who just published an op-ed in the local newspaper. Similarly, consider a law school that trumpets its new faculty hires, most of whom are clinical and writing instructors whose backgrounds betray no prior scholarly backgrounds. I'm sure many of these folks are fine clinical and writing instructors, but I'm not going to be especially impressed that Third Tier Law School recently hired three clinicians who attended Second Tier Law Schools and then practiced at Local Law Firms I Never Heard Of while publishing nothing. It's not that there is anything wrong with such hires, as one hardly needs to have attended Harvard and worked at a major international law firms to be a great clinician (and it may actually be a disadvantage) but the implicit message of focusing on these hires in a school's law porn is that the school has nothing better to brag about. To sum up Exhibit C, is your law porn showing how great your law school is, or how egalitarian it is? If the latter, then don't waste your money.

(2) Give stuff, not brochures. I was just thinking about how I needed a new flash drive. The University of Kentucky sent me one, with its school logo, and a file with info about how great the school is. I may never read that file, but I'll keep and use the flash drive, and I'm still more likely to read that file than most law porn. Thanks, UK! If you can't give stuff, at least design the brochure so it stands out, and may actually be read, as with the 9 X 12 placard described above.

(3) Don't send alumni magazines. These are meant for alumni, and they typically focus on things alumni care about, not things that professors at other law schools care about.

(4) Don't address the brochure to "chair, faculty hiring committee" as opposed to actually finding out who the chair is, and addressing it personally. The former address gives away that the mailing is law porn, and is therefore about 200% more likely to wind up in the trash bin, unread.

(5) Don't focus on recent and upcoming endowed guest lectures. Any law school with enough money can get just about any professor to speak on just about any topic. The fact that Richard Epstein, or Akhil Amar, or Bruce Ackerman, swung by last year tells me nothing substantial about your law school. On the other hand, if a law school has a surprisingly vigorous weekly workshop program, do send a brochure about that, because it shows that your school has an ongoing, interesting intellectual climate, not limited to when the famous stars show up once a semester.

UPDATE: Many of the comments start with the premise that "law porn" is actually going to affect U.S. News rankings. The evidence is to the contrary, as the faculty reputation portion of rankings has been remarkably stable, regardless of schools' investment in propaganda. As more schools send out this material, it becomes even less likely that it will affect rankings. Nevertherless, I assume that schools that send it would at least like to create a favorable impression in the minds of recipients, regardless of U.S. News, hence my advice.

Co-Conspiratory Orin suggests in the Comments:

I think UVa Law School does it best. They send out a journal that has excerpts from scholarly articles and detailed profiles of particular faculty members. It's a very interesting read. For example, in the last issue they had profiles of Caleb Nelson and Risa Goluboff. I was familiar with Risa's work but not Caleb's; I had heard excellent things about it but I don't think I ever sat down to read one of his articles. I found the profile fascinating, and it left a very positive impression of the law school.

Some commentors also suggest that a focus on the broad accomplishments of law schools, such as how successful they are in placing graduates, their skills programs, and whatnot, should go into the reputation rankings. Sure they should, but how do you convey this information in a way that both appears objective (and thus persuasive) and also holds the interest of the intended audience sufficiently long that it gets absorbed? No one is going to read through pages of explanations of the curricular innovations underway at 100 different law schools. Relatedly, some commenters point out that what impresses professors may not impress prospective students, alumni, and practitioners, and vice versa. True, but if your audience is professors, it makes sense to send material geared to them, no?

What should a law school that actually wants to improve its U.S. News reputation rank do? The only thing I know that definitely works is to get acquired by a more prominent university (see Michigan State and Penn State law schools), and bask in the reflected glory.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. A weakness in the US News Ranking System for Law Schools:
  2. Effective and Ineffective "Law Porn":
GV_:
Your comments track what Dr. Leiter has said for years.
10.18.2007 8:58pm
Mike& (mail):
But someone less familiar with this school's faculty would be tempted to conclude that this school scrapes the bottom of the barrel of the clerk pool just to be able to say it has former clerks.


