Law faculty blogs also have the capacity to disrupt law school rankings.
US News uses a variety of factors to rank law schools. The single largest component is reputation, with 25% from other academics and 15% from practitioners and judges. These scores are generally thought to depend upon the scholarly reputation of a law school’s faculty. Scholarly reputation in turn depends upon the quality and placement of scholarship, something evidenced through publication in elite journals. Reputational rank is notoriously hard to change and for the most part remains constant over time.
Assessing a faculty, whatever the basis, is not easy. With approximately 200 law schools, many schools and their faculty are not particularly well known. In those circumstances, reputation can depend upon incomplete information, often unrelated to the actual quality of the law school. In other instances, law schools (and their faculty) are well known but they nonetheless seek to improve their relative rank. In both cases, law schools engage in marketing campaigns designed to promote a school’s reputation. Expensive, the approach favors those schools with the resources necessary to embark on an effective campaign.
Blogging has the capacity to improve a law school’s reputation in two ways. For less well known schools, blogging can increase name recognition. These law schools can benefit both from blogs that contain substantive posts and blogs that emphasize description over analysis. This might occur, for example, on blogs that focus on timely disclosure of legal developments, something that can attract attention from practitioners, academics, and others seeking to remain substantively current. While these blogs may duplicate functions already performed by non-academics such as law firms, they provide a useful service that will help elevate awareness of the relevant law school.
Law schools already well known will benefit primarily from blogs that emphasize substantive analysis. Particularly when writing for a widely read law blog, faculty can become better known among academics, judges, and practitioners, all of whom fill out the reputational survey circulated by US News. With a significant Internet footprint, they can be located through the use of search engines, something commonly used by the press.