What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics

72 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2004

See all articles by Paul L. Caron

Paul L. Caron

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law

Rafael Gely

University of Missouri School of Law


In Moneyball, Michael Lewis takes an inside look at how in recent years the Oakland A's have achieved one of the best records in baseball despite having one of the lowest player payrolls. Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler have argued that the book has large and profound implications for other professions. This review essay by a tax law professor and a labor law professor explores the book's large and profound implications for law schools.

Beane succeeded by ruthlessly exploiting inefficiencies in major league baseball caused by the inability to properly evaluate players. He replaced traditional subjective measurements of players by scouts with new objective statistical methods pioneered by baseball outsiders.

In many ways, legal education is teeming with more inefficiencies than Beane uncovered in baseball. We argue that changes in the economic conditions of higher education and the legal profession, combined with increasing demands for accountability and transparency, created the market demand for measuring organizational success which U.S. News & World Report met with its annual law school rankings. We explore the implications of Moneyball for legal education in three areas.

First, we argue that law school rankings are here to stay and that the academy should work to devise ways to more accurately measure law school success. We advocate the comprehensive collection of data that users and organizations can weigh differently in arriving at competing rankings systems. Second, we applaud efforts begun in the past decade to quantify individual faculty contributions to law school success. We support measures that take into account both quantitative and qualitative measurements of faculty performance. We provide data that confirm the relationship of productivity and impact measures of scholarship and provide support for isolating background and performance characteristics in predicting future faculty scholarly work.

Third, we use Billy Beane as a prototype and identify the qualities that enabled him to revolutionize baseball. We shift the focus here to deans and present data measuring decanal scholarly productivity and impact. We contrast these figures with the corresponding faculty data and distinguish deans' scholarly performance both in the period prior to becoming dean and while serving as dean. We also offer some surprising predictions, based on the data, of the qualities that a future dean will need to assume the mantle of the Billy Beane of legal education.

Keywords: Tax, Legal Education, Law Schools

JEL Classification: K19, K34, K49

Suggested Citation

Caron, Paul L. and Gely, Rafael, What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics. Texas Law Review, Vol. 82, p. 1483, 2004, U of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 04-1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=501402

Paul L. Caron (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
310.506.4266 (Phone)

Rafael Gely

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Missouri Avenue & Conley Avenue
Columbia, MO MO 65211
United States

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