Journal Prestige and Journal Impact in Law

23 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2019 Last revised: 27 Aug 2019

See all articles by Ignacio Cofone

Ignacio Cofone

McGill University Faculty of Law

Pierre-Jean G. Malé

Harvard University - Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Date Written: July 5, 2019


American legal scholars often ignore journals' impact-factor and choose in which journal to publish based on publishing schools’ ranking. To investigate the relationship between school ranking and journal impact, we collect and analyze historical data from American law journals impact-factor and the ranking of their publishing law schools.

We present three findings. First, there is a correlation between prestige ranking and impact-factor over the years, but the correlation is not perfect and it varies substantially over time. Second, journal impact-factor shows a larger inter-annual variation than school ranking. This means that impact-factor is a worse predictor of future journal impact than school ranking is of future school prestige. Third, journals published by better law schools counterintuitively have higher inter-annual variation in impact-factor but lower variation in impact-factor based ranking. We hypothesize that journals from high-ranked schools belong to a less homogeneous pool: few journals make most of the impact due to an exposure bias.

Then, we consider authors’ utility from publishing in one journal or another. Authors' optimal strategy will depend on whether they maximize prestige among their peers or impact on the discipline, and how risk-averse they are. Conditional on desiring impact, risk-averse scholars should look at school ranking and risk-neutral scholars should look at impact-factor.

Keywords: legal journals, publishing, legal academia, impact factor, tenure, law professors

Suggested Citation

Cofone, Ignacio and Malé, Pierre-Jean G., Journal Prestige and Journal Impact in Law (July 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Ignacio Cofone (Contact Author)

McGill University Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec


Pierre-Jean G. Malé

Harvard University - Faculty of Arts and Sciences ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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