Scholarly Impact of Law School Faculties in 2021: Updating the Leiter Score Ranking for the Top Third

37 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2021

See all articles by Gregory C. Sisk

Gregory C. Sisk

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Nicole Catlin

University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), School of Law

Alexandra Anderson

University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota)

Lauren Gunderson

University of St. Thomas School of Law

Date Written: 2021

Abstract

This updated 2021 study explores the scholarly impact of law faculties, ranking the top third of ABA-accredited law schools. Refined by Brian Leiter, the “Scholarly Impact Score” for a law faculty is calculated from the mean and the median of total law journal citations over the past five years to the work of tenured faculty members. In addition to a school-by-school ranking, we report the mean, median, and weighted score, along with a list of the tenured law faculty members at each school with the ten highest individual citation counts.

While the law faculty at Yale continues to hold the top ranked position in the 2021 Scholarly Impact Ranking, Chicago has now moved into the second spot, with Harvard at third. NYU and Columbia continue to rank in the fourth and fifth positions respectively. California-Berkeley has moved up into a tie for the sixth position with Stanford. The law faculties at two schools in the top ten have moved up one ranking position, with Pennsylvania now at eight and Vanderbilt at nine. In one of the most striking changes since the 2018 Scholarly Impact Ranking, Virginia has climbed from sixteen to a tie for the ninth position in 2021.

The law schools with the highest rises in the 2021 Scholarly Impact Ranking are American by 18 ordinal levels (to #46), Georgia up 15 positions (to #43), and Brooklyn up 11 positions (to #33).

Several law faculties achieve a Scholarly Impact Ranking in 2021 well above the law school rankings reported by U.S. News for 2022:

Vanderbilt (at #9) shows a significant gap with U.S. News Ranking (at #16). Among schools close to the top ten for Scholarly Impact, the University of California-Irvine (at #14) has the greatest incongruity with the 2022 U.S. News ranking (at #35).

In the Scholarly Impact top 25, George Washington University rises to #18 in Scholarly Impact, while lagging at #27 for U.S. News. Minnesota is also at #18 in Scholarly Impact, but at #22 in U.S. News. The University of California-Davis hits #22 in Scholarly Impact, while left well behind by U.S. News at #35. George Mason continues to be a Top 25 Scholarly Impact school at #23, while dropping in U.S. News to #41. Fordham also ranks at #23 for Scholarly Impact, but down at #35 for U.S. News.

The most dramatically under-valued law faculty remains the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), which continues to rank inside the top 25 (at #23) for Scholarly Impact for 2021, while being relegated by U.S. News below the top 100 (at #126)—a difference of 103 ordinal levels.

In addition, we report the results of an experimental survey of U.S. News academic voters for a general academic impact ranking. Cass Sunstein, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Erwin Chemerinsky, and Angela Onwuachi-Willig hold the top four positions, with Mark Lemley, Catharine MacKinnnon, and Orin Kerr tied for the fifth position. Notably, this subjective survey about individual law faculty reputation correlates tightly with scholarly impact. Even when freely invited to evaluate individual professor impact on any academic basis, the surveyed law professors voted for three of the top four cited professors in our Scholarly Impact Ranking. Six of the seven are in the top 3 percent of all studied faculty for scholarly citations (which is likely closer to the top 1 percent for all law faculties in ABA-accredited law schools). In sum, citation-based scholarly impact is a strong proxy for faculty excellence overall.

Keywords: scholarly impact, scholarship, legal scholarship, law schools, ranking, law school ranking

Suggested Citation

Sisk, Gregory C. and Catlin, Nicole and Anderson, Alexandra and Gunderson, Lauren, Scholarly Impact of Law School Faculties in 2021: Updating the Leiter Score Ranking for the Top Third (2021). U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3910536 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3910536

Gregory C. Sisk (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
651-962-4892 (Phone)

Nicole Catlin

University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), School of Law ( email )

Minneapolis, MN
United States

Alexandra Anderson

University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

Lauren Gunderson

University of St. Thomas School of Law ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

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