Rethinking Law School Tenure Standards

From the abstract for Adam S. Chilton, Jonathan S. Masur & Kyle Rozema, Rethinking Law School Tenure Standards (Jan. 31, 2019):

Academic departments decide on tenure standards with limited evidence about their accuracy and efficacy. We study the implications of stricter tenure standards in law schools, an environment in which 95 percent of all tenure track hires receive tenure. To do so, we construct a novel dataset of the articles and citation counts of 1,720 law professors who were granted tenure at top-100 law schools between 1970 and 2007. We first show that pre-tenure research records are highly predictive of future academic impact. We then simulate the costs and benefits of applying stricter tenure standards using predictions of law professors’ future academic impact at the time of their tenure decision. Of faculty members not tenured under stricter standards, only 5 percent have greater future academic impacts than their counterfactual replacements. Moreover, increasing tenure denials by 10 percentage points would increase the academic impact of a school’s median professor by over 50 percent.

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