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Barack Obama and the Harvard Law Review:

Barack Obama was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. The NY Times carried a story about this in Februrary 1990, which included a few quotes from Obama:

"The fact that I've been elected shows a lot of progress," Mr. Obama said today in an interview. "It's encouraging." "But it's important that stories like mine aren't used to say that everything is O.K. for blacks. You have to remember that for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance," he said, alluding to poverty or growing up in a drug environment... On his goals in his new post, Mr. Obama said: "I personally am interested in pushing a strong minority perspective. I'm fairly opinionated about this. But as president of the law review, I have a limited role as only first among equals." Therefore, Mr. Obama said, he would concentrate on making the review a "forum for debate," bringing in new writers and pushing for livelier, more accessible writing.

For what it's worth, a quick look at volume 104 of the Harvard Law Review suggests that not surprisingly given the genre, Obama didn't succeed in publishing "livelier, more accessible writing." But with regard to "new writers," the extremely prestigious Supreme Court term Foreword that year was written by Robin West, now of Georgetown, but who was then a professor at University of Maryland. Prof. West, moreover, didn't have the typical pedigree, having graduated from University Maryland Law School (yes, in theory completely irrelevant to her credentials to write the Foreword, but if I know my elite law review editors, something that gave many of them significant pause.) More typically, the Review invited Guido Calabresi (dean, Yale), Kathleen Sullivan (professor, Harvard), and Morton Horwitz (professor, Harvard) to write the next three years' Forewords. Prof. West is a very prolific, influential scholar, and was an inspired choice from outside the usual group of elite law school professors the HLR would consider. Call this the Obama effect, perhaps, though I'd be interested in hearing from readers who were editors that year about his effect on HLR culture.

lralston (mail):
Did Obama pass a Bar examination, where? I read he let his 'license' lapse in 2003 but can find no further info. Because I was raised in "Chicago'and still have Chicago connections, his Hyde Park home ($1 million +) and his Rezko cannection are very, very troubling.
2.4.2008 9:12am
Jackson Benson (mail) (www):
So Robin West's Foreword appeared in Nov. 1990? Then I think that she would indeed have been solicited to write that piece after Obama and the rest of his editors were elected in Feb. 1990. By the way, if Obama did push for West, he would have had to convince a majority of the editors to vote for her; it's not the President's call (or at least it wasn't when I was there). So that could speak well of his ability to convince or work with his opponents.
2.4.2008 9:12am
Viceroy:
This is like the reverse of "when did you stop kicking your dog".

Obama pretty much bailed on a legal career which included stellar prospects. It will be tough to take him down by inquiring into this. This question in particular only highlights his accomplishments (to most people+lawyers).

It sounds like just nitpicking on Obama, but that's not surprising, given the author of this post.
2.4.2008 10:33am
Random:
I'm just wondering if his note/comment was published.
2.4.2008 10:36am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Obama is the one real good credit Harvard Law School's Law Review can be proud of. Obama has a lot of integrity, which he did not lose while HLS law review editor, and he is a great orator. He should be our next President.

[Remainder of post deleted by OK.]
2.4.2008 11:04am
Tony Tutins (mail):
lr: like Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow, Obama is a member of the Illinois Bar. Admitted December 17, 1991, he is voluntarily inactive, with no record of discipline or pending proceedings. You can check the status of Illinois lawyers at www.iardc.org .
2.4.2008 11:26am
H. Blix:
Obama's statement of "for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance," is applicable to EVERY race and group. The point in 2007 should be that we should not be talking about race on this level, checking off what race we are on applications for this, that and the other thing, etc.?

I Obama utterly tiresome. I would never vote for him - he's a socialist pretending to be Mr. Change. The audacity of nonsense is a better title for his self-preening tome.
2.4.2008 11:46am
bittern (mail):
I Obama Blix tiresome one paragraph. Romney!
2.4.2008 12:00pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
This question in particular only highlights his accomplishments (to most people+lawyers).