Umm.... Jealous, a little?
10.18.2007 9:16pm
Steven:
I'm curious--as a presumptive voter, what would it take for you to move a school past GMU in the rankings? Have you ever done it?
10.18.2007 9:44pm
3L:
Wait, what? My school actually pays people substantial quantities of money to give lectures that nobody attends, then has the gall to raise tuition to 'make ends meet'? Out of curiosity, how much scratch does a prof get to give a lecture, on average? Are we talking a token few hundred, or thousands of dollars...?

Something to keep in mind when the inevitable "alumni beg letters" come rolling in...
10.18.2007 9:48pm
Jason F:

Give stuff, not brochures. I was just think about how I needed a new flash drive. The University of Kentucky sent me one, with its school logo, and a file with info about how great the school is. I may never read that file, but I'll keep and use the flash drive.


Similarly, I am chair of the hiring committee at my law school and I was just thinking about how I needed a briefcase full of cash.
10.18.2007 9:53pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):

1) If you're going to brag about something, make sure it's something worth bragging about.

Exhibit A is the fourth-tier law school that sent a brochure of faculty publications over the last decade. I noticed that I had personally published more than this entire faculty. This school did not rise in my estimation.


You are awesome.
10.18.2007 9:54pm
HappyConservative:
It seems to me that someone in your position should encourage law p*rn producers to send it to generic individuals instead of you personally. That way, you are less likely to open it.

I have no idea why you would encourage someone to do anything that would actually increase the probability that you read their law p*rn, that doesn't have to do with increasing its quality.

Oh, and apparently the word p*rn spelled correctly is not allowed on Volokh. Who would of thunk.
10.18.2007 10:04pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
(2) Give stuff, not brochures. I was just think about how I needed a new flash drive. The University of Kentucky sent me one, with its school logo, and a file with info about how great the school is. I may never read that file, but I'll keep and use the flash drive. Thanks, UK! If you can't give stuff, at least design the brochure so it stands out, and may actually be read, as with the 9 X 12 placard described above.

Um. Isn't this a conflict of interest? If you are more inclined to vote UK higher because they gave you stuff, then there's a serious problem. If you're not, then why should UK (or anyone) spend extra money to give you stuff?
10.18.2007 10:04pm
3L:
Arvin-- Law profs may not make what practicing lawyers do, but nobody is suggesting they can be purchased by a $20 flash drive. The point, as I read it, is that the prof is going to be using the drive, see that file, and be inclined to check it out. It may not be a strong chance, but it's probably better than paper equivalents.
10.18.2007 10:14pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Um. Isn't this a conflict of interest?
No. Where's the conflict? If they promised him stuff conditioned on him ranking them higher, that would be a conflict.

Well, still not really a conflict, since there's no real "interest" on the other side anyway.
10.18.2007 10:22pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
Don't you think the P word is a bit overused? It seems to me that you are complaining about the quality of certain advertising.
10.18.2007 10:31pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Prof. Bernstein --

You seem to be focused on the quality of each school's faculty, which is certainly important but is not all that matters in an overall assessment of the school. Does U.S. News ask you to evaluate law schools' only in these terms or does it also want you to account for quality of facilities, innovative curricula, etc.?
10.18.2007 10:35pm
TyWebb:
Great post, Prof. Bernstein. I don't agree with you often, but the gaming of the US News system is but one of the many symptoms of law school overload in the United States today.

I would agree with Mr. Hoffman, however, in suggesting that perhaps your standards, while certainly better and more scrupulous than those employed by the creators of the PR materials from other schools, are still wide of the mark. I've said it before, and I'll say it again--law school is a trade school. The trade is one that is inherently academic, and I have nothing but the utmost appreciation for the work that tenure-track faculty do in bringing philosophical perspective to a trade that can be influenced by profit and politics. Still, with the possible exception of about half of the students at the very, very best schools, law schools seek to create practitioners. Shouldn't we be evaluating law schools on their ability to shape good practicing lawyers?

