Academic departments decide on tenure standards with limited evidence about their accuracy and efficacy. We study the implications of stricter tenure standards in law schools, an environment in which 95 percent of all tenure track hires receive tenure. To do so, we construct a novel dataset of the articles and citation counts of 1,720 law professors who were granted tenure at top-100 law schools between 1970 and 2007. We first show that pre-tenure research records are highly predictive of future academic impact. We then simulate the costs and benefits of applying stricter tenure standards using predictions of law professors' future academic impact at the time of their tenure decision. Of faculty members not tenured under stricter standards, only 5 percent have greater future academic impacts than their counterfactual replacements. Moreover, increasing tenure denials by 10 percentage points would increase the academic impact of a school's median professor by over 50 percent.
Policies designed to increase the diversity of law review editors are being challenged in court. The lawsuits claim that, by "illegally us[ing] race and gender as criteria for selecting law students to staff their most elite academic journals," the law reviews have diminished the quality of the articles they publish. We test this claim by using citations as a measure of article quality and studying changes in diversity policies at the flagship law reviews of the top 20 law schools. Using data on the citations of articles published since 1960, we find no evidence that diversity policies meaningfully decrease the quality of articles published.
Political Discrimination in the Law Review Selection Process
Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics, No. 832 (2018) (with Jonathan Masur & Kyle Rozema)
The career trajectories of law professors and the dissemination of knowledge depend on the publication decisions of law review editors. However, these publication decisions are shrouded in mystery, and little is known about the factors that affect them. In this article, we investigate one potentially important factor: political ideology. To do so, we match data on the political ideology of student editors from 15 top law reviews over a 15 year period to data on the political ideology of the authors of accepted articles. We find that editors accept articles in part because of shared political ideology with authors. That is, conservative editors are more likely to accept articles written by conservative authors, and liberal editors are more likely to accept articles written by liberal authors. We then investigate potential explanations for this ideological discrimination. One possibility is that student editors simply have a preference for publishing articles that promote their political ideology. Another possibility is that student editors are objectively better at assessing the contribution of articles written by authors with shared ideology. We find evidence that the ideological discrimination is driven by student editors’ superior ability to ascertain the quality of articles that match their own ideology.