No actually it highlights how utterly devoid of any meaningful accomplishments his life has been that his supporters have to go all the way back to law school to find any "accomplishments."
2.4.2008 12:12pm
kiniyakki (mail):

"for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance,"



I just see this as modesty and humility. What is wrong with that?
2.4.2008 12:18pm
PLR:
It sounds like just nitpicking on Obama, but that's not surprising, given the author of this post.



DB apparently does not wish to be opaque, with his presidential race topics largely being limited to Ron Paul on the GOP side and Barack Obama on the Democratic side.

Wonder what those two gentlemen have in common...
2.4.2008 12:35pm
HBD:
I'm confused by some of the anti-Bernstein reaction on this thread. His posting on balance seems to be positive towards Obama and is also something that nobody else seems to have noted elsewhere. Where's the problem?

Can't say I'm surprised to see kneejerk reactions to this post though... we can take a cue from current political parlance and call it Bernstein Derangement Syndrome. If you don't think it exists, you probably have it.
2.4.2008 12:48pm
SeaDrive:
H Blix: All of the candidates are posing as Mr. Change. If are going to eliminate from consideration all the candidates that are guilty of lack of candor on the stump, you aren't going to vote.
2.4.2008 12:55pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
No, actually all this talk about "rail-splitting" and "writing on a shovel blade at night by firelight" highlights how utterly devoid of any meaningful accomplishments Lincoln's life was, that his supporters had to go all the way back to his youth to find any "accomplishments."
2.4.2008 1:01pm
Jackson Benson (mail) (www):
Can I suggest that Day-Petrano's irrelevant rant about some grudge she bears against a former HLR editor be deleted as potentially libellous?
2.4.2008 1:08pm
x (mail):
...there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance..

Barak, name *one*.
2.4.2008 1:13pm
Baseballhead (mail):
I Obama Blix tiresome one paragraph. Romney!

The utter brilliance of that post should not go unnoticed.
2.4.2008 1:24pm
Houston Lawyer:
"But it's important that stories like mine aren't used to say that everything is O.K. for blacks. You have to remember that for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance"

I also call bull on this. By 1990, I'd posit that Harvard had been making special exceptions to its admissions policies for Blacks for a full generation. Harvard certainly wasn't working to keep the Black man down.

I didn't make the law review at my alma matter and for that I can blame only myself. During my tenure at law school, law review was the absolute meritocracy. No one was admitted who didn't grade on or write on by the merits. It was also the most lilly white group of people on campus.

I don't know about Harvard, but I've heard that other elite institutions have affirmative action admissions to law review. Do we have reason to believe that Obama made it on the merits, or should he receive the same level of skepticism that Clarence Thomas does?
2.4.2008 1:31pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I'm confused by some of the anti-Bernstein reaction on this thread. His posting on balance seems to be positive towards Obama and is also something that nobody else seems to have noted elsewhere. Where's the problem?
You got me, HBD. This was on balance positive toward Obama--he apparently encouraged the law review to look beyond the usual suspets, though, I could have added, within a left-wing framework consistent with his ideological predilictions.
2.4.2008 1:46pm
Xmas (mail) (www):
"But it's important that stories like mine aren't used to say that everything is O.K. for blacks. You have to remember that for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance"

You can parse that statement two ways. What Houston Lawyer is seeing is that there are lots of black students who applied to Harvard that are just as equally talented as Barack, but didn't get into Harvard. What I'm seeing, there are lots of black students who never get a high school education who are just as talented as Barack but are held down by poverty and drug use.

I'm thinking that Barack meant the second meaning, not the first.
2.4.2008 1:55pm
ALS:
Jackson,

I see you've googled [she-troll who shall not be named].
2.4.2008 1:56pm
Bored HLS 3L:
Asks Houston Lawyer:

Do we have reason to believe that Obama made it on the merits, or should he receive the same level of skepticism that Clarence Thomas does?

Well he did graduate magna cum laude, which today is limited to the top 10% of the class excluding the any summas. (Summa is awarded to those that have an average between A and A+; it is earned by 1 person every 5 years or so.)
2.4.2008 2:25pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
The point in 2007 should be that we should not be talking about race on this level, checking off what race we are on applications for this, that and the other thing, etc.?

