What’s the best way to measure a law school’s scholarly impact? If you guessed that it involved calculating tenured professors’ citations, then you’d be right. In fact, U.S. News thought this was such a great idea that the publication decided to turn it into a (now abandoned) law school ranking. For those who are truly interested in which law schools are the “best” when it comes to their professors’ scholarship, then have we got a new ranking for you.

Earlier this week, Professor Gregory Sisk of the University of St. Thomas released the most recent version of his closely-watched, long-awaited triennial ranking of the most-cited law school faculties, and there was some notable movement among the top 10 law schools this time around.

Behold, the top law schools for scholarly impact for 2021:

1. Yale
2. Chicago (+1)
3. Harvard (-1)
4. NYU
5. Columbia
6. Stanford
6. UC Berkeley (+1)
8. Penn (+1)
9. UVA (+7)
9. Vanderbilt (+1)

Chicago has overtaken Harvard, and Sisk notes that this is likely due to the recent retirements of several highly cited Harvard law professors since 2018. UVA shot up in the rankings like a rocket, a move that Sisk refers to as “striking.” Here are more interesting facts about this year’s scholarly impact ranking:

The law schools with the highest rises in the 2021 Scholarly Impact Ranking are American by 18 ordinal levels (to #46), Georgia up 15 positions (to #43), and Brooklyn up 11 positions (to #33).

Several law faculties achieve a Scholarly Impact Ranking in 2021 well above the law school rankings reported by U.S. News for 2022:

Vanderbilt (at #9) shows a significant gap with U.S. News Ranking (at #16). Among schools close to the top ten for Scholarly Impact, the University of California-Irvine (at #14) has the greatest incongruity with the 2022 U.S. News ranking at (#35).

In the Scholarly Impact top 25, George Washington University rises to #18 in Scholarly Impact, while lagging at #27 for U.S. News. Minnesota is also at #18 in Scholarly Impact, but at #22 in U.S. News. The University of California-Davis hits #22 in Scholarly Impact, while left well behind by U.S. News at #35. George Mason continues to be a Top 25 Scholarly Impact school at #23, while dropping in U.S. News to #41. Fordham also ranks at #23 for Scholarly Impact, but down at #35 for U.S. News.

The most dramatically under-valued law faculty remains the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), which continues to rank inside the top 25 (at #23) for Scholarly Impact or 2021, while being relegated by U.S. News below the top 100 (at #126)—a difference of 103 ordinal levels.

The new ranking also names the most-cited individual law professors over the course of the past five years. Here they are:

1. Erwin Chemerinsky (Berkeley)
2. Eric Posner (Chicago)
3. Mark Lemley (Stanford)

Congratulations to all of the law professors whose hard work made this ranking possible. The law schools you represent must surely appreciate your scholarship adding to their overall prestige.

Scholarly Impact of Law School Faculties in 2021: Updating the Leiter Score Ranking for the Top Third [SSRN]
These law schools are tops in scholarship [Reuters]

Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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