Law professors aim to show value of diversity in new study

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Articles published by student-run law reviews were cited more often after they adopted diversity policies for selecting editors, according to a study that will be published in the Columbia Law Review.

The study, which was released Saturday, examined nearly 13,000 articles published by the main law reviews of the 20 most prestigious law schools over a 60-year period.

It found that law reviews with race-conscious policies—such as setting aside a number of spots for minority editors or requiring the minority composition of the law review to be proportional to the minority composition of the student body—saw the median citations to their volumes increase by about 23% in the five years after they adopted the policies.

“These findings have implications well beyond the law review setting,” the study concluded. “If diverse groups of student editors perform better than nondiverse groups, it lends credibility to the idea that diverse student bodies, diverse student organizations, diverse faculties, diverse teams of attorneys and diverse teams of employees generally could perform better than nondiverse teams.”

The New York Times reported on the results of the study. It was conducted by Adam Chilton and Jonathan S. Masur, two professors at the University of Chicago Law School; Justin Driver, a professor at Yale Law School; and Kyle Rozema, a professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

The professors said in the study they sought to assess the “diversity rationale,” as prominent scholars and jurists continue to call into question its empirical basis, “claiming that it is a mere hypothesis, and an implausible, unsupported one at that.”

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will discuss whether to hear a challenge to Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies. Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group that opposes affirmative action, is asking the justices to consider overruling Grutter v. Bollinger, an earlier case in which the Supreme Court held that the University of Michigan Law School’s use of racial preferences in admissions satisfied strict scrutiny.

Students for Fair Admissions is also asking justices to consider whether Harvard’s admissions process violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an affirmative action program at the University of Texas. However, according to the New York Times, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in the dissent in the case that the university’s main argument “is that merely invoking ‘the educational benefits of diversity’ is sufficient and that it need not identify any metric that would allow a court to determine whether its plan is needed to serve, or is actually serving, those interests.”

Chilton told the New York Times that the idea of counting how often scholarly articles are cited to analyze their effect is widely accepted.

“It’s considered in hiring and promotion decisions,” he said. “It’s certainly something academics themselves think about. Law review editors are all aware that they want their volumes to be cited and worry when making article selection decisions whether the topic will be general enough to be widely cited.”

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