May 04, 2006
SSRN v. bepress
Posted by Gordon Smith

Some interesting posts on the two services over on PrawfsBlawg, with input from Bernie Black (SSRN) and Jean-Gabriel Bankier (bepress).

Part I
Part II

The big issue on the table: why do papers posted on bepress seem to get more downloads, when SSRN appears to be the market leader? I have wondered this, too. My latest venture capital paper has different versions posted on SSRN and bepress, and the bepress version is downloaded at a much higher rate. Check out PrawfsBlawg for possible explanations.

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March 21, 2006
SSRN Entrepreneurship & Law Journal
Posted by Victor Fleischer

The Kauffman Foundation is sponsoring a new Entrepreneurship & Law Journal on SSRN.  I'll be serving as editor of the journal.  I'm excited both to give something back to SSRN and also to get involved with Kauffman, which has been supporting research in the entrepreneurship area for years.  And of course it dovetails nicely with my move to entrepreneurship-friendly Boulder.

As you would expect, the journal will publish working papers and accepted papers that touch on entrepreneurship & the law, broadly conceived.  So we won't just look at regulation and intellectual property law (though plenty of that, don't worry) ... but also contract design, incentives, and all the stuff that substitutes or complements enforcement in the courts, like reputation.  I'm also hoping to pick up papers that talk about the ways that law is affected by network theory, diffusion of innovations, social entrepreneurship, social responsibility, and all that good stuff. 

So ... when you submit your next paper on SSRN, please be sure to check out the ERPN (Entrepreneurship Research Paper Network) and check the Entrepreneurship & Law box if your paper fits.  I'm hoping that the network will have a large audience of finance and B-school scholars as well as law profs.  I will plug interesting papers here on the Glom as time permits.

You can subscribe to the journal by clicking here.  (If you are having trouble, please let me know by email.) 

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January 19, 2006
The Purpose of SSRN
Posted by Gordon Smith

Dan Markel has some interesting thoughts about the purpose of SSRN:

I had been under the impression that SSRN was developed initially so that scholars could see "tomorrow's research today." In other words, scholars (and the public) could access drafts of work well before  publication, along with past publications by a particular author....

The "problem," as I see it, is that, at least in law, SSRN is being used as a way to generate more information relevant to the evaluation of a potential scholar (should we hire her, well, let's consider how many articles are up on SSRN, or how many downloads the person's scholarship gets, or, how good the article on SSRN is).  If SSRN is being used for evaluative purposes rather than constructive feedback purposes, then it seems likely that people will not post their "shitty first draft" up, but rather their penultimate draft, or potentially, just their final draft that was published.

The post has already generated some thoughtful comments, including from Michael Jensen, who shares Dan's concern. Also, Larry Ribstein has weighed in, expressing his hope that people will not refrain from posting drafts on SSRN just because they fear negative feedback.

My views on this, shaped by long experience with SSRN, are mixed. Like both Dan and Larry, I appreciate feedback on working papers. Moreover, I have never refrained from posting a paper on SSRN for fear that it will generate negative feedback. The problem is that SSRN has never been good at producing that sort of feedback, at least for me. As Dan observes in a comment to the original post, "few people I know actually receive comments from strangers on their drafts, which raises questions about whether the vision of SSRN is being realized; I know I haven't. Have you?" No. If I am ready for comments, I present the paper at a conference or faculty workshop or send it directly to people who know the field. I have long given up on SSRN as a mechanism for generating meaningful feedback. (As several people, including Larry, have noted, blogs offer a much better forum for generating feedback.)

If not feedback, then what is the purpose of SSRN? I can think of two very good arguments for SSRN that do not depend on its utility in generating feedback. First, it offers direct marketing of scholarship based on subject matter. This is not such an issue in finance or sociology, where the journals provide focus, but in law our most prestigious publication outlets are general law reviews. I have asked our library to route 10 or so general law reviews to me when they arrive, but I almost never find articles about corporate law through this method. I read (scan?) general law reviews to see what people are talking about in other areas. For current work in corporate law, I rely heavily on SSRN to supplement conferences and word-of-mouth.

Second, SSRN introduces new audiences to my work. Almost everything I have published appears in law reviews, and most people who study venture capital do not read law reviews. By posting my papers on SSRN, I can reach those people. For example, I had the wonderful experience of listening to a presentation in the Netherlands in which one of my papers was discussed by a young European finance scholar I had not previously met, who found my paper on SSRN. (This example illustrates another audience that we are able to reach most easily through SSRN: scholars working outside the U.S.)

