Citations, Justifications, and the Troubled State of Legal Scholarship: An Empirical Study

65 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2015 Last revised: 18 Sep 2015

Jeffrey Lynch Harrison

University of Florida - Levin College of Law

Amy Rebecca Mashburn

University of Florida - Levin College of Law

Date Written: February 24, 2015

Abstract

Recent pedagogical, economic and technological changes require law schools to reevaluate their resource allocations. Although typically viewed in terms of curricular changes, it is important also to focus on the very significant investment in legal scholarship and its impact. Typically this has been determined by some version of citation counting with little regard for what it means to be cited. This Article discusses why this is a deeply flawed measure of impact. Much of that discussion is based on an empirical study the authors conducted. The investigation found that citation by other authors is highly influenced by the rank of the review in which a work is published and the school from which the author graduated. Courts, on the other hand, are less sensitive to these markers of institutional authority. Perhaps more importantly, when the purpose of the citation is examined, a very small handful of those citing a work do so for anything related to the ideas, reasoning, methodology, or conclusions found in the cited work. This is slightly less true for judicial citation compared to citations by other authors. Given the level of current investment in legal scholarship and findings that reliance on it is far lower than citation counts would suggest, the authors offer a number of recommendations designed to increase accountability of legal scholars and the utility of what they produce.

Keywords: scholarship, citations, law reviews, Tushnet, Posner, Rhode, economics, investment, public good

Suggested Citation

Harrison, Jeffrey Lynch and Mashburn, Amy Rebecca, Citations, Justifications, and the Troubled State of Legal Scholarship: An Empirical Study (February 24, 2015). University of Florida Levin College of Law Research Paper No. 15-2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2569499 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2569499

Jeffrey Lynch Harrison

University of Florida - Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

Amy Rebecca Mashburn (Contact Author)

University of Florida - Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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