Moneyball As a Metaphor for Restructuring Law Schools

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Written by Hazel Weiser

I just finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis, although I haven’t seen the film yet, which is up for six Oscars on Sunday night.  As someone uninterested in sports (except for basketball), I couldn’t quite understand why I was so intrigued by a book about baseball and statistics.  And I mean engrossed in this book, reporting like an eager third grader every night at dinner as I delved deeper into the Oakland A’s dugout.   Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt in the film, decides to use a different schema for recruiting and retaining ball players during the 2002 baseball season.  Breaking all of the rules of what matters about a player’s stats, Oakland’s general manager Billy Beane, with the help of Peter Brand, a Harvard educated math wonk, played by Jonah Hill, methodically holds fast to a new set of statistics to assess the value of any player.  This is called sabermetrics.  Beane throws out 150 years of baseball wisdom in a single baseball season.

A totally different way of assessing the value of a player, um, that sounds intriguing.

Richard Brody, the film editor for The New Yorker, hit the analysis of Moneyball right in a recent posting:  “The often-discussed core of the film—the application to baseball of statistical analyses that bypass familiar approaches to player evaluation and game strategy—isn’t the subject but it is the MacGuffin: the movie is about putting a new idea into practice.”

Perhaps we are using the wrong statistics to evaluate law schools?

Maybe all of the stakeholders in the comprehensive review of Standards and Interpretations for Approval of Law Schools should be reading Moneyball, or at least viewing the film.

All stakeholders probably share similar critiques of legal education as they relate to regulation, curriculum, and cost.  Where we might differ, however, is how we fix the system.  What are the statistics that really matter to a quality education?  How do we devise a better measure of quality, and then, like Billy Beane, how do we put a new idea into practice?  It takes radicalism, determination, consistency, and fearlessness.
View a film clip and listen to Richard Brody.