Michael Jensen is interested in finding new ways for SSRN to provide "tomorrow's research today," and he wrote this in the comments at PrawfsBlawg:

SSRN is also experiementing with an earlier draft phenomenon, that is the posting of presentation slides which are clearly early drafts of work in progress. I have posted several with a prefatory remark that these are experiements in posting of more general documents than simply finished working papers.

I like this idea. I am doing several symposium papers this spring, and, inspired by this comment, I will post slides along with audio here on Conglomerate.

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December 08, 2005
An Interview with Jean-Gabriel Bankier, Berkeley Electronic Press
Posted by Matt Bodie

In a post last month over at Prawfsblawg, I talked about the different approaches of the two primary legal repositories, SSRN and bepress.  SSRN promotes its download count feature, while bepress provides this information only to the authors.  These different approaches highlight different philosophies about how new technology can be applied to the scholarly enterprise.

To follow up on these issues, I spoke with bepress’s Jean-Gabriel Bankier.  Bankier is the manager of the bepress Legal Repository, as well as ExpressO and LawKit, two legal scholarship services discussed below.  Bankier has twelve years of software marketing, product management and market research experience.  He holds a BA degree in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Masters degree from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

(1) Tell us a little about the Berkeley Electronic Press.  When did BEP begin?  Are you affiliated with University of California, Berkeley?  Are you a nonprofit or for-profit organization?

The Berkeley Electronic Press ("bepress") produces tools to improve scholarly communication, by providing innovative and effective means of content production and dissemination.  Bepress has a portfolio of services including peer-reviewed journals, institutional and subject matter repositories, working paper series, and editorial management software. We are a private, for-profit organization founded by UC Berkeley faculty in 1999.  Two of the founders, Bob Cooter and Aaron Edlin, are law professors at Boalt Hall.

(2) What does bepress have to offer for law students and professors?

Bepress has several services to help professors along the legal publishing chain, starting with ExpressO, a manuscript submission management service, in order to facilitate the flow of faculty (and some student) papers from authors to law reviews.  We also created a legal working paper series service to promote scholarly works-in-progress.  A bepress service dedicated to students is LawKit.  This editorial management software saves student law review editors countless hours and administrative nightmares by keeping track of submissions in an online database. 

(3) How does the bepress Legal Repository work?  Can anyone post there?

The bepress Legal Repository serves as the home for legal working papers series.  We automatically convert the papers from Word or WordPerfect to PDF so anyone can submit a paper.   Papers submitted to an institution’s series are vetted by a professor or administrator at that institution.   Those submitted to the bepress Preprint Series (via ExpressO or directly) are vetted by bepress.

(4)  Do you have subject matter journals?

We publish half a dozen peer-reviewed subject specific law journals, but I fear that is not what you mean by “subject matter journals”.  We do not repackage and resell working papers in the form of subject matter journals to law libraries.  Instead readers can browse papers by current index to legal periodicals subject headings.  Taking it a step further, we make it possible for legal scholars to select topics of interest (subject, author, legal term, etc.) and request notification whenever a paper that matches their search criteria is added to the repository.  Legal scholars are embracing this free service.  Thousands have signed up for personalized e-mail notifications since we launched the service in July 2004. 

(5) How do your database and notification services differ from SSRN’s?

SSRN and bepress send out mailers announcing recent working papers by participating institutions.   Bepress also sends out subject matter mailers for the New England Law Library Consortium (NELLCO) and the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology. Unlike SSRN we do not charge libraries for the right to receive subject-matter mailers.

(6) As to those six peer review journals -- do they come out in print as well?  Do they require exclusive publishing rights?  How do they differ from traditional law journals?

The peer-reviewed law journals are currently only available online. Bepress does not seek the copyright on published articles. Authors are largely free to circulate or republish their articles, in print or on institutional repositories, for example. Authors, however, give bepress a perpetual, nonexclusive license to publish the article in question.

Our journals are different from traditional student run law reviews in that they are peer-reviewed by experienced professors and other legal scholars rather than student-reviewed.  They are different from peer-reviewed journals in that the editors are using EdiKit to manage papers.  EdiKit was designed to facilitate and accelerate the manuscript management process creating a better experience for authors, editors and reviewers alike.

(7) I'd like to ask you more about the download issue.  Lots of legal academics seem focused on their SSRN downloads as an indicia of scholarly impact.  If only SSRN downloads are publicly available, then bepress downloads don't "count" toward scholarly impact.  Are you worried that authors are going to direct readers to SSRN and away from bepress?

