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New 'most-cited' legal scholars list includes big names, few women

2 minute read

REUTERS/Toby Melville

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  • Several former U.S. Supreme Court justices appear on top 50 ranking
  • But only two women academics made the cut

(Reuters) - Retired federal appellate judge and law professor Richard Posner is the most cited U.S. legal scholar on record, followed by Harvard University law professor Cass Sunstein, and the late New York University law professor Ronald Dworkin.

That’s according to Yale Law librarian Fred Shapiro, who analyzed the law review article and book citations of thousands of legal academics and jurists for a new list of the 50 most-cited legal scholars of all time, which appears in the latest edition of the University of Chicago Law Review.

Shapiro’s list, which includes citations through 2020, includes many familiar names, including Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe at No. 4; former U.S. Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr and Antonin Scalia at Nos. 6 and 39, respectively; and former Yale law dean and federal appellate judge Guido Calabresi at No. 25.

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But it’s also generating discussion among legal academics about who’s all but missing from the list: women. University of Michigan law professor Catharine MacKinnon is No. 40. Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode, who died earlier this year, is the only other women to make the cut, at No. 45.

In his article, Shapiro cited the “historical scarcity” of women in the legal academy, prejudice against women law professors and the greater demands women face outside the workplace as reasons for the imbalance. But he said there is reason to believe that more women will join the ranks of most-cited legal scholars in the coming years.

A separate list he compiled of the 20 most-cited legal scholars born in 1970 or later includes six women, with New York University law professor Rachel Barkow and Yale law professor Oona Hathaway landing in the top 10.

Shapiro’s analysis found that among the 50 most-cited legal scholars, most taught or teach at either the University of Chicago or Harvard, with 15 each, followed by Yale at 13. Seventeen of the scholars got their law degrees from Harvard followed by Yale with 16.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com

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