I should also note that the two are not mutually exclusive, in my humble opinion. There are plenty of unbelievable practitioners from top law schools--much more than some are willing to admit, and I like to count myself among that category. Still, shouldn't the basis of the inquiry be who makes the best lawyers?
10.18.2007 10:54pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Yeah, the problem is that there is no way for me, or anyone else, to judge how good a job law schools are doing at educating their students. I can tell, however, whether a faculty is publishing in top law reviews.
10.18.2007 10:56pm
SI (mail):
re: conflict of interest.

The conflict of interest here is being a potential voter, and publishing your (less than rigorous) evaluation criteria. Whether or not your post is in jest (or just partially joking), the fact that you would treat the subject of the US News rankings so glibly ignores the fact that so many lower ranked schools depend on those rankings to attract better professors, better published professors, and substantial revenue in the form of students.

Advertising, no matter how jokingly, that your vote is influenced by the quality of the swag a school may send you, sends the message that you don't consider your position seriously.

If you were trying to accent the fact that those rankings are arbitrary and based on the whims of the voters, perhaps that goal would've been better served by publishing an article critiquing the rankings instead of making fun of schools that are already ranked so low that their only hope lies in sending you a flash drive.
10.18.2007 11:11pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
DavidBernstein wrote:
Yeah, the problem is that there is no way for me, or anyone else, to judge how good a job law schools are doing at educating their students. I can tell, however, whether a faculty is publishing in top law reviews.
Actually there is, at least to some extent. You can read these brochures and find out who has opened new buildings, completed new renovations, opened new clinical programs, scored impressive clerkships for recent grads, placed a lot of graduates in competitive firms, etc. It's far from perfect but it is better than ignoring the information entirely, which seems to be what you do now.
10.18.2007 11:20pm
OrinKerr:
I think UVa Law School does it best. They send out a journal that has excerpts from scholarly articles and detailed profiles of particular faculty members. It's a very interesting read. For example, in the last issue they had profiles of Caleb Nelson and Risa Goluboff. I was familiar with Risa's work but not Caleb's; I had heard excellent things about it but I don't think I ever sat down to read one of his articles. I found the profile fascinating, and it left a very positive impression of the law school.
10.18.2007 11:30pm
Dicky Posner (mail):
DB wrote: First, what could be more gauche than bragging about how many former Supreme Court clerks are on your faculty? Second, Supreme Court clerks are overvalued in the academic market (though not as much as they used to be)

Well, at least GMU is subtle about its first ever SCt clerk: http://www.law.gmu.edu/currnews/story.php?ID=431

[rest of post deleted for nastiness]
10.19.2007 12:09am
TomHynes (mail):
<i>I think UVa Law School does it best</i>

UVa Law School has both me as an alum ('81) and my kid brother Richard Hynes as a professor.

It doesn't really need anything else.

A good blog, maybe.
10.19.2007 12:30am
Constantin:
Caleb Nelson for SCOTUS.
10.19.2007 12:48am
TruePath (mail) (www):
I think you make a mistake these brocuhers are primarily intended for you or anyone else who knows how to evaluate these things. It is students who are probably the primary targers of these brochures (you just get them b/c it's not worth it to reprint a new version for other profs) and bragging about your research or the number of supreme court clerks you have working there is a way of saying, "We think our scholarship is really good" thus suggesting to the student that this school must have an impressive focus on research or they wouldn't be bragging out it.

Also I suspect if you do studies it is more effective to mention a big name the applicant may have heard of coming to give a single lecture than it is to focus on things that might genuinely indicate scholarly quality.

It doesn't seem any weirder about the fact that products advertises how good a deal they are on TV where you would think that seeing an advertisement would suggest a product had higher overheads and was thus less of a good deal.
10.19.2007 1:22am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The conflict of interest here is being a potential voter, and publishing your (less than rigorous) evaluation criteria. Whether or not your post is in jest (or just partially joking), the fact that you would treat the subject of the US News rankings so glibly ignores the fact that so many lower ranked schools depend on those rankings to attract better professors, better published professors, and substantial revenue in the form of students.
Rankings are a zero-sum game. By definition, some have to be low-ranking, fourth-tier schools. They should concentrate on absolute quality and stop worrying about rankings. If they can't survive as a fourth-tier school, then they ought to shut down.
10.19.2007 1:31am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Yeah, the problem is that there is no way for me, or anyone else, to judge how good a job law schools are doing at educating their students.

