The Canseco Effect in the Legal Academy?

Josh Wright —  8 November 2007

Eric Gould and Todd Kaplan have posted an interesting paper (highlighted at the WSJ Economics Blog) identifying the “Canseco Effect.”  They test baseball player Jose Canseco’s impact on his teammates productivity in response to Canseco’s assertion in his book that he made he improved his teammates’ performance by introducing them to steroids.  Turns out he was right about the improved performance.  Gould & Kaplan find that teammates’ performance did in fact increase after playing with Canseco, an impact which they report is quite rare in baseball.  Whether it was a result of introduction to steroids or some alternative mechanism is up to debate. 

All of this got me thinking about whether the general idea that a particular worker increases his teammates’ productivity is one that might apply well to the law school faculty setting.  Ignore the salacious steroid angle here.  I’m not talking about faculty members introducing their colleagues to technologies that will improve their productivity.  But I find it quite plausible that there exist faculty members that make the entire faculty better off in tangible terms like productivity.  This could happen through a number of mechanisms: (1) a highly productive colleague might simply push you to work harder (though this would be difficult to disentangle from a general culture of productivity); (2) a colleague’s willingness to talk through problems and research ideas might help you produce faster and with higher quality; (3) a colleague with expertise in some area complementary to your own, think econometrics, might help you work through basic empirical approaches to your own work or co-author with you.  I hypothesize that the Canseco Effect in the legal academy would be more frequent than in baseball (but less than basketball) though still relatively rare.  There must be a handful of scholars with this type of impact on their colleagues.  The data are out there.  This seems like information a hiring committee would want to know.