The Exodus Continues at Chicago Law

One of the most underrated tools for monitoring and projecting law school rankings is to track the migration patterns of the country’s most prominent legal scholars. An influx of elite law school professors is sure to impact a program in ways both subtle and obvious. It can swing a candidate’s decision about where to attend (typically unlikely) but more importantly, it will certainly affect the all-important “peer evaluation” component of the U.S. News rankings. The flipside is true as well – when a school starts to lose its most highly regarded faculty members, it is certainly going to generate some negative results.

That’s why the University of Chicago has to be pretty bummed right now.

Richard Epstein – prominent legal scholar, prolific writer, king of market theory, and larger than life character – is leaving Chicago for NYU. This comes on the heels of Cass Sunstein (another legal giant) setting sail for Harvard earlier this year. And while Chicago has been effective at bringing in some entry level talent (Lior Strahilevitz and M. Todd Henderson, in particular), this is sure to affect the perception of other law school deans.

NYU, of course, gets a bump for the Epstein add, and their students are sure to enjoy the antics of one of the more interesting classroom forces alive. However, the larger impact of faculty hiring tends to center on cumulative trends. Harvard and Stanford remain the big gainers on this front, while Chicago now joins Yale as one of the schools in jeopardy of suffering a systemic blow due to hiring patterns.

Something to keep an eye on for sure, as anything that moves the needle in the rankings department is sure to eventually effect degree prestige, employment trends, admissions prospects, and everything else that JDs truly care about.

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