Well, considering that it is 2008, and the statement you object to was made in 1990 (or thereabouts), I am not sure what the relevance of your question is.
2.4.2008 2:30pm
ChrisO (mail):
Well and on the democratic-partisan (hard to call them left-wing, really) sites full of hillary supporters, they all think Obama is arrogant. Barack make up your mind!
2.4.2008 2:47pm
South Dakota Lawyer (mail):
Lincoln did not have many "accomplishments" before his election as President. He served four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives and one term in the U.S. House. He did not win the Illinois Senate election in 1858. As such, he was a very poor "resume candidate." His political career was built on speeches, i.e., the power of ideas, rather than office stepping stones, or credentials. And, of course, his speaking skills were developed in the courtroom.

Despite some obvious parallels, I think the differences between Lincoln and Obama will be illustrated by the substance of their ideas. In Lincoln's case, everything emanated from the Declaration of Independence, whereas Obama, like Thurgood Marshall, gives lip service to the Declaration while believing in his heart that something more like Chief Justice Taney's view was the true historical understanding that must be overcome through progressive politics.
2.4.2008 2:55pm
Mr. Change:
Clearly, Barack Obama needs to be asked ASAP what he thinks of the student case note on Philip Morris USA v. Williams and whether it would have been published on his watch.

Only then can we determine what his tenure as HLS president says about his qualifications to be President of the United States.
2.4.2008 3:21pm
Houston Lawyer:
I will stipulate that graduating in the top 10% of your class from Harvard Law School is good evidence that you didn't need an affirmative action program to get in. That is the kind of accomplishment that we dream that our children will achieve.
2.4.2008 3:23pm
Mordecai:
Show the man some respect: his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and he'd appreciate it if you used it! Gosh!!
2.4.2008 3:41pm
frankcross (mail):
I will stipulate that graduating in the top 10% of your class from Harvard Law School is good evidence that you didn't need an affirmative action program to get in. That is the kind of accomplishment that we dream that our children will achieve.

You shouldn't so stipulate. Because that confounds the entry qualifications with the outcome per. I'm sure plenty of people who benefited from affirmative action have ended up doing very well and that doesn't mean they didn't receive affirmative action.
2.4.2008 4:05pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

his name is Barack Hussein Obama

You mean, it's not Barry Hughes O'Bama? Does this mean he's no longer a member of the Hibernians?
2.4.2008 4:44pm
Adam J:
Houston Lawyer- stipulation denied. How does a single minority graduating magna cum laude from HLS disprove the need for affirmative action? You're relying on the success of a single individual to make your case? Secondly, your statement relies on the presumption that Obama wasn't a beneficiary of affirmative action. You seem to be relying on the fact that he did well as proof of this- an improper conclusion, In fact, if Obama did get the benefit of AA, it only proves that an obviously qualified minority might be unable to get the pedigree necessary to get into HLS solely on merit- which is a pretty good justification for AA.
2.4.2008 4:49pm
Evelyn Marie Blaine (mail):
For what it's worth, a quick look at volume 104 of the Harvard Law Review suggests that not surprisingly given the genre, Obama didn't succeed in publishing "livelier, more accessible writing."
Indeed. Out of curiosity -- let me ask, knowing that the sample comprises some of the law-geekiest people available. Can anyone honestly say that they've ever read an issue of a law review cover to cover which was not (a) a special issue, all the articles of which were on a subject of interest to them or (b) an issue in whose production they were in some way involved. Anyone? I'm just curious.
2.4.2008 4:50pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Evelyn - I did. However, it was on a cross-country flight and I had mistakenly packed my copy of GAMES into a checked bag.

Nick
2.4.2008 5:00pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
Adam J -- You completely misunderstood what Houston Lawyer said. He was saying that Barack Obama, the individual, likely would not have needed affirmative action to get into HLS. True or not, it says nothing about whether there is a need for affirmative action in general (either now or then).