Authors with papers in the bepress Legal Repository are emailed download statistics every month.  We have seen that papers posted to SSRN and the bepress Legal Repository have comparable downloads-per-posted-days rates.  This isn’t an issue of bepress hiding figures.  Rather, we are concerned that popularity and scholarly value not be conflated.  SSRN feels differently, and this is reflected in their approach.  It’s an honest difference of opinion.  I think at the end of the day, authors want their research to be read by those who would learn and benefit from it.  This means creating multiple paths of discovery to their work, via SSRN, bepress, law reviews, institutional repositories, and other venues.

(8) What is your relationship with NELLCO?  Do you have similar relationships with other repositories?

The New England Law Library Consortium (NELLCO) licenses our repository software to offer law working paper series to its members.  While they are the only group using our software to host a subject-matter repository today, there are several dozens universities that have bepress-hosted institutional repositories.

(9) Could you explain what ExpressO is, for readers who may not be familiar with it? How is ExpressO affiliated with the Press?  Are you the only company doing electronic delivery to law reviews?

Bepress created ExpressO to facilitate the delivery of papers from authors to law reviews.  Currently, 86 law schools have institutional ExpressO accounts for their faculty but a school account is not required to use the service.  We serve 500 law reviews including all of the top 100.  We deliver manuscripts electronically and make submissions available to respective editors on a secure dedicated Web site.  We print and mail manuscripts to some 35 top-tier law reviews that prefer to receive submissions from ExpressO in that manner, and also have special arrangements with select top-tier law reviews that accept electronic deliveries only through ExpressO. We track when law reviews are full and no longer considering submissions so that authors do not waste their time and money submitting to law reviews that are effectively closed for the season.   The system even provides authors with tools to make an expedite request or withdraw their submission.

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November 11, 2005
How to Win Downloads and Influence People
Posted by Victor Fleischer

Like tax avoidance or earnings management, goosing one's academic reputation with a little creative gamesmanship is nothing new.  Cf. Balkin & Levinson, How to Win Cites and Influence People (1996).  Bill Henderson is certainly right that the genie is out of the bottle; Gordon is undoubtedly right that the system can be gamed; Litvak and Ribstein are undoubtedly right that blatant cheaters ought to be caught and punished. 

What's missing is a discussion of what's acceptable gamesmanship and what isn't. 

Here are a few strategies for scholars who want to win a few downloads.  Are they ethical? 

I hereby ask our self-appointed SSRN regulators for an advance ruling on the ethics of the following strategies; a notice-and-comment period may follow. 

  • 1.  Post a paper about SSRN rankings.
  • 2.  Post a paper about blogging.
  • 3.  Post a paper about student-edited vs. peer-reviewed law reviews.
  • 4.  Post a paper about teaching strategies.
  • 5.  Post a paper about scholarly trends. 
  • 6.  Start a blog, and plug your work at every opportunity.
  • 7.  Write about corporate governance or IP.  Stay away from tax and admin.
  • 8.  Plug your papers on your school's webpage.
  • 9.  Provide a handy link to your papers in your email signature.
  • 10.  Take out a Google Ad for your papers.
    • (You would only pay when people click through to the download page; assuming that some significant percentage of those people are actually interested in your paper and download it, you might end up paying a buck or two per download, maybe less.)
    • Should schools subsidize Google Ads for the papers of top scholars?  It might be more effective than law porn.
  • 11.  Attend conferences and present papers.
  • 12.  Participate in the Conglomerate Junior Scholars Workshop.
  • 13.  Assign one of your papers to your seminar or class. 
    • (When I do this I provide hard copies.  Better to kill a tree than to jeopardize one's academic reputation.)
  • 14.  When circulating a paper to colleagues for comments, provide an SSRN link instead of a pdf.
    • (Again, I think the norm here has shifted, and I now provide pdfs instead of SSRN links.)

Are any of these strategies unethical?  How would we know?  Ribstein argues that the relevant norm is clear: "don't take academic credit you don't deserve." Surely many of us bloggers rank higher than our true scholarly impact ... does that violate the norm?  When does SSRN plugging become SSRN cheating? 

SSRN downloads should reflect genuine academic (practitioner? student?) interest in your papers.  I, for one, would like a little more guidance about what's acceptable behavior.  As with tax planning or earnings management, there is something to be said for using a vague standard rather than a firm rule to police against gamesmanship.  But even I think we need to make the standard a tad more clear if SSRN hopes to remain relevant to the rankings game.