Well, no way for anybody at a university to judge, perhaps. I'd think, though, that partners at large law firms would be in a good position to say which schools produce the ablest, best-prepared graduates, and which produce mostly clueless flounderers. Wouldn't their properly-aggregated ratings be much more meaningful ,then, than peer evaluations of law professors' publishing records?
10.19.2007 1:34am
Kovarsky (mail):
someone might also very fairly make the point that top-tier student-edited law review articles are overvalued in the teaching market.

david, why the bombast? perhaps every school should just put out an apb on libertarian law and economics scholars, eh?
10.19.2007 2:47am
Cornellian (mail):
I'd like to see faculty and clinicians included in brochures. A good law librarian is a lot more valuable to me as an attorney in private practice than pretty much any three law professors (ten if they teach any course with a title ending in "and the law").
10.19.2007 3:27am
b.:
i'm interested now in knowing what types of faculty-quality ratings you give to schools in the 3rd and 4th tiers, and how it is you arrive at those ratings. do you, or would you consider, *not* rating a school about which you knew too little to give a reasonably good faith assessment?

ay! but that's the rub: having to rank 200+ schools when you only have access to (or, more accurately, the initiative to gather and digest) information about 14-20 of them. shame on you!
10.19.2007 8:13am
DJR:
Are you saying that former supreme court clerks aren't worth bragging about? It seems to me that if they are valued in the market, then they are worth bragging about. If they are overvalued, well then the school gets more mileage than they deserve by bragging about them. I don't see how it follows that they are not worth bragging about.

In any case, you have provided a useful insight into how at least one US News voter makes decisions. It may not have been the insight you intended, but it's there nonetheless.
10.19.2007 9:35am
CrimsonTribe:
UVa Law School has both me as an alum ('81) and my kid brother Richard Hynes as a professor.

It doesn't really need anything else


Professor Hynes left William and Mary? He was one of my favorite professors. I guess I need to pay more attention to the stuff that law schools send to their alumni.
10.19.2007 9:40am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I think the outraged tone of some of these comments is pretty funny, as if I'm obligated to actually do serious research before filling out a survey I didn't ask to participate in, and especially since I've never actually received a ballot. And, Kovarsky, law and economics, at least when it comes to JD/PhDs, is currently overvalued in the market, and what I said about clerks applies to them to. Libertarian, not so much, though it's much less of a burden if you teach business-oriented subjects than, say, Civil Rights. At least, though, having several L &E scholars suggests a school trying to create synergies or even an intellectual identity, unlike with former clerks.

Anyway, I'd be much more impressed with a brochure describing how a law school was playing "Moneyball" by finding candidates whose credentials are undervalued by the market, e.g., top graduates of middling schools, people who have been out of law school for years, etc.
10.19.2007 9:48am
Thief (mail) (www):
Prof. Bernstein, AMEN!

I work for law professors, 11 of them (including a few US News ranking voters). Half the mail they get is law porn. None of them read it. All of them despise it. It is a huge waste of their time (and mine) and the sender's money, for exactly the reasons you describe. In fact, I would wager that schools lose more respect (and slots in the U.S. News rankings) by sending out so much of it.
10.19.2007 11:02am
ChrisIowa (mail):

Yeah, the problem is that there is no way for me, or anyone else, to judge how good a job law schools are doing at educating their students.


Percentage of students passing the Bar exam?
10.19.2007 11:09am
Aultimer:

DB: no way for me, or anyone else, to judge how good a job law schools are doing at educating their students

Of course the prospective students (the real consumers of the rankings) would prefer to know how good a job the schools are doing at getting grads desirable jobs.
10.19.2007 11:12am
LongSufferingRaidersFan (mail):
Wow, someone sure woke up on the full-of-themselves side of the bed this morning....
10.19.2007 11:26am
JosephSlater (mail):
I can raise you one on the "annoying" scale." For the last three years I've been both the chair of my school's appointments committee and my school's most recently tenured facutly member, which means I get TWO U.S. news ballots. And that, in turn, means I have gotten TWICE the law porn, because apparently nobody at any other school has realized that the "Joseph Slater" who is the Appointments chair at Toledo and the "Joseph Slater" who is the most recently tenured person at Toledo is actually the same person.