Also, the quote of Obama's that seem to have gotten people talking about affirmative action seems to be pretty unobjectionable regardless of one's views of affirmative action. What he was saying is that one black person achieving a first, while definitely a good thing, should not mean that racial problems are solved. If you oppose affirmative action, that statement should fit right in with an oft-heard conservative objection to affirmative action -- which is that it is just tokenism that makes white liberal happy, but does not address problems where they should be addressed, i.e. at the roots, with the break-down of the family, etc., and just masks the real problems. Further, the statement that "there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance" is completely unobjectionable as well, and probably was not meant to be an endorsement of racial quotas (or more hidden types of affirmative action).

If I didn't know better, I would think certain commenters are just going out of their way to criticize affirmative action, when it has nothing to do with the post. (Incidentally, if you read the story on how Obama got elected president of the HLR (not sure DB links it), you will see that he was in some sense a compromise pick, who the more conservative students backed as they saw him as much more open to them than other, more conventional liberals.)
2.4.2008 5:08pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Didn't Houston Lawyer just stipulate that Obama's class rank is "good evidence?" He didn't say he'd stipulate that Obama was definitely not an AA beneficiary.
2.4.2008 5:13pm
Adam J:
Crazytrain- Um... I don't see how I misunderstood. I took issue with the claim that "Barack Obama, the individual, likely would not have needed affirmative action to get into HLS." I pointed out that "[Houston Lawyer] seem[s] to be relying on the fact that [Obama] did well as proof of [not being a beneficiary of AA]. And I think you are quite wrong to think Houston wasn't trying to say something about the necessity of AA.
2.4.2008 5:46pm
Houston Lawyer:
I first raised the issue of AA in this string because I was unaware of Obama's class rank when he graduated. I would be stunned to find out that he didn't score very high as an undergrad as well. Hence, he likely would have been admitted to a top ranked school under a color blind system.

Beneficiaries of admissions preferences are highly unlikely to perform as well as their nonpreferred peers. Obama's achievement actually says nothing about AA. It was only because of the prevalence of AA that I brought it up. I'm perfectly comfortable with the fact that he achieved this on his own. But I had to be shown evidence to overcome the presumption that he was given what he in fact earned.
2.4.2008 10:23pm
anonanon123123:
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Obama is the one real good credit Harvard Law School's Law Review can be proud of.
_______________________

Well, in all fairness, chief editor Louis Brandeis had an above average career. But whatever.
2.5.2008 2:10am
ffrwrd (mail):
Mordecai wrote:

"Show the man some respect: his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and he'd appreciate it if you used it! Gosh!!"

"Barack" is, after all, a local transliteration of "Baruch". What's the matter, Mordecai, ya' got a problem with Jewish names?
2.5.2008 7:15am
free at last from law school (mail):
Responding to Evelyn's point above, I think the answer is very few if any people actually read law reviews for their content unless it is a special topical issue or unless they were directly involved in its production. I was on a Law Journal (not the elite Law Review, mind you), and learned a few good skills, but for the most part felt it was a waste of my time and shouldn't really count as a credential. Two different professors told me while I was in law school that "no one reads them." If ever there was an example of a self-perpetuating status quo symbol that has long outlived its usefulness, Law Review (and the many and sundry Law Journals) is it.
2.5.2008 10:22am
Colin (mail):
If ever there was an example of a self-perpetuating status quo symbol that has long outlived its usefulness, Law Review (and the many and sundry Law Journals) is it.

At the very least, it functions as a signaling device. Employers can use a law review resume line as the attestation that someone, somewhere, tested a number of students and determined that this candidate was some combination of very smart and very hardworking. Whether that's an accurate or useful signal is another question, although most employers seem to put some stock in it.
2.5.2008 10:58am
okie dokie (mail):
Xmas said, What I'm seeing, there are lots of black students who never get a high school education who are just as talented as Barack but are held down by poverty and drug use.

Held down by poverty and drug use. That's one way of looking at it.

If only drug use weren't holding these talented people down, why, they could go to Harvard!

