One Pill Makes You Larger: Flaws in Sisk’s Westlaw Methodology Illustrated with Leiter’s Citations

The Sisk-Leiter rankings of scholarly impact use a Westlaw search to determine a scholar’s citation count. However, the search does not review the citations to determine if they actually are citations to a scholar’s work rather than other hits such as blog posts (whether authored by the scholar or by another on the scholar’s eponymous blog), citations to works by others in books that the scholar edited, citations to the work of other scholars who only mention the scholar under study (such as a citation in a work to the work of a scholar that had reviewed the book of the scholar under study), media mentions, or author acknowledgements for comments not eliminated by the search term, such as those that appear in footnotes or the body of the article. I use citations to Brian Leiter’s work to show that the Sisk-Leiter Westlaw citation count is overstated by about 40% in Leiter’s case, with 398 of 557 attributed cites being to citations to Leiter’s academic work. While Leiter’s case may be more upwardly biased than others because of his popular industry blog, the fact is that media mentions, citations to the works of others in edited volumes, and citations to works that discuss the scholar under study but are not cites directly to that work have an unknown bias that cannot be assumed away easily. Moreover, by ignoring cites in judicial opinions to scholarly work, the method as applied by Sisk undervalues the impact of scholars in some fields of more practical importance and, therefore, likely the scholarly impact and ranking of faculties with strong scholars in antitrust, bankruptcy, corporate and securities law. A combination of Westlaw (with judicial citations) and Google Scholar would provide more reliable results.

Ethics and the History of Social Movement Lawyering

In his article, Scott Cummings proposes that there existed an “old canon” concerning how to be a lawyer for progressive social justice causes, which has been replaced by a different “new canon” that envisions the role of movement lawyers quite differently. According to Cummings, old canon lawyering places courts “at the heart of the canonical stories.” New canon lawyering, on the other hand, involves using legal institutions other than courts and focuses on the intersection between law and politics. Cummings gives examples of the old and new ways of lawyering and also draws conclusions about what causes the momentum of social movements to slow. One of Cummings’ central arguments is that the critique of what he calls old canon lawyering is in many respects misplaced.

I wholeheartedly agree with Cummings’ thesis that much of the critique of the “old” way of engaging in social movement lawyering is misplaced; here I offer some additional or alternative reasons why. To sum up my argument, I do not believe there is much of a difference between old versus new perspectives on the range of appropriate strategies for social movement lawyering. Historically as today, social movement lawyers understood that sometimes courts are useful but sometimes they are not. Looking in the long view, so-called “old canon” lawyers have understood this just as “new canon” lawyers do. Instead, the most significant difference between the lawyering styles Cummings labels “old” versus “new” canon involves lawyers’ heightened sensitivity to the ethical problems that arise in social movement lawyering. I briefly develop these arguments below.

They’re Watching You: How the NCAA Infringes on the Freedom of Families

Not to pile on, but for a high visibility organization, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is truly unique in what it continues to get away with. The Association is so bold that it has normalized behavior that was deemed anachronistic centuries ago. 2 As March Madness fades from memory and the NFL draft looms on the horizon, it seems as good a time as any to remind ourselves of the many ways in which the NCAA is based on deeply troubling foundations. Sometimes by focusing on the low hanging fruit we miss some of the more bothersome and egregious injustices of the college system that disproportionately disfavors those who are most talented, poor, and of color.

This Essay argues that the NCAA’s surveillance of the family and enforcement of its rules amount to a sumptuary restraint on the families of talented NCAA athletes. In order to keep its cartel in place, the NCAA must bar not only the athlete but everyone in his family from extracting any value from his talent. Luxury purchases are in effect barred for poor families. This is where the NCAA’s enforcement and investigative arms step in. Disproportionately, the families of black athletes are put on notice that any signs of extravagant consumption (that is, beyond the level they should be able to afford) will lead to investigations and potential suspensions. At the moment when these families should be happiest, they have to worry lest they give off any appearance of living beyond their means. I argue that the NCAA’s rules disproportionately disadvantage poor individuals of color. This underscores the inherently unjust nature of the college sports system and the complicity required to keep it in place.