At first I tried doing a responsible job at determining the quality of faculty at various schools. But I soon determined that to do this job even semi-competently would be more than a full time job. So I guess that gets us back to bribes: and remember, when you bribe me, you get twice the bang for the buck! That's a joke, but I seriously might consider giving some extra credit to schools that just sent me one piece of law porn.
10.19.2007 11:29am
JosephSlater (mail):
Oh, and as long as I'm one-upping: LongsufferingRaidersFan, meet LongSufferingLionsFan. Yes, we appreciate your team laying down for us in week one this year, but I'm guessing the Raiders have won more games, playoff games, and championships in your lifetime than the Lions have in my over-45 years on this planet.
10.19.2007 12:01pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Bernstein is a law professor, and I suppose that this would mean that unlike his knowlege of medical practices for delivering babies he should have some crediblity on this topic.

Strangely, it doesn't come through.

What comes through is a bunch of elite snobbery that other schools' bragging points aren't impressive enough for him.

I'd suggest if he's not impressed by a school's accomplishments, then he probably wasn't a target of their advertising. No school wants to hire a professor that thinks he's too good for them. That's how advertising works. In an effort to find the few candidates that are a good fit for their school, they broadcast to a wide audience. They know that 90% or more of the people receiving their brochures will not be interested in them, they're only looking for the 10% that might be interested in the hopes of finding the one or two people that they will hire.

But Bernstein seems more interested in milking freebies from schools he has no interest in and telling us how much better he is than they are.

Fourth tier schools don't usually put people on the Supreme Court, but they serve their purpose and they need good professors. It would seem Bernstein isn't one of those professors that they're looking for, for whatever reason.
10.19.2007 12:36pm
Recent Graduate:
Although I think Mr. Bernstein's goal was to critique law schools on what they should and shouldn't send him in evaluating their schools for US News, what he's accomplished in my mind is a further devaluing of the rankings entirely. Knowing that evaluators are so arrogant and flippant about the process makes these rankings less relevant than they perhaps already are.

And although these rankings may play a role in faculty decisions (such as where they choose to teach) and firm/judge hiring decisions, don't underestimate/ignore their potential for prospective law students. Knowing that professors are former clerks, where they are publishing, and who's speaking at the school are exactly the kinds of things that attract students, propel them towards career goals, and enrich the overall experience.
10.19.2007 12:46pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Mr. Bernstein,

I assume you're trying to be helpful, but this list doesn't come off as helpful suggestions so much as it comes off as a "list of things to bitch about." Despite the title of the post, this is actually a very long list of ineffective methods, with the only effective one being that the school sent you a freebie that has nothing to do with whether or not they're a good school (I assume you're joking, but it hardly sounds like it.)

Honestly, you just come off as a law snob who looks down on inferior schools. I'm sure you didn't mean that, but such is the result given your tone.
10.19.2007 12:56pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Xan, your comment assumes that law p@rn generally, and bad law p@rn in particular, comes from only low-ranked schools. It also comes from the very top schools, which, are as guilty as anyone of many of these "sins."

And recent graduate, if you actually take the U.S. New rankings seriously, except for the fact that they're important because other people take them seriously, I'm glad to help disabuse you of that.
10.19.2007 1:15pm
H. Tuttle:
I have to agree that you're coming off as a law snob, Professor. As my mother used to tell me when she felt I was getting too big for my britches, "a billion Chinese don't know who you are, what you've done and wouldn't care if they did."

Frankly, the entire merit-by-volume-of-publications is truly an old world criteria long past usefulness. I suggest a temporary switch to decaf.
10.19.2007 1:26pm
Cornellian (mail):
And recent graduate, if you actually take the U.S. New rankings seriously, except for the fact that they're important because other people take them seriously, I'm glad to help disabuse you of that.

