The Michigan Law Review has just published an article by myself and Michelle Pearse updating my 1985 study of “The Most-Cited Law Review Articles” (73 California Law Review 1540). The original study received considerable attention in the legal community and beyond (for example, a front-page profile of me in the Wall Street Journal). The new study is based on much more thorough and accurate data, from the very powerful databases of HeinOnline and Web of Science, and suggests a number of points about current trends in legal scholarship and the pecking order among top scholars and law schools.
The highlights of the Michigan Law Review article are tables of the 100 most-cited legal articles of all time and the 100 most-cited articles of the last twenty years (actually the top 5 most-cited articles published each of the years from 1990 to 2009). With the usual caveat that citation counts, although they have been shown to be highly correlated with subjective reputation, are imperfect in any number of ways as indications of quality or even influence, here are the top 20 most-cited pieces of all time:
1. 5157 R.H. Coase, The Problem of Social Cost, 3 J.L. & Econ. 1 (1960).
2. 3678 Samuel D. Warren & Louis D. Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193 (1890).
3. 3138 O.W. Holmes, The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457 (1897).
4. 2771 Gerald Gunther, The Supreme Court, 1971 Term — Foreword: In Search of Evolving Doctrine on a Changing Court: A Model for a Newer Equal Protection, 86 Harv. L. Rev. 1 (1972).
5. 2343 Herbert Wechsler, Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law, 73 Harv. L. Rev. 1 (1959).
6. 1980 Guido Calabresi & A. Douglas Melamed, Property Rules, Liability Rules, and Inalienability: One View of the Cathedral, 85 Harv. L. Rev. 1089 (1972).
7. 1874 Charles A. Reich, The New Property, 73 Yale L.J. 733 (1964).
8. 1794 Charles R. Lawrence III, The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection: Reckoning with Unconscious Racism, 39 Stan. L. Rev. 317 (1987).
9. 1701 William J. Brennan, Jr., State Constitutions and the Protection of Individual Rights, 90 Harv. L. Rev. 489 (1977).
10. 1653 Robert H. Bork, Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems, 47 Ind. L.J. 1 (1971).
11. 1600 Abram Chayes, The Role of the Judge in Public Law Litigation, 89 Harv. L. Rev. 1281 (1976).
12. 1580 Frank I. Michelman, Property, Utility, and Fairness: Comments on the Ethical Foundations of “Just Compensation” Law, 80 Harv. L. Rev. 1165 (1967).
13. 1538 William L. Prosser, The Assault upon the Citadel (Strict Liability to the Consumer), 69 Yale L.J. 1099 (1960).
14. 1485 Duncan Kennedy, Form and Substance in Private Law Adjudication, 89 Harv. L. Rev. 1685 (1976).
15. 1465 Stewart Macaulay, Non-Contractual Relations in Business: A Preliminary Study, 28 Am. Soc. Rev. 55 (1963).
16. 1370 Robert M. Cover, The Supreme Court, 1982 Term –Foreword: Nomos and Narrative, 97 Harv. L. Rev. 4 (1983).
17. 1299 Anthony G. Amsterdam, Perspectives on the Fourth Amendment, 58 Minn. L. Rev. 349 (1974).
18. 1286 Angela P. Harris, Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory, 42 Stan. L. Rev. 581 (1990).
19. 1236 Robert H. Mnookin & Lewis Kornhauser, Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: The Case of Divorce, 88 Yale L.J. 950 (1979).
20. 1224 John Hart Ely, The Wages of Crying Wolf: A Comment on Roe v. Wade, 82 Yale L.J. 920 (1973).
(The column of numbers on the left is the ranking. The second column is the total number of citations in HeinOnline as of November 2011, plus the total number of nonlegal citations in Web of Science as of November 2011.)