Forward Looking Academic Impact Rankings for U.S. Law Schools
45 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2023
Date Written: May 31, 2023
Although the very concept of law school rankings is currently under fire, rankings abolitionism is misplaced. Given the number, diversity, and geographic dispersion of the more than 190 law schools fully accredited by the American Bar Association, rankings are essential to enable various stakeholders to make comparisons between schools. However, the current rankings landscape is dire. The U.S News law school rankings rely on poorly designed, highly subjective surveys to gauge “reputational strength,” rather than looking to easily available, objective citation data that is more valid and reliable. Would-be usurpers of U.S. News use better data, but make other arbitrary choices that limit and distort their rankings. One flaw common to U.S. News and those who would displace it is the fetishization of minor differences in placement that do not reflect actual differences in substance. This information is worse than trivial: it is actively misleading. This Article proposes a new set of law school rankings free from all of these defects.
The Forward-Looking Academic Impact Rankings (“FLAIR rankings”) introduced in this Article are based on data that shows how many times law review articles by each of 5,139 individual faculty members at 191 American law schools have been cited by other law review articles in the last five years. The FLAIR rankings can be used as an objective guide to the relative academic impact of law schools, or as a component in broader objective rankings. The FLAIR rankings are based on publicly available, reliable, and objective data obtained from law school websites and the research platform, HeinOnline. The FLAIR rankings include all fully ABA accredited law schools, unlike alternative rankings of academic influence that are selective, often arbitrarily so. Moreover, the FLAIR rankings are designed to impart meaningful information by clustering schools into tiers based on their distance from the mean of all schools and deemphasizing ordinal rankings. Thus, the FLAIR rankings enable readers to make rational comparisons between law schools, rather than simply creating a hierarchy for hierarchy’s sake.
Keywords: Law School Rankings, Academic Impact, Citation
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation