Foreign Influences and "Law Reviews Rankings" in Israeli Legal Scholarship
This paper examines the influence of American law on legal scholarship and legal education in Israel in light of the ranking of law reviews published by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law. I argue that law review rankings should not be an exclusive parameter in evaluating academic quality. I critically review the method of ranking as well as show that the quality of an article is not linked to the rank of the review in which it was published —which is at odds with an open, critical, and pluralistic approach to scholarship.
The Jerusalem Ranking—Background
In April 2012, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law published a ranking of American, some international, and Israeli law reviews (both published in English and in Hebrew) (Jerusalem Ranking). This ranking was conducted by a commission of Hebrew University Law Faculty professors of Law of Jerusalem—who also consulted scholars from other universities including those outside of Israel. Law reviews are ranked according to four categories: Category A includes the most highly reputed periodicals; category B are good law reviews; category C are intermediate level journals; and category D is logically, those less reputed. The ranking intends to mainly serve as reference (or perhaps a compulsory guide) in which to determine the promotion and tenure of faculty members and candidates through the law reviews and journals in which the publications appear. Accordingly, the higher the standard of the law review in which the candidate publishes, the greater the probability of the candidate being promoted in the faculty. As a matter of principle, this ranking is to be used by the Hebrew University; all other Israeli law schools are free to follow it or not.
The Jerusalem Ranking has been criticized by many Israel scholars (most significantly Prof. Reich and Prof. Sangero). In this paper, I refer to these critics and add some new considerations, including some personal aspirations for Israel law scholarship.
About the use of rankings in general
General speaking, rankings have both benefits and shortcomings. As with other disciplines, as well as law, rankings ensure a certain degree of equality between tenure candidates. A candidate who has published in reviews of high standing will likely have greater chances of being admitted than a candidate who has published articles in less qualified reviews. The use of rankings may allow faculty admittance commissions to judge the candidate without investing time and resources in analyzing every article in detail—thus saving resources. Rankings may have also positive influence upon editors—who will do their best to attract better articles and improve their review’s standing.
But rankings also involve a number of pitfalls. Relying only on rankings to choose staff can be limiting and counter-productive: A good scholar who has not succeed in publishing in top journals, may be hindered by the ranking of the law review; thus, her work is not judged by merit. Moreover, certain research subjects are considered "popular" and are more likely to be published in law reviews. Less “sexy” subjects may not be accepted by the top ranked reviews. Unlike the field of exact science in which international review rankings are acceptable, in the humanities, and certainly in law, the comparison between the level and quality of the review is troublesome since different trends, approaches, and legal traditions complicate an overhaul qualification.
Moreover, in the era of Google scholar, Westlaw, Lexis, SSRN, researchers’ home pages, Google search, etc. the importance of law reviews ranking should be reevaluated, and the rejection parameter may have a different meaning due to an advance in less traditional publication opportunities. Today, a meritorious article could be found, and consequently cited, regardless where it is published. Top scholars can be tempted to publish in less elite law-reviews, correctly assuming that the article will be read—and judged—by all those researching the topic on the web. The multitude of alternative publication options allows authors to eschew the tortuous acceptance and publication processes of refereed journals.
Apart from this general question regarding rankings modern relevance, the "Jerusalem ranking" also brings up particular questions related to Israeli scholarship and more broadly—Israeli legal culture.
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A final observation
Rankings develop a culture of competition between scholars, which is not necessarily bad in and of itself. Trying to publish in "high ranking" journals is likely to lead to more accomplished research. With that, rankings may develop a culture of conformism: In an attempt to conform and hence be accepted, the author may conform to the type of research, the subjects studied, the review’s ideology, its editorial patterns, its trends, and the subject the editors are interested in and in this manner loses all academic objectivity. Some scholars tend to develop a certain addiction to rankings. As other addictions this too can be dangerous. Scholars should not become slaves to rankings, especially when this does not necessarily serve good research and shows a wrong dependence on foreign legal culture.
