University of St. Thomas Study Ranks ‘Scholarly Impact' of top 70 U.S. Law School Faculties

The nation’s top 70 law school faculties – based on their “scholarly impact” – are ranked in a recently completed study by four professors of the University of St. Thomas School of Law. 

The study, “The Scholarly Impact of Law School Faculties,” ranked faculties at more than 200 American Bar Association-accredited law schools based on the number of law journal citations professors have received over the past five years.

St. Thomas is ranked 38th nationally  in the report.

The study was conducted by St. Thomas professors Valerie Aggerbeck, Debby Hackerson, Mary Wells and Gregory Sisk, the lead author.

“Scholarly Impact” builds on a study, published earlier this year by Brian Leiter, that ranked the top 25 ABA-accredited law schools. Leiter is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago Law School.

Sisk’s study used the same process as Leiter’s: Tenured faculty members from more than 200 accredited law schools were ranked individually according to their scholarly impact over the past five years. Each school then was ranked on a per capita basis.

Both studies had identical rankings for the top 25, with the law schools at Yale University, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, Stanford University and New York University taking the top spots.

Law schools that fell just outside the top 25 in Sisk’s study were, in order, Yeshiva University, Ohio State University, Boston University, Washington University and George Mason University.

“Scholarly impact measures have limitations, but they are one useful measure of the scholarly output and distinction of a law faculty” Sisk said. “One virtue of a scholarly impact measure is that it is a way for relatively new [law] schools that have done good hiring − like the University of St. Thomas [ranked 38], Chapman University [ranked 55], and the University of Nevada [ranked 40] − to measure what they have accomplished.  It is also useful for flagging more 'regional' law schools with unusually strong scholarly profiles.”

Six Catholic colleges and universities made the top 70. Of those schools, St. Thomas was ranked beneath only Georgetown University. The University of California – San Diego, Fordham University, the University of Notre Dame and Boston College also made the top 70.

Sisk said that there are many ways to measure the scholarly success and prominence of law school faculties. The nature of the study, he said, was to “explore whether other legal scholars are actually making use of [other’s] work in their own work.” He added that measuring scholarly impact is essential to answering the questions: “Is anyone listening? Are law schools succeeding in reaching their audience?”

Sisk is the Orestes A. Brownson Professor of Law at the St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minn., where he teaches courses in professional responsibility and civil procedure.

View a list of the top 70 law faculties for scholarly impact here.