They're certainly not gospel, but they're not completely random either. Chicago really is a better law school than, for example, U of Arizona based on the standard that really matters to prospective law students, namely job prospects upon graduation. Law professors care about volume of publications but that has little or no significance for students.
10.19.2007 2:16pm
byomtov (mail):
I don't think the criticism of DB is justified. He's just pointing out that schools send out uselss materials.

I do have question, though. If, indeed it is true that

the problem is that there is no way for me, or anyone else, to judge how good a job law schools are doing at educating their students.

why are people filling out ballots ranking the schools? If you were asked to vote for, say, the MVP of a league playing a sport you didn't know much about would you do so?
10.19.2007 3:32pm
AbAbAbA:
Why do publication lists — or publications themselves — have anything to do with the quality of a law student's educational experience? The audience for faculty publications consists mainly of . . . other professors. Few students read such publications unless they are required to do so, and even then students will tend to focus only on what should be parroted back to the author in an exam answer. Practicing lawyers rarely turn to highly theoretical law review articles, and the academy tends to look down its nose at articles that have a more practical bent. Unless a law school plans to churn out lots of future law professors, the number and quality of faculty publications would seem to have only a tangential relationship to the actual experience of attending law school for three years. In the end, ranking a law school on the basis of its faculty publications seems like an exercise in self-justification, if not vanity.
10.19.2007 3:38pm
Adeez (mail):
Hey Professor: What the fuck is "law p@rn?"
10.19.2007 3:47pm
SI (mail):

byomtov:
I don't think the criticism of DB is justified. He's just pointing out that schools send out uselss materials.

I do have question, though. If, indeed it is true that

the problem is that there is no way for me, or anyone else, to judge how good a job law schools are doing at educating their students.

why are people filling out ballots ranking the schools? If you were asked to vote for, say, the MVP of a league playing a sport you didn't know much about would you do so?

He makes a good point. If you're really so disillusioned with the process, don't fill out your ballot. If you can get some support there, you can encourage a law pr0n free world.

Of course, once you're no longer a voter, you would lose the power that comes commensurate to it. Something tells me that you, and your fellow voters, are unlikely to relinquish that power, regardless of the irrelevancy of the rankings.
10.19.2007 3:58pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Of course, once you're no longer a voter, you would lose the power that comes commensurate to it. Something tells me that you, and your fellow voters, are unlikely to relinquish that power, regardless of the irrelevancy of the rankings.
Dear SI: Reading is fundamental:

I think the outraged tone of some of these comments is pretty funny, as if I'm obligated to actually do serious research before filling out a survey I didn't ask to participate in, and especially since I've never actually received a ballot.
10.19.2007 5:21pm
visitor from Texas (mail) (www):

but nobody [other than Tyler Cowan -- who makes a very convincing case in his latest book] is suggesting they can be purchased by a $20 flash drive [but rather concluding that they can not avoid being purchased if they accept that sort of gift]


Hope the emendations are clear enough. The bottom line is that hard research shows that (a) everyone thinks that gifts do not affect them and that (b) everyone else is affected by gifts with (c) it is more likely than not that you are affected by gifts as well -- and think you are not.
10.19.2007 6:25pm
visitor from Texas (mail) (www):
The real point of this post is to address what another professor coined "law porn" and to discuss how there is a flood of that sort of junk mail that (a) is poorly conceived, (b) ineffective and (c) more annoying than anything else.

He also makes some suggestions about things he thinks might work.

This is a blog, for crying out log, and a self-reflective post that puts Bernstein and Lieter in agreement -- come on, how many times can you count on that happening?!

I found it interesting as well, and think the flash drive trick is a neat one. Will probably be over used shortly (much like calendar mouse pads. The first was neat, the next twenty not as much so).
10.19.2007 6:34pm
Name withheld:
A problem with blogs is that one can't "hear" the writer's personality or the smile in the person's voice. A lawyer now, I got to know David Bernstein first when I was a student in one of his classes. He's really a funny man, not at all "full of himself," and can see the humor in all sorts of situations.

