By Craig Forcese

Full Professor
Faculty of Law

Email: cforcese[at]uottawa.ca

Twitter: @cforcese

 

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Thursday
Mar262015

The Law Professor as Public Citizen: Measuring Public Engagement in Canadian Common Law Schools

Before I knew I would soon be "living the dream", I decided to embark on a data-rich study of "public engagement" by Canada's 600 common law professors.  After seemingly endless hours reviewing law school websites and number crunching on Excel, the results are now going to print, (2015) 36 Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues, and I have posted the penultimate version to SSRN here.  Readers should be attentive to the important methodological caveats I include in the article.  The results should be considered more for what they tend to rebut than what they prove.  Nevertheless, my hope is that my article will help, in a small way, make empiricism fashionable in law school decision-making.

The abstract reads:

This article asks whether there is room for the law professor/public citizen in today’s law schools. It does so by measuring indicators of professor “public engagement” with constituencies outside of academia, such as government, civil society and media. As evidence for its inquiry, the article reviews a comprehensive data set collected from the public web profiles of Canada’s 600 full, associate and assistant common law professors. These data suggest that common law professor public engagement remains part of the tradition of the Canadian legal academy. More than that, there is no support for the view that public engagement diminishes scholarly productivity. Nor is there evidence that mainstream media participation distracts professors from conventional scholarship – in fact, the most media active professors appear to have above average net publication tempos. In terms of institutional implications, public engagement does no harm to law school reputation, and indeed there is a moderate positive correlation between the net level of public engagement represented on law professor web profiles and reputational rankings, such as they are. The connection between media presence and institutional reputation is more complex, and there are data suggesting little positive correlation between reputation and media presence. However, when one potentially anomalous case of a law school with a striking media footprint but a lower reputational scores is discounted, there is a moderate positive correlation between a law school’s media presence and reputational rankings. In sum, until a more comprehensive survey is undertaken, this article constitutes the best available evidence that law professors can be (and often are) teacher/scholar/public citizen.