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June 29, 2015


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Derek Tokaz

"The third and final variable used in this paper is citations to a law school’s main law review over the period 2007-2014. This is designed to tell something about the intellectual orientation and culture of the school and to reveal something about the school’s standing in the legal education community"

Intellectual orientation and culture of the school? What exactly does that mean?

Harvard has 6500 cites, but Columbia only has 4900 cites. Does that mean Harvard has 1600 more culture? That it's orientation points closer to ...what exactly? NYU is only at 3700 cites, so Columbia has a third more orientation?


As a consumer of apple sauce, I'm concerned about the quality of the sauce; of quite secondary importance is the quality of the apples that went into making it. As a prospective maker of apple sauce, the quality of the sauce machine (i.e. the value it adds making good or great sauce from mediocre or great apples.

I can't see why either of us would put great emphasis on the quality of the inputs. Likewise for the SAT: it seems to only rate the quality of the inputs to the Law School process. Best is the school that turns indifferent entering students into good lawyers than the one that turns excellent entering students into great lawyers.

What I would like to see is a measure of the value of the outputs from the schools or the value added by their attendance (per dollar spent, perhaps). For that reason, it seems necessary to subject all graduates to a second SAT (a bar-exam score might suffice) and compare the output to the input for each student.

Derek Tokaz


Al explains the reason for caring about the LSAT in his paper. The idea is that cohort quality greatly affects a student's learning experience in law school. Your professors aren't the only ones you're learning from, often they're not even the primary people you're learning from.

You're going to learn a lot more with a study group of smarties than with class time taken up by the questions of dummies.


It seems to me that for law schools particularly the impact of research by faculty doesn't really speak to educational quality. The JD is not a research degree, and most JD students are rarely involved in faculty research.

That's not the case with a research degree, where high-impact scholarship directly benefits the graduate students studying under those faculty members (or serves as a direct proxy for educational opportunity).

Derek Tokaz


The explanation Al gives in the paper is that cohort quality affects an individual's education. I think there's some merit to that. Consider how much more you learn when you get a study group of very bright students together. Consider how much is wasted when idiotic questions are posed in class (I apologize).

However, cohort quality may be more about matching than just being with the best cohort. If everyone else is far above you, you'll get left behind. Just think about being the slowest kid in a math class.


twbb: that's a good point. Most law students attend law school to become lawyers, not researchers.

Derek Tokaz


But this ranking doesn't look at the research done by professors at the school. It looks at the research done by professors at other schools who were published in the school's law review. So, it doesn't really matter that a professor's high-impact scholarship isn't directly benefiting students at his school, because it's benefiting ...and here's where I lose the logic train.

Derek Tokaz


It doesn't matter that high-impact scholarships doesn't directly benefit the students, because this isn't looking at the quality of the research done by your professors. It's looking at the quality of the research done by professors published in your law review. You just want to publish high-impact scholarship; doesn't matter if your professors are doing any of it.


Hi Al. I just saw notice of this paper in today's ABAJournal online frontpage, and have just started looking at it. Thanks for doing it; in particular I hope would-be students will find the 2-variable data useful in making their decisions.

Out of curiosity (nosiness, really), I wonder did you get any peeps (read: outraged email complaints) from one or more Defenders of the Sacred Honor of SCU due to your 2-var ALgorithm having placed SCU in the position of single most over-rated by the USNWR rankings?

Thanks again.

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