March 07, 2006
Empirical Study of Legal Scholarship
Posted by Funmi

I'm working with Ken Dau-Schmidt, Bill Henderson and Andy Morriss on an empirical study of legal scholarship. We are creating a relational database about legal scholarship and are using this database to ask (and hopefully answer) a number of questions about legal scholarship. In this project, we will look at changes in the nature and content of legal scholarship, including assessing trends toward interdisciplinary scholarship. We are also planning to measure the impact of letterhead bias, assess the influence of “outsider” voices in legal scholarship and evaluate other aspects of the characteristics of authors of law review articles. As part of this project, we are also planning to evaluate the impact of legal scholarship by looking at citations to law review articles. What questions would you like to see explored in a project of this nature?

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Comments (8)

1. Posted by Vic on March 7, 2006 @ 20:37 | Permalink

Hi Funmi. Sounds like a great project (and a great team!). In addition to letterhead bias, I've always wondered about other possible biases in placement. Is there a bias against empirical work? Interdisciplinary work? Business law topics? Tax topics?

On an unrelated note, how much interdisciplinary work is conducted by scholars with formal training in the other discipline? Is there a correlation between formal training and better placement? Citations?


2. Posted by Andrew T. Solomon on March 7, 2006 @ 22:12 | Permalink

What exactly do you mean by letterhead bias? Have you seen this article -- Kevin M. Yamamoto, What's in a Name? The Letterhead Impact Project, 22 J. Legal Studies Educ. 65 (2004)?


3. Posted by David Zaring on March 7, 2006 @ 23:33 | Permalink

Great project. I'd be interested in seeing if you people could identify a before and after tipping point on the quantity of said scholarship. The AALS conference? The advent of JELS? Ellickson on Shasta County or Freakonomics/Donahue? It'd be worthwhile speculation, if not a principal question.


4. Posted by Tomas Gomez on March 8, 2006 @ 7:14 | Permalink

There obviously have already been studies about how often law review articles are cited in judicial opinions, but I don't recall anyone ever studying WHY opinions are citing those articles. How often do courts cite articles for the article's central thesis or for the policy arguments contained therein? Is it more common for courts to cite articles for the historical or background information contained in them? In which case, the true impact of the article is being overstated.


5. Posted by Christine on March 8, 2006 @ 7:39 | Permalink

Very big project! I would be interested to see the letterhead bias question answered. I have sent out on three different letterheads, and I can tell you from these very small datapoints that letterhead seems to be the most relevant factor. I would also be interested to see if the explosion of secondary journals in the past fifteen years has made any impact in legal scholarship, either in topic or quantity.


6. Posted by frankcross on March 8, 2006 @ 10:37 | Permalink

How are you planning to measure letterhead bias? Nobody doubts its existence but it's pretty hard to isolate that from other factors.

Going to do anything with political orientation?


7. Posted by Joe Doherty on March 8, 2006 @ 11:29 | Permalink

If your database will contain an exhaustive list of the citations made within articles then I can see a number of very interesting network analysis projects. For example, drawing on the project goals, it would allow one to quantify the terms "outsider" and "insider" with clique analysis, to estimate letterhead bias using centrality scores, and to measure the influence of certain articles by tracking changes in factions over time.


8. Posted by former AE on March 13, 2006 @ 12:43 | Permalink

Most articles/essays I read this past year focusing on "scholarship about scholarship" came to the same conclusion: there is a correlation btw law school name and XXX (citations, student quality, etc.). It's a circular analysis b/c nobody can figure out how much of it has to do with actual quality or just name-recognition. If you can figure that out, I would actually read your whole piece!

I would be interested to see a measurement regarding the quality of a citation. Is it just a string cite? Or did the author mention AND discuss the source in the text? Was the source cited commended, criticized, or just distinguished? Was it cited for analyis, thesis, or background material?

Westlaw and Lexis do something like this with cases (shepardizing and keycite flags), but I can't imagine doing this for legal scholarship. Good luck though!

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