AALS is in town, and a couple of my friends are among the brave souls swashbuckling their way through the towers today. Notwithstanding all the self-promotion talk, my real advice, of course, is to write solid papers about real topics.  Blogging and writing about SSRN rankings is fun, and it will win you downloads, but it can't be turtles all the way down.   

Oh, and don't forget to download my latest paper, "How To Win SSRN Downloads and Rankings, Wow Appointments Committees, and Crush the AALS Meat-Market:  A Guide for Young Scholars."

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Socrates vs. a Multitude of Pigs: A Sober Word on SSRN
Posted by Bill Henderson

I am hesitant to disrupt Christine’s welcomed Rome diversion away from our academic squabbling. But I am headed out of town for a retreat, and I wanted to post the following before I go:

My earlier post on SSRN generated a lot of comments, including Gordon's valid concerns on extending the rankings-mania to SSRN and Michael Guttentag’s query (Comment #1, Comment #2) on what inferences can be realistically drawn from download statistics. I think these issues are sufficiently important to bring them into a new thread.

At the outset, let me state that my own vision of a great law school is far different than a goal of maximizing faculty publications (SSRN or otherwise). When everyone is admiring their c.v.’s and waiting for the phone call from Harvard, no one is investing in their institutions and students—i.e., future lawyers and leaders of government and business. Thus, society is made worse off.

So when I write about SSRN as a predictor of future scholarly productivity or a numbers-driven appointments committee, I am discussing potentially powerful tools. And yes, I worry that such tools will be used irresponsibly. But you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. So here are a couple of empirical points (or quandaries on how to interpret data) that respond to Gordon and Michael.

Regarding Gordon’s concern that SSRN self-promotion will divert us (even further) from our scholarly mission, note that SSRN downloads will only have meaning if they turn out to be good predictors of future scholarship as measured by citation counts and quantity/quality of actual placement. (Of course, this does not deal with the Litvak problem that placement of interdisciplinary scholarship in non-peer reviewed journals is problematic as a signal of quality, but the academy needs to sort that out; right now, placement in the HLR helps one’s career—a lotl)

If gaming significantly dilutes these correlations, then SSRN is less useful. That is why SSRN is investing so much in anti-gaming technology. (And their staff knows the names of the past gamers!) True, a scholar can follow the strategy outlined by Gordon, but at the peril of serious reputational damage. One silly solicitation for downloads posted on Leiter's blog would make someone the laughingstock of legal academia. So, at bottom, the gaming problem may be more theoretical than real. Further, it is empirical question that will eventually be answered with greater precision.

In the comments to my first post, Michael Guttentag has some very thoughtful observations on what inferences we can draw from SSRN downloads. Obviously, some high download figures can only be explained by substantial nonacademic interest (e.g., students downloading assigned papers, investors, or 2nd Amendment advocates).

The Black & Caron study on SSRN rankings discusses the possibility that future technology may enable the company to weight SSRN rankings based on the “quality” of the downloads. This struck me as an idea that might have some theoretical appeal but has insurmountable implementation problems. For example, say SSRN downloads can be broken down into four categories: (1) law and social science professors, (2) law and graduate students, (3) practicing lawyers, and (4) everyone else.

Why should #1 be weighted the most? That seems very ivory tower to me. Cf. Harry T. Edwards, The Growing Disjunction Between Legal Education and the Legal Profession, 91 Mich. L. Rev. 34 (1992) (which produced a symposium on Edward’s critique the following year).  Further, isn’t this just a replication of USN&WR’s arbitrary weighting formula?

The quality-of-downloads conundrum reminds me of a lecture by the late Ernest Gellner. Gellner noted that it would be hard to implement any system of government based on purely utilitarian principles because of the possibility that “a flicker of satisfaction on Socrates’ face may be far better than a multitude of pigs squealing with delight.” After I finished wiping away the tears (of laughter), I realized that I had no interest in drawing those lines.

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November 10, 2005
Gaming SSRN
Posted by Gordon Smith

I have publicly proclaimed my affection for SSRN on this blog, but I object to recent efforts by Bernie Black and Paul Caron to promote SSRN as a measure of scholarly performance. I am very fond of Bernie and Paul, but I am highly skeptical of their claim that "there is reason to be optimistic that gaming will not seriously undermine the reliability of the law school and law author download measures."

If SSRN threatened to become a serious force in the world of scholarly rankings (Bill Henderson contends that my "if" is misplaced), ambitious schools would commit themselves to gaming the system. Could they do it? Absolutely.