Too bad such talent isn't accompanied by common sense, i.e. "maybe I shouldn't take these drugs so I can get a job and eventually work myself out of poverty." Too bad these people are held down by some sinister force, most likely white.
2.5.2008 11:01am
Ferry Pellwock (mail):
My impression is that although Obama was well liked by most of his fellow editors on the Review (a main reason he was elected president), by the end of his presidency in spring, 1991, Obama was regarded as:

1. having presided over a general "dumbing down" of previously observed standards for defining scholarly material worthy of publication in the nation's leading law journal (with unconventional, sometimes sloppy, sometimes even profane, material now counting as publishable "scholarship"); and

2. having been somewhat indifferent, even lazy, in the execution of his day-to-day editorial responsibilities, with a concrete result: the final published content of the Review was not as rigorously thought out, and tightly edited, as had previously been the case with the Review.

I wonder whether someone (ATTENTION: DAVID BERNSTEIN?) might do a citation analysis comparing the average number of post-1991 law review citations to Obama's Volume 104, as opposed to the average number of citations to volumes produced under the direction of other presidents, in hopes of objectively confirming or refuting impressions #1 and #2 as to Obama's work as president.

If, in fact, Obama did a solid job as president of the only institution which, apparently, he's ever run, one would expect that the results of his work would be recognized by citation rates to his volume at least on par with (and ideally above) the citation rates to volumes produced by other Review presidents.

Further as to #1, my impression is that Obama's lowering of standards for what constitutes publishable material, in an effort to appease the radical element on the Review which didn't want to adhere to traditional standards, played a key role in the turmoil which engulfed the Review during the two years immediately following his tenure. The two presidents who had the misfortune to follow Obama found it impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, and they endured personal castigation on multiple fronts for their unsuccessful efforts to clean up after Obama -- to try to beat back the radical element on the Review which had been emboldened by Obama's "live and let live" philosophy.

My impressions, at any rate. It will be interesting to see whether journalists find it worthwhile to poke into such matters, particularly by interviewing Obama and other ex-editors about them.
2.5.2008 11:11am
Tony Tutins (mail):
FP has a good idea but the effect he seeks may be masked by either an exceptionally good or an exceptionally bad year for scholarship, so looking at controls is necessary. Moreover, if Obama lowered the HLR's standards in accepting articles, then lack of space means less prestigious journals would get better articles than they normally would. So along with HLR, the law reviews at Yale and at least one "lesser" school should be studied for Obama's year and the two bracketing years. If the number of citations dip at all three journals, then Obama was unfortunate to preside over a bad year. If the number of citations uniquely rose at the less prestigious review, then Obama let good articles slip away.

Further, it may be that the numbers are skewed by one truly seminal and important work, with an extraordinary number of citations, being published by one journal in one of the years being studied. Thus it may be necessary to throw out outliers, like the most and least cited articles from each journal in each year.
2.5.2008 1:07pm
Ken Arromdee:

"for every one of me, there are hundreds or thousands of black students with at least equal talent who don't get a chance,"



I just see this as modesty and humility. What is wrong with that?


If it's just humility, he would have said "students" instead of "black students"--it's certainly true for students in general.

By specifically mentioning black students he was making a point beyond his literal words. Exactly what point you choose to read into it is up to dispute, but it's not just humility.
2.5.2008 1:27pm
Ferry Non-Fan:
Obama a "lazy" Harvard Law Review President? Didn't do rigorous work? Obviously you have no idea what you're talking about. I find it interesting that you supply no source for your fanciful "impressions," and you avoid posting under your real name (I haven't checked, but I can't imagine "Ferry Pellwock" is the name of a real person).
2.5.2008 3:29pm
Ferry Pellwock (mail):
Mr. "Ferry Non-Fan":

As to sources, having served as an editor of the Review myself (indeed, having direct knowledge of the time period in question), I am relying for my impressions mostly on various nonpublic sources.

In terms of published material on point, you might take a glance at the book written by Eleanor Kerlow shortly after the events in question, which devotes considerable detail to the problems which broke out on the Harvard Law Review during the two years following Obama's "dumbing down" of standards at the Review (my terminology, not hers), thereby emboldening the radical element on the Review to challenge efforts to reinstate traditional scholarly standards. The book is Poisoned Ivy: How Egos, Ideology, and Power Politics Almost Ruined Harvard Law School (1994) (see National Review piece on it here).