Israeli Law researchers should not reject rankings; however, they only should be used as a point of reference for improving scholarship. In my view, reliance on rankings could be justified, but only so far that they do not become an obstacle to accepting that there are different approaches to law and recognizing there are different legal traditions.
* Academic Center of Law and Business- Ramat Gan.Thanks to Michele Manspeizer for her help in the edition of this paper See Boaz Sangero, In Condemn of the Jerusalem Ranking, ( May 2012 ) [ in Hebrew], available at http://hatraklin.org/2012/05/29/%D7%91%D7%92%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%9E%D7%93%D7%93-%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%9C%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%95%D7%95%D7%92-%D7%9B%D7%AA%D7%91%D7%99D7%A2%D7%AA-%D7%91%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%A4%D7%98/ .See also Alon Clement, Academic Quality and Competition Market, http://aklement.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/%D7%90%D7%99%D7%9B%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%90%D7%A7%D7%93%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%AA-%D7%95%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%A7-%D7%AA%D7%97%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%AA%D7%99/ (last visit June 2013) (Interestingly there was a site for the ranking, but at the time I wrote this paper, the site was not available to the public.) The ranking was accompanied by a report by the editors, http://Israelaw.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/d79ed793d793-d799d7a8d795d7a9d79cd799d79d-d793d799d79f-d795d797d7a9d791d795d79f.pdf (last visited June 11 , 2013).
 The intertwining of international and Israeli reviews in the same ranking is questionable, but the editors preferred to do so in order to prevent creating a double scale of values. Arieh Reich , The Intellectuals Betrayal, 16 Horech Hadin 40 (2012) [ in Hebrew]. See supra note 1. Reich and Sangero are not professors at the Hebrew University. During the annual symposium of Israeli Association of Law and Society held at the Academic Center of Law and Business on Dec. 20, 2012, a panel was held on the ranking. Even among Hebrew University Law School staff there is discord. For example Professor Alon Harel expressed his opposition to this ranking. See Russell Korobkin, Ranking Journals: Some Thoughts on Theory and Methodology, 26 Florida State University Law Review 851, 858 ff (1999). This is mitigated in specialist journals. See id. at 874. For example those who write according to a feminist approach to law may find that ranking does not contribute to feminist scholarship. See Joana Grossman, Feminism Law Reviews and Ranking Conundrum, 12 Columbia Journal of Gender 523 (2003). This article was written ten years ago; thus, I am unsure if the same assessment is true today. See Cameron Stracher, Reading, Writing and Citing: in Praise of Law Reviews, 52 N.Y. U. L. Rev. 349, 351 (2008). See Bernard Black & Paul Caron, Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance, 81 Indiana L. Rev. 83 (2006) (examining SSRN’s performance measure ability). See Carol Bast, Linda Samuels, Legal Studies Scholarship: Setting the Standard for Excellence, 26 J. Legal Stud. Edu. 263 (2009).
 See Denis Calhallan & Neal Devins, Law Reviews Article Placement: Benefit or Beauty Prize?, 56 J. Legal Stud. Edu. 375, 387 (2006).* * * * * In an interesting article, two professors scrutinized the American legal education system, arguing that it encourages competition and conformism. I think that to a certain extent this analysis could be extended to review rankings. Susan Sturn & Lani Guinier, The Law School Matrix: Reforming Legal Education in a Culture of Competition and Conformity, 60 Vanderbilt L. Rev. 515 (2007).
rankings can be used to create a status competition among journal editors that can, in turn, provide journal authors with an incentive to produce more valuable scholarly articles. Part III considers the merits of alternative ranking methodologies. It concludes that the desired incentives for editors and authors are best achieved if journals are ranked on the basis of expert evaluations of scholarly value where feasible, and otherwise on the basis of the frequency in which journals are cited in other publications. (Roger Korobkin, Ranking Journals: Some Thoughts on Theory and Methodology, Florida State Law Review 26:851, 853 (1999)).