Quick Reaction to the Leiter Poll on Best Faculties in Law and Economics

Josh Wright —  2 October 2009

Brian Leiter conducted a poll where voters (anybody, apparently could vote with a poll restricted to specialists to come later) could rank the top law and economics faculties from a list of the individual scholars on those faculties.  Here are the results followed by a few first impressions:

1.  Harvard University

2.  University of Chicago

3.  Yale University

4.  New York University

5.  University of California, Berkeley

6.  Columbia University

*7.  Stanford University

7.  University of Pennsylvania (tied with Stanford, but farther behind Columbia)

9.  University of Virginia

10. George Mason University

A few quick comments and first impressions.

The two schools in the top ten that strike me as relatively overrated in the general poll are Chicago and UVA.  I’m less convinced about UVA, but the declining prominence of law and economics at Chicago is something that (at least in the crowds I run with) is frequently discussed.  There are great people there!  No doubt top ten and probably top 5.  My view is that there is some path dependence here based on the reputation of the earlier Chicago L&E movement.  Underated?  Well, bias aside, I think that George Mason is better than number 10 — and that’s after losing Gordon Tullock and Vernon Smith.  Larry Ribstein suggests ranking by the number of econ PhD’s.  That definition has the benefit of ruling out the “anything that vaguely mentions incentives or markets counts as economics” approach — but its underinclusive as well because it would rule out a lot of very thoughtful work produced by lawyes without Ph.Ds.  GMU has 6, I believe.   I guess one could also use publication in a peer reviewed economics or L&E journal as a proxy but I’m not going to do the counting.  I also believe that Northwestern is underrated and should make an appearance in the middle of the top 10 somewhere.  Georgetown’s group with Steve Salop, Kathy Zeiler, Josh Teitelbaum and Howard Shelanski coming over from Berkeley (just mentioning the PhD’s I know off the top of my head so sorry if I missed someone!) also seems like it should be getting some play here.  I’d also bump Penn up several spots.

I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise but these are my first impressions.  It will be very interesting to see how the “specialist” poll comes out.  Others thoughts?

One response to Quick Reaction to the Leiter Poll on Best Faculties in Law and Economics


    Do you feel that Harvard is deserving of the top spot? Not that I’m an expert, but I would think Berkeley is the best of the lot, with Chicago definitely being overrated.