Last night, I speculated that I "could improve my own ranking by at least a couple hundreds spots quite easily." Bill encouraged me to try, but I have decided not to provoke my friends at SSRN, who take this download stuff seriously. Instead, I will describe what I would have done to improve my ranking substantially overnight.

At present, I have 12 papers posted. My total downloads are 3,184, and my SSRN Author Rank is 966. To move up to #766, I need to achieve more than 3,687 total downloads. That means I would need at least 504 more downloads. How would I get that many new downloads in one day? Answer: many hands make light work.

First, I could use self-help, and download each of my papers from home and from the office. I might even stop at the public library and download some from there. At some point, if I download the same paper multiple times from the same IP address, SSRN stops me, but I could get at least 12 downloads in each location ... and perhaps a lot more. I am pretty sure I could get at least 100 downloads on my own.

Then I would email my students (almost 100 this semester), colleagues, friends, and family. I would ask all of them to visit my SSRN page and download my papers. I am not sure how many would actually do it or how many each person would download, but I am confident that I could achieve many more than the remaining 404 downloads in this way. (I have very nice students, colleagues, friends, and family.)

Obviously, this sort of blitz is not a sustainable strategy for gaming the system, but it illustrates the basic problem: SSRN measures an activity that does not reflect the scholarly merit of the underlying work. A law school that wanted to create a more sustainable strategy for downloading would enlist faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the law school in a patriotic effort: help your school by investing a few minutes online! Among other things, the law school could subscribe all of its faculty and staff and as many students and alumni as they could muster to the law school's research paper series. Then it would get the word out, that if you want to help the law school, you will start downloading. Better yet, how about a "Download-a-Day" email list? Just send that day's link to the listserv and ask recipients to click. It's better than writing a check!

If that doesn't produce enough downloads, we could hire mercenary downloaders. Surely a few students would accept $15 an hour to download papers from their homes. Just have a small army of students taking one spin through the entire list of Wisconsin papers every day for a month and voila! They have earned their law degrees from a Top 10 faculty! Heck, they might do that for free!

Wouldn't it be great if we all started to play this game and diverted even more resources to self-promotion? Goodbye, law porn! Hello, downloads!

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A Numbers-Driven Appointments Committee
Posted by Bill Henderson

During the last several days, Conglomerate bloggers have discussed several factors that might influence standing in the law school hierarchy. Gordon discussed scholarship as a driver of reputation and Bernie Black's critique of the new Harvard Record law school rankings, Vic alluded to an "X Factor" (and read the comments!), and Christine, citing some preliminary numbers, suggested that the X Factor might be faculty blogging. My first post also argued that SSRN may be a better barometer of faculty productivity than most people realize.

So let’s think about translating some of these thoughts into a concrete strategy. Personally, I think there is more to a great law school than just its faculty publication record, but I’ll concede that “more and better” scholarship (however one defines it) is an integral part of most law schools’ strategic plans. Thus, assuming scholarship is the goal, here is one approach that is sure to horrify many readers—a numbers-driven appointments committee.

This seemingly radical idea was first suggested by Paul Caron and Rafael Gely in a well-known book review of Moneyball. 82  Tex. L. Rev. 1483 (2004).  The operative strategy is identical to Billy Beane’s famous management of the Oakland Athletics: Since most baseball teams (law schools) lack the budget of the New York Yankees (Harvard), the general manager (appointments committee) needs to find baseball players (teaching candidates) who are undervalued by the market.

To illustrate how this might play out in the AALS hiring market, consider the relative attractiveness of four hypothetical candidates:

  • Candidate A has a JD from Yale, Yale Law Journal editor, prestigious judicial clerkship, three published articles, including a student note.
  • Candidate B has the same sterling credentials as A but only one published article, no student note and a work-in-progress.
  • Candidate C has a JD from Stanford, a PhD in a social science discipline, a work-in-progress but no student note or other publications.
  • Candidate D went to a Top 15 law school, no clerkship, was an editor on a secondary law journal, but has three published articles, including a student note.

Caron & Gely’s compared several background characteristics of Leiter’s 50 most-cited young scholars with a random sample of professors who were hired at roughly the same time at comparably ranked law schools. Though their methodology (simple t-tests of means) is too simplistic to yield definitive results, it is worth noting that only two variables had any predictive power for “more and better” scholarship: (1) number of articles before first tenure-track job, and (2) publication of a student note. Judicial clerkships, law review membership, rank of graduating institution, other graduate degrees, and teaching experience were not significant predictors.