It's no great work of literature, but it does convey the basic facts. Even though Kerlow comes at the subject from a heavily liberal perspective, Obama doesn't come off looking particularly good.

As I said previosly, it's clear most people on the Review liked Obama (he was "likeable enough," one might say), something Kerlow acknowledges. However, that's not to say that Obama's fellow editors thought he diligently carried out his responsibilities, as president, to ensure that the material published by the Review was of the highest possible quality.

Quite the contrary: as Kerlow recounts, the editors in the class behind Obama, in electing their own president, rejected the Obama model and elected someone with high standards and a strong work ethic who they thought could reinstate traditional editorial practices. As she explains on page 11 of Poisoned Ivy:

"Obama was friendly and outgoing, but the class succeeding him wanted a tougher editor to lead them. [David] Ellen, quiet and fair-haired, had graduated summa cum laude in history and science from Harvard College in 1987. He had worked at The New Republic in 1989, the summer before starting law school, and was seen as someone who would be a more rigorous blue-penciler."

True, Kerlow doesn't use the word "lazy," but the contrast drawn between the glad-handing, laid-back Obama and the serious and hard-working Ellen captures what I'm pretty sure was the impression of most editors (at least the editors who graduated in 1992, a year after Obama) at the time. Possibly Obama can be regarded as having exhibited at least minimal competence in the discharge of his duties, but it's difficult to score him any higher in terms of his job performance in the only executive position, apparently, he has held to date.

I look forward to any statistics David Bernstein or anyone else ends up compiling in an effort to measure Obama's level of achievement in his prior executive role. If his volume of the Review doesn't stack up very well to other voluumes, I agree with the comment that there should be a check against another leading review or two to make sure 1990-91 wasn't just a dry year for legal scholarship generally.
2.5.2008 6:02pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
FWIW, that same year was volume 100 of the Yale Law Journal, which I was on, and in many, many ways was a huge disaster, not least because there was no editor-in-chief, but an executive committee (which I stupidly voted for), which left no one in charge, and each subpart of the law review free to publish whatever nonsense it wanted, including an essay by a death row murderer. I looked over Obama's volume, and by contrast it looks pretty normal, though I can see potential political influence over the acceptance of at least one article that year.
2.5.2008 10:05pm
Detroit Law Student:
To lralston-

Having a $1 million + home is a strike against a candidate for the American presidency? And as for the Rezko thing, as a lawyer, was he supposed to tell his firm that he wasn't going to defend one of their clients?

I guess I just disagree. To me, having a nice home is his right as a hard working, gifted professional. If he lived in a $20 million dollar cube in Millenium Park, I might think differently. But $1 million for a nice home in Chicago is not snobbery or arrogance.

And big law firms do work for all kinds of clients, including "nasty" ones. Nasty clients deserve representation too. And though I do not plan to end up in a big firm (mostly my fault, not theirs), I would not criticize someone for taking on their firm's case. That sort of thing is hardly voluntary.
2.5.2008 10:14pm
LawStatMan (mail):
Obama's vol. 104 is the least-cited volume of the Harvard Law Review in the last 20 years

I've run electronic searches to determine the number of times Obama's volume 104, and every other volume of the Harvard Law Review published during the last 20 years, has been cited in all law reviews during each subsequent year for which full data is available (starting in the year after the last issue of each volume appeared, and running through 2006, the last year for which full citation data is currently available).

The results of my searches are in a PDF which you can download here: http://www.mediafire.com/?bxdzmmtuanx.

Some highlights, using only the first 12 years of citations to each volume, where available (obviously, the more recent volumes have fewer years of citations available):

1. Obama's volume 104 (1990-91) has been cited an average of 170 times a year. That is, it was cited 2045 times in the first 12 full years after publication (i.e., 1992 to 2003). It has been cited at the lowest rate of any volume published in the past 20 years.

