Well, this is like catnip to faculty lounge readers. I see that Joel Kupfersmid has just posted an article on ssrn, "What Works to Increase Law Schools' Prestige and Their Graduates’ Passing the Bar: Better Students or Better Faculty?" Cribbing now from Kupfersmid's abstract:
This study asked two questions about the relative influence of student capability (as measured by LSAT scores) and faculty expertise (as measured by citations in law journals for faculty publications) for increasing a law school’s prestige (as measured by ranking in U.S. News) and passage rates on the bar examination for their graduates. Likewise, several shortcomings in the previous literature were addressed: (1) researchers have either investigated the relationship of student understanding of the law to prestige or examined faculty expertise to this outcome, but none explored the effects of one of these predictors with the effects of the other removed (partial correlation), (2) researchers have correlated various student measures to bar passing rates for law schools across the country but this presents interpretative difficulties because the types of tests given for each bar examination, and the scores needed to pass, have considerable variation across jurisdictions, and (3) several studies have assessed the influence of faculty scholarship to prestige, but no study has assessed the influence of scholarship to bar passage rates. The results of this study indicate that prestige is likely a function of the reciprocal relationship between student capability and faculty expertise. To determine which came first, better students attracting more well-known professors or well-known professors attracting better students, is a chicken and egg problem. With respect to passing the bar, the analysis indicates faculty expertise is more influential than student capability in promoting higher passing percentages, at least in California and New York. Based on these findings, increasing the number of faculty with recognized expertise in an area of law will raise a school’s prestige at least as much as encouraging students with high LSAT scores to enroll, and will have the added benefit of increasing the percentage of graduates passing the bar. This recommendation does not apply to law schools where bar passage rates are very high or where a high percentage of professors eminent in law are already in the department.
I hope to say some more about this once I've had a chance to digest the paper.