Under the typical hiring committee heuristics, however, Candidate A will get lots of AALS interviews, but there will be significant disagreements over B, C, and D. Many committees will prefer B and C because of pedigree (Top 3 law school, PhD, clerkship, law review, etc.). But Caron’s & Gely’s statistics suggest that A and D, because of their publication records, are better bets than B and C. Thus, a number-driven appointments committee would search out more D’s and less B’s and C’s. (Note that many schools will vainly chase after too many A's.)

I suspect that many faculty members would have a hard time biting the credentials bullet—even if that is clearly the source of the market inefficiency. (Remember the catcher in Moneyball with great stats that the scouts didn’t want because he was “huge in the [posterior]”?)

Caron and Gely ultimately need a more sophisticated methodology (e.g., a multivariate regression model with a larger sample and more refined control variables) to better demonstrate the potential of a Moneyball strategy. But their initial analysis suggests that the traditional heuristics may indeed be overvaluing and undervaluing candidates in predictable ways. Further, the Black & Caron study suggests that SSRN downloads may have some ability to predict future citations. See p. 47, tbl. 10.

If Caron & Gely did collect the data for a refined study, would they publish the results in a law review (or, worse yet, a blog)? There might be more at stake here than a burst of SSRN downloads.

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November 08, 2005
Why SSRN might be a superior measure of faculty productivity
Posted by Bill Henderson

Many thanks to Gordon, Christine and Vic for inviting me to guest blog at Conglomerate. I really appreciate the opportunity. Without further ado, this post argues that SSRN downloads may be a much better proxy for faculty productivity and performance than most people realize. Let me get a couple of ideas onto the table. 

Bernie Black’s and Paul Caron’s Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance   systematically compares SSRN download data with three other measures of faculty productivity: (1) citations counts, (2) quantity and placement of faculty scholarship, and (3) reputational surveys. Despite “blogger bias” and other factors that can skew SSRN downloads in ways unrelated to merit (however one defines it), Black and Caron show that SSRN downloads are, nonetheless, highly correlated with the traditional measures of faculty performance.

In a short commentary on the Black & Caron study, Ted Eisenberg acknowledges the innovation and efficiency of SSRN’s system. But he also points out that SSRN downloads have lower intercorrelations with the reputation, publication, and citation metrics when the cohort is limited to Top 10 to Top 20 law schools—i.e., peer institutions that actually “compete for students and faculty.” Eisenberg therefore contends that SSRN downloads are missing key information that is captured by the other, more established measures (e.g., citation counts use Westlaw’s TP-ALL, which has broader subject matter coverage).

Here is a comparison of intercorrelations drawn from one Eisenberg’s key tables.

Measure of Scholarly Performance

Correlation with SSRN Downloads

Correlation with Leiter Reputation

SSRN Downloads



Leiter Reputation



US News Reputation



Lindgren & Seltzer Top 20 Journals



Leiter Top 10 Journals + books



Eisenberg & Wells Citation Count



Leiter Citation Count



* p ≤ .05

Obviously, the SSRN correlation coefficients are lower than those for the Leiter’s Reputation Ranking. The other non-SSRN intercorrelations are similar. (See Eisenberg table 1C).

So Eisenberg may be right: SSRN may be missing key information. On the other hand, it is also possible that the other measures of faculty performance—reputation, publications, and citation counts—all share an irrelevant confound that inflates their intercorrelations.

Consider the following causal chain:

  1. Faculty reputation is a “sticky” variable. The first US News ranking in 1987 (limited to Top 20) was based on survey of 183 law school deans. Eighteen years later the same 16 are still the Top 16. They’ve played musical chairs a bit, but the inner circle has stayed the same.
  2. Law review editors are relatively risk averse and, all else equal, will favor professors from more prestigious law schools. This is the well-known letterhead bias. And, as just noted, the pecking order hasn’t changed too much over time.
  3. Some law professors, especially those trying to write their way up the hierarchy, will be reluctant to cite articles in less prestigious journals. If professors at the Top 20 (30, 40?) publish in the Top 20 (30, 40?), then many professors will, consciously or unconsciously, favor citations to the Top 20 (30, 40?).

If such a prestige bias exists (#1 affects #2, #2 affects #3, #3 reinforces #1), then the non-SSRN intercorrelations are destine to be inflated.

In contrast, SSRN downloads may not suffer from the same prestige bias, or at least not to the same degree. If the abstract makes an intelligent pitch, the article is in your field, it has not yet been published by a law review (i.e., there is uncertainty as to substantive or signaling quality), there is a strong incentive to download it. Timeliness, subject matter relevance, and anonymity encourage scholars to read the work of others at less prestigious schools in order to remain competitive.

In such an environment, SSRN downloads can be a good way to identify underplaced scholars. Further, law schools with SSRN downloads far in excess of their US News rankings (see Black & Caron, table 15) may have figured out markers for productive scholars that more elite schools tend to ignore. And all the data is there, right before our eyes.

In my next post, I will tie this topic into Paul Caron’s & Rafael Gely’s insightful Moneyball analysis.

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October 25, 2005
Corporate Law Paper Downloads
Posted by Gordon Smith

I have been neglecting the top corporate law paper downloads, so let me try to restart this train. The top papers for this week are listed below, with the number of downloads over the past 60 days in parentheses. Ron Gilson seems to have a stranglehold on the top position, and Vic has been locked in the Top 5 since we started this feature. A tie at #5 features Steve Bainbridge and an interesting paper by my wife's cousin's husband, Jeff Doyle. (Hi, Jeff!)

That paper deals with the quality of accounting accruals and concludes, "internal control appears to be one of the fundamental drivers of accruals quality, with weaknesses indicating poorly estimated accruals that are not realized as cash flows." By the way, this paper was made possible by Sarbanes-Oxley, which forced firms to report weaknesses in internal controls. Back in April, I caught a lot of grief for this post, in which I criticized the accounting profession for dragging its feet on internal controls. This paper confirms what we all suspected, namely, that the accounting numbers are importantly influenced by the quality of internal controls:

[O]ur paper provides evidence on the effectiveness of Sarbanes-Oxley, specifically Sections 302 and 404. These sections have been among the most cumbersome sections of the new legislation, with many critics alleging that the compliance costs far exceed any benefits. This paper provides evidence of a potential benefit of these sections by showing that material weakness disclosures are associated with real economic events (i.e., higher accruals quality). Moreover, these required disclosures point out to investors and regulators which firms may have lower accrual quality—beyond that predicted by innate firm characteristics. This finding complements recent studies that show significant market reactions to these disclosures ... and provides evidence on one element these disclosures might be conveying—that these firms are more likely to have poor accruals quality.

Obviously, this does not resolve the issue of the proper level of regulation of internal controls, but it does highlight the importance of the issue.

Ok, here are the papers for this week:

1. (331) Controlling Shareholders and Corporate Governance: Complicating the Comparative Taxonomy, Ronald J. Gilson, Stanford Law School.

2. (237) Do Managers Withhold Bad News?, S.P. Kothari, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School of Management; Susan Shu, Boston College; Peter D. Wysocki, MIT Sloan School of Management.

3. (205) Brand New Deal: The Google IPO and the Branding Effect of Corporate Deal Structures, Victor Fleischer, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

4. (181) Insider Trading, News Releases and Ownership Concentration, Jana P. Fidrmuc, Finance Group, Warwick Business School; Marc Goergen, Sheffield University Management School; Luc Renneboog, Tilburg University - Department of Finance.

5. (176) Accruals Quality and Internal Control over Financial Reporting, Jeffrey T. Doyle, University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business; Weili Ge, University of Michigan - Ross School of Business; Sarah E. McVay, New York University - Leonard N. Stern School of Business.

5. (176) Shareholder Activism and Institutional Investors, Stephen M. Bainbridge, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

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October 19, 2005
Scholarship's Social Layer
Posted by Joe Miller

The Yale Law Journal's launch of a bloglike "online companion" for the Journal, called The Pocket Part, has generated a well-deserved bit of blogobuzz.  It quickly generated reportage posts by Stephen Bainbridge, Ben Barros, Heidi Bond, Orin Kerr, Dan Markel, and Larry Solum.  Like others, I'm delighted to see this development.  And, just at it did for Paul Horwitz, Pocket Part prompts me to think about how internet-based technologies that lower the costs of collaboration could spark new socially-produced scholarship or scholarship tools ... in short, how the scholarship's social layer may grow.  Paul muses on the Wiki-Treatise.  Matthew Bodie has a paper at SSRN about an open-source approach to the casebook.  My own hope?  Social tagging for scholarly papers.  More below the fold ...

Existing social tagging technology and practice, on sites such as Flickr (for photos) and (for web bookmarks), show the power of letting users grow a social layer to comment on the content layer in a way that organizes the content.

Now that others (besides Westlaw and Lexis) present electronic versions of scholarly articles, I start to wonder:  Can we bring social tagging to legal scholarship?  I've been looking around for this phenomenon in other scholarly fields and have not yet seen it.  But I'm going to keep searching.

Why?  What's the point?  Well, my own motivation is that I think keyword searching within the text of an article is far too crude a search tool, but it is all that Westlaw and Lexis offer.  Social tagging strikes me as a much more nuanced and powerful search tool.  And I know that I would add tags, sharing with my colleagues in the hope they would share with me, to make my research time far more productive as the social layer grows.

Perhaps Westlaw or Lexis will roll out a user-based social tagging system at some point.  Perhaps repositories like SSRN and Berkeley Electronic Press will beat them to it.  In the interim, I hope that individual law reviews themselves will think about doing so.  Many of them already host electronic copies of the articles they publish.  Wouldn't it be simple to, e.g., generate a tag cloud from the text of each article for a baseline tag set, then use social tagging tech to let users generate a second tag set thereafter?  The law reviews that make their articles more usable with a rich social tag set will doubtless attract more readers, which may boost citations to those articles in other articles.

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October 09, 2005
Corporate Law Paper Downloads
Posted by Gordon Smith

In this week's corporate law downloads from SSRN, Vic's Google paper has moved up to #2. Congrats, Vic!

I am also intrigued by this week's #4 paper, which compares firms that restated their financials with firms that did not. Most corporate governance variables that one might look to as an explanation for the difference turn out not to have explanatory value, but the authors find that "the probability of an accounting restatement is greater for firms where legal and contractual provisions limit shareholder rights and thus encourage management entrenchment." Hmm. Sounds like those of us who have been promoting shareholder rights have another arrow in the quiver.

Here are the Top 5 downloaded corporate law papers over the past 60 days:

1. [253 downloads] Controlling Shareholders and Corporate Governance: Complicating the Comparative Taxonomy by Ronald J. Gilson (Stanford Law School)

2. [173 downloads] Brand New Deal: The Google IPO and the Branding Effect of Corporate Deal Structures by Victor Fleischer (UCLA School of Law)

3. [172 downloads] Dividend Policy and the Earned/Contributed Capital Mix: A Test of the Lifecycle Theory by Harry DeAngelo (USC Marshall School of Business), Linda DeAngelo (USC Marshall School of Business), and René M. Stulz (Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.

4. [146 downloads] Strong Boards, Management Entrenchment, and Accounting Restatement by William R. Baber (The George Washington University - Department of Accountancy), Sok-Hyon Kang (The George Washington University), and Lihong Liang (The George Washington University - Department of Accountancy)

5. [143 downloads] Takeovers in the Ivory Tower: How Academics are Learning Martin Lipton May be Right by Lynn A. Stout (UCLA School of Law)

UPDATE: I fixed the download numbers on the first three papers.

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October 06, 2005
University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series
Posted by Gordon Smith

I am very pleased to announce the creation of the University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series. Allison Christians and I will be editing the series, which will feature scholarship from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Our site currently contains only 46 papers, but even that can keep you busy for a whole weekend. More to come soon. 

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October 02, 2005
Fab Five Corporate Law Paper Downloads
Posted by Gordon Smith

Following the path blazed by Paul Caron for tax papers, I have decided to offer a weekly glimpse at the top corporate law paper downloads, as calculated by SSRN. As it turns out, I chose a propitious week to start this feature, as our own Vic Fleischer appears on the list for his branding paper. Vic's paper is the most recently posted among the Fab Five, so we might see him moving up in subsequent weeks.

1. [197 downloads] Controlling Shareholders and Corporate Governance: Complicating the Comparative Taxonomy by Ronald J. Gilson (Stanford Law School)

2. [191 downloads] The Superiority of an Ideal Consumption Tax over an Ideal Income Tax by Joseph Bankman (Stanford Law School) and David A. Weisbach (University of Chicago Law School)

3. [172 downloads] In Search of Distress Risk by John Y. Campbell (Harvard University Department of Economics), Jens D. Hilscher (Harvard University), and Jan Szilagyi (Harvard University)

4. [159 downloads] Dividend Policy and the Earned/Contributed Capital Mix: A Test of the Lifecycle Theory by Harry DeAngelo (USC Marshall School of Business), Linda DeAngelo (USC Marshall School of Business), and René M. Stulz (Ohio State University Fisher College of Business)

5. [159 downloads] Brand New Deal: The Google IPO and the Branding Effect of Corporate Deal Structures by Victor Fleischer (UCLA School of Law)

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