The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


What if the Volokh Conspiracy Bloggers Were a Law School Faculty? [Updated with a methodological correction]

The Volokh Law School "faculty" would outscore all but one other law school in the most recent Leiter ranking of law schools by scholarly impact.


The latest Brian Leiter law faculty "scholarly impact" ranking based on law journal citation counts of each school's top ten tenured faculty is now out. This ranking was first developed by University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter, but is now conducted by Prof. Gregory Sisk and two of his colleagues at the University of St. Thomas Law School (here is their complete paper). Yale Law School came out on top with a mean of 540 citations for its tenured profs in the years covered by the study (2013-17) and a median of 394. But what if the the Volokh Conspiracy bloggers were a law faculty? If so, we would outperform all the schools on the list, except for Yale. The Sisk article lists the top 10 for each of the schools it considers. Here are the scores for the top 10 regular VC contributors who are tenured law professors themselves (I apologize if I have inadvertently missed someone).

Orin Kerr: 1316
Eugene Volokh: 1280
Randy Barnett: 1064
Jonathan H. Adler: 637
Ilya Somin: 595
David Bernstein: 480
Todd Zywicki: 387
Will Baude: 299
Paul Cassell: 282
David Post: 250

While I have copied the Leiter-Sisk methodology as precisely as possible, there are likely some minor errors in these figures. And they probably include a few 2017 cites that may not have been in the database yet when Prof. Sisk and his coauthors conducted their citation counts in May of this year. Still, the VC's score (counting both the people listed above and several other regular VC contributors who are tenured law professors) comes out to a mean of 500 and a median of 299. Our combined score, using the Leiter scale (doubling the mean and adding the median), would be 1299. That tops all schools on the list, except for Yale. Harvard is currently second on the list with a score of 1252. And that does not even factor in such points as that several of us are much younger than the top ten profs at Yale and other such schools, so have not had as much time to accumulate cite-producing articles and books.

Also, only one of us (Baude) is at a school ranked in the top ten in the more conventional US News ranking, and there is probably some school-prestige bias in citations. George Mason University's law faculty, home to several of the VC bloggers (including myself) is ranked no. 41 in US News, but a much higher no. 19 in the Leiter scholarly impact ranking.

With these ten people, plus the rest of the VC crew, we can cover nearly all major law school classes. The putative Volokh Law School faculty has major publications/teaching experience in constitutional law, property, contracts, torts, legislation, law and economics, antidiscrimination law, bankruptcy, environmental law, international law, intellectual property, cyberlaw, criminal law, speech, law and religion, and much else. We have also written about many other less conventional subjects, including piracy, slippery slopes, and the politics of Star Wars! If necessary, we can hire additional faculty/conspirators to fill any pesky gaps in the curriculum. And if you think the Volokh Law School would lack intellectual diversity by virtue of being too "right-wing," I will point out that Hillary Clinton got virtually the same percentage of the known VC vote (45%) as the national popular vote (48%), and Trump got a lot less VC support (9%) than popular support (46%).

All we need to establish one of the most productive law school faculties in the land is an elite university that does not yet have a law school and can endow the Volokh Law School (or perhaps it should be called the Conspiracy Law School), and appoint Senior Conspirator Eugene Volokh as the first dean. Dartmouth, Brown, Princeton, Rice, etc., this is a deal you can't pass up!

Sadly, there probably will never be a Volokh Law School. But it's an interesting thought experiment nonetheless!

Note: Co-blogger David Bernstein first looked at the VC bloggers as a possible law faculty in a 2008 post, using the standards of an earlier version of the Leiter study. His post gave me the idea for this one.

UPDATE: VC blogger and University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell points out that he scores a 282 on the Leiter-Sisk scale, and therefore would be in our top ten. I am sorry to have overlooked him, and have now corrected that mistake.

UPDATE #2: In the initial version of this post, I misunderstood the Leiter-Sisk ranking as being based on the mean and median of the top 10 tenured faculty at the school. It is in fact based on the mean and median of all tenured professors. I have duly corrected the VC score to include all tenured professors who, over the last couple years, have contributed at least somewhat regularly to the blog (a total of fifteen people, by my count). This correction would make the hypothetical VC Law School "only" the second-most impactful in the US, rather than the first. I apologize for my mistake.