What he pointed out is the absurdity of having him (or his equivalent at other law schools) give a "rating" to other schools, based on WHAT?

And, to imagine that Bernstein's "vote" could be guaranteed with a free flash drive is just too funny for words.

The USNews ratings are b.s. However, while people are believing them, it's smart to "game" the system. I don't believe that people can be divided into groups of gold, silver, and bronze. HOWEVER, if I'm in a world where that is happening, I sure as the heck want to be placed in the "gold group."
10.19.2007 7:07pm
neurodoc:
Third Tier Law School recently hired three clinicians...

Huh, law schools are hiring those "qualified in the clinical practice of medicine, psychiatry, or psychology as distinguished from onespecializing in laboratory or research techniques in theory"? In law school, I did take a course with an MD/JD who had completed a residency in psychiatry, but I don't believe he ever practiced as a physician afterwards, so I wouldn't count him as a "clinician" even if he supervised students in a law school clinic.

Is "clinician" the way law school faculty refer to those who work as lawyers rather than do other things after graduation, including teaching future lawyers? Is this use of "clinician" common. Was John Roberts a "clinician" up until the time he was called to be the lead Supreme? Did he continue to be a "clinician" after he was so elevated, or are judges never clinicians, at least while they sit on the bench?
10.19.2007 7:22pm
neurodoc:
Q: Um. Isn't this a conflict of interest?
A: No. Where's the conflict? If they promised him stuff conditioned on him ranking them higher, that would be a conflict.

Well, still not really a conflict, since there's no real "interest" on the other side anyway.
It isn't necessary that "they promise() him stuff conditioned on him ranking them higher" for there to be ethical concerns. And the stuff needn't be particularly valuable, either. I have no worry that DB will be corrupted by a mere trinket, but this sort of thing has become a huge issue for the medical profession.

Big Pharma has for years given doctors all sorts of stuff, ranging from notepads and cheap pens up to lavish trips, and you can be sure they don't do it out of an excess of largesse. They do it for the purpose of getting physicians to prescribe their drugs over those of their competitors, though the later may be cheaper and more effective than the former. Doctors scoff when anyone says they can be "bought" this way, but the evidence shows otherwise.

Alas, my specialty society gets more and more restrictive in what they will allow companies to give us at our annual meeting, and I can only wish they were less so in order that I might get better stuff, like some other specialists get at their meetings. (As I am typing this, I am thinking about how Tony's nephew Christopher reacted when he saw what went into the goodie bags of the celebs.) Since I am not chosing what drugs or devices to use for anyone's clinical care, I am confident that I can remain uncompromised no matter how much any company might lavish upon me.
10.19.2007 7:51pm
Eli Rabett (www):
In penny arcades, the cheap prizes are called slum. Seems to me that is a better description than *orn (Dad ran an arcade in Coney Island)
10.20.2007 12:22am
theobromophile (www):
Never thought I would defend rankings, but here goes:

Even lawyers who have been practising for twenty years are unfamiliar with excellent law schools. Especially if you are in a different part of the country, or go to a small law school, you will encounter people who have never even heard of your school. Thankfully, US News provides some credibility - lawyers can look up the school and see that it's actually decent.

Done playing devil's advocate - besides, the above purpose can be accomplished in many other ways (such as dividing schools into four or five categories, with no internal divisions, or an agglomeration of data).


No one is going to read through pages of explanations of the curricular innovations underway at 100 different law schools.

You're being facetious, aren't you, Prof. Bernstein?

You don't actually mean to suggest that law school curriculums are not essentially interchangeable... ?
10.20.2007 12:38am
JTK (mail):
This is the question: Does a school that can attract four Supreme Court clerks belong in the same tier 4 peer group as Golden Gate University and CUNY-Queens College?

I think not, but perhaps they should be moved up to the third tier with Southwestern Law School or the University of Montana. They might even be competitive with Marquette University (#97) or University of Hawaii (#91).

No one is going to refer to Harvard as the "Whittier of the East," but pulling a high level of faculty should cause questions about a school's placement in the 4th tier.
10.20.2007 1:18am