Correlation versus Causality: Further Thoughts on the Law Review/Law School Liaison
23 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2006 Last revised: 3 Aug 2019
This Essay is the third in a series of articles discussing the relative value of American law reviews, and a response to Professor Alfred Brophy's elaboration of my initial study of the high mathematical correlation between law review quality, as manifested in citation-based measures, and law school reputation. See The Relative Value of American Law Reviews: A Critical Appraisal of Ranking Methods, https://ssrn.com/abstract=806144; The Relative Value of American Law Reviews: Refinement and Implementation, https://ssrn.com/abstract=897063; and - Alfred L. Brophy, The Relationship between Law Review Citations and Law School Rankings, https://ssrn.com/abstract=868541.
Given my prior interest in the relative value of American law reviews, I have used the abovementioned correlation as a means to explain some of the variance in quality among law reviews. Brophy's empirical findings overlap mine, yet the extent of his analysis, as well as his interpretation and utilization of the law review/law school relationship are clearly different.
First, he uses more variables to examine additional aspects of this relationship. Second, he offers a different causal explanation for the correlation between law review quality and law school reputation. Third, he draws on this correlation to promote a new method for the assessment of law school reputation, and advocates various techniques that law schools may employ to improve their rankings.
This Essay touches on the three components of Brophy's analysis. Part II discusses the various causal explanations for the correlation between law review quality and law school reputation, and endeavors to show that the second variable is usually the cause rather than the effect of the first. It also criticizes Brophy's accounts of marked anomalies between law school ranking and law review ranking, and the relatively poor correlation between law review citations and law school reputation for lower school-tiers.
Part III takes the law review/law school correlation analysis two steps farther. First, it shows that the correlation between law review quality and law school peer assessment score is not linear, as previously implied, but rather polynomial. Second, it shows that a similar polynomial correlation exists between law review quality and the 75th percentile of incoming students' LSAT scores, and associates this finding with the law review quality/law school peer assessment relationship.
Part IV examines Brophy's noteworthy proposal to base the ranking of law schools, at least in part, on the frequency of citation of their flagship journals. The search for new law school ranking methods is highly commendable in view of the continuing dissatisfaction with the U.S. News & World Report annual law school ranking. However, I am not sure that Brophy's concrete proposal is much better than the one it aims to replace. Lastly, this Essay criticizes Brophy's advocacy of various techniques that law reviews may use to attract citations and improve their ranks.
Keywords: Law reviews, ranking, law schools, legal education, legal scholarship, legal research, U.S. news, Leiter, Solum, Princeton Review
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation