October 19, 2006
"Law Porn" Revisited
Posted by Gordon Smith

Readers from VC and Instapundit are flocking to Conglomerate today to read about "law porn." I wrote that post over two years ago, and it now is the first result in Google when searching "law porn." I didn't coin the term -- Brian Leiter credits an unnamed "Stanford professor" -- but I have used it often.

From my vantage point in October 2004, law porn seemed like an inevitable and necessary part of a law school's marketing strategy. I still believe that it may be useful, if done well. For example, I recently received a flyer from a law school that introduced me quickly to the junior faculty and their impressive (at least by placement) publications. I didn't have the brochure very long, but it made me question my default assumptions about that school. That's a pretty good start at altering my image of the place.

Nevertheless, the large volume of law porn generated at this time of year means that breaking through is difficult. Jonathan Adler at VC pleads, "stop sending me so much stuff." Glenn Reynolds has noticed that "the volume seems to have drastically increased this year over the already copious quantities of past years." He concludes, "While there may have been an advantage to being an early adopter in this area, it's now largely a waste of money, I think."

Two weeks ago, sociologist Michael Sauder of the University of Iowa was here to present his work on reactivity to the U.S. New rankings. He has interviewed deans (among others) to evaluate the way in which law schools respond to rankings, and his conclusions track Glenn's. Of course, deans' statements about rankings may be self-serving. I would be interested to see a study correlating marketing expenses and changes in reputational rankings.

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