2. By comparison, for all other volumes published during the past twenty years for which at least a year's worth of data is available (vols. 101 to 103, and vols. 105 to 118), they have been cited an average of 262 times a year -- a rate 54% higher than the citation rate for Obama's volume. Here's a summary:

Volume 101 (1987-1988): 2850 citations in 12 years -- 238 citations per year
Volume 102 (1988-1989): 2135 citations in 12 years -- 178 citations per year
Volume 103 (1989-1990): 2825 citations in 12 years -- 235 citations per year
Volume 105 (1991-1992): 2357 citations in 12 years -- 196 citations per year
Volume 106 (1992-1993): 2694 citations in 12 years -- 225 citations per year
Volume 107 (1993-1994): 2625 citations in 12 years -- 219 citations per year
Volume 108 (1994-1995): 2132 citations in 11 years -- 194 citations per year
Volume 109 (1995-1996): 2256 citations in 10 years -- 226 citations per year
Volume 110 (1996-1997): 2146 citations in 9 years -- 238 citations per year
Volume 111 (1997-1998): 2209 citations in 8 years -- 276 citations per year
Volume 112 (1998-1999): 1385 citations in 7 years -- 198 citations per year
Volume 113 (1999-2000): 1413 citations in 6 years -- 236 citations per year
Volume 114 (2000-2001): 1214 citations in 5 years -- 243 citations per year
Volume 115 (2001-2002): 1193 citations in 4 years -- 298 citations per year
Volume 116 (2002-2003): 1032 citations in 3 years -- 344 citations per year
Volume 117 (2003-2004): 860 citations in 2 years -- 430 citations per year
Volume 118 (2004-2005): 476 citations in 1 year -- 476 citations per year

3. Much of this disparity remains even if one focuses on the volumes produced during the same era as Obama's volume, to cancel out the effect of historical trends affecting legal publishing and scholarship, and the effect of the later volumes having less than 12 years of subsequent citations (which tends to enhance the average citations per year, as a greater percentage of the average is represented by recent years, with high citations to fresh sources).

Consider the 7 volumes published between 1988 and 1994, as to which a full 12 years of subsequent citation data are available, so that the citation rates are readily comparable.

The 3 volumes published just before Obama's volume (101, 102, and 103) were in the following 12 years cited an average of 217 times a year -- a rate 28% higher than the citation rate for Obama's volume.

The 3 volumes published just after Obama's volume (105, 106, and 107) were in the following 12 years cited an average of 213 times a year -- a rate 25% higher than the citation rate for Obama's volume.
2.6.2008 5:54pm
SouthAustin:
I googled Obama and HLR and ended up here - to find this hatchet job on Obama. My first thought was to wonder whether any of you are qualified to judge Obama - so I looked this blog up in Wikipedia for the scoop and what immediately jumped out at me is that you guys are a bunch of also rans.If you guys were so hot why are you teaching at George Mason and Temple instead of teaching at Harvard, Yale, or the Univ of Chicago (like Obama) ? No wait, I can answer it - you guys are just not good enough ! Keep sending those resumes to the Law faculties at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Boalt etc and keep looking for the reply that starts out with "Dear Applicant, We regret to inform you .."
2.7.2008 9:42pm
StatTruthMan:
Good work, "LawStatMan," assuming your numbers are correct. However, I don't know you've proved anything more than that Obama was unlucky enough to be president of the Review in an exceptionally bad year for legal scholarly. Tony Tutins specifically noted this point, here.

I agree with Tony that for your numbers to show more than the operation of chance, you'd first have to disprove, using data from Yale and ideally another journal slightly less prestigious than Harvard, the hypothesis that 1990-1991 was an exceptionally bad year for legal scholarship -- a hypothesis which, if not disproved, would mean that the low citation count couldn't be attributed to poor performance by Obama.

I also agree with Tony that if, indeed, Obama and his crew messed up and didn't attract the top-notch scholarship, then logic would dictate that you'd find evidence of such poor performance in the citation counts at other journals. That is, the citation counts at other journals would rise, as they would have benefited during 1990-91 from the alleged poor performance by Obama and company. Right?
2.7.2008 10:24pm