July 29, 2009


To begin with, let me share an interesting telephone conversation I had several weeks ago, plus two more that followed. On June 23, I received a call from someone at #%$*^# Law School [name redacted, but it is a public law school ranked in US News’s Top 25]. The caller, an employee of that school, asked me if I could provide him with the names of the chair of our faculty hiring committee and the most recently tenured professor (“MRTP”). I asked him why he wanted these names, and he told me that his school planned to send promotional literature to these two faculty members, and also to the dean and associate dean for academic affairs.

For those who haven’t already figured this out, these are the four faculty members who will soon be receiving ballots from US News in connection with next year’s law school rankings. Soon after I had this conversation, two other law schools called me to ask the same question. . . . o, what do you think we might want to send to prospective US News voters? Simple but warm congratulatory notes to every MRTP in the nation? Flowers? Gift cards? ITunes cards? Don’t laugh about that one — at least one other law school has reportedly been sending ITunes cards to would-be law students as a way of improving its student selectivity numbers.

Or just cash. . . .

UPDATE: A reader emails:

Hi Prof. Reynolds:

As you can tell by my e-mail, I work for —- Law School. I am one of the faculty assistants; we sort the incoming mail for the professors. We get a LOT of mail from law schools looking to advance in the U.S. News Rankings – and I’ve worked for both faculty hiring committee chairs and new professors, so I know that this is a lot of mail, everything from postcards and brochures to law school alumni magazines.

If I could say just one thing to all law schools who do this, and the deans who think it’s a good idea: STOP. It is a bad idea. It has no effect on your rankings, and in all likelihood it’s hurting them. The professors who receive this pile of extra junk mail call it “law porn.” Every professor that I know of who gets these instructs us assistants to put it all straight into the trash. They call it a waste of paper – very expensive glossy paper. One told me that it’s actually a negative – the more law porn a school sends him, the more he marks it down on the rankings – and I’m not sure he was kidding. Most of it is academic conference brochures for schools on the other coast in subjects the professors receiving them do not teach in. 50+ page alumni magazines are probably the biggest wastes. But one law school went the extra mile and actually sent separate postcards announcing each of its new faculty hires for the last year, four or five in all, which particularly annoyed the professors here. If these schools want to improve their US News rankings, it’d probably be better to take the money spent on this law porn, which nobody will read, and use it for something else that does improve rankings – more library volumes, for instance. Or better professors.

If you post this (and I hope you do, you’re our only hope), please leave out my name and the school I work for.

Okay, but if I’m you’re only hope, well . . . .

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