This Essay updates two well-known earlier studies (dated 1985 and 1996) by the first coauthor, setting forth lists of the most-cited law review articles. New research tools from the HeinOnline and Web of Science databases now allow lists to be compiled that are more thorough and more accurate than anything previously possible. Tables printed here present the 100 most-cited legal articles of all time, the 100 most-cited articles of the last twenty years, and some additional rankings. Characteristics of the top-ranked publications, authors, and law schools are analyzed as are trends in schools of legal thought. Data from the all-time rankings shed light on contributions to legal scholarship made over a long historical span; the recent-article rankings speak more to the impact of scholarship produced in the current era. The authors discuss alternative tools and metrics for measuring the impact of legal scholarship, running selected articles from the rankings through these tools to serve as points of illustration. The authors then contemplate how these alternative tools and metrics intersect with traditional citation studies and how they might impact legal scholarship in the future.
As originally published, Fred R. Shapiro and Michelle Pearse's essay The Most-Cited Law Review Articles of All Time, 110 Mich. L. Rev. 1483 (2012), omitted an article:
Owen M. Fiss, Groups and the Equal Protection Clause, 5 Phil. & Pub. Aff. 107 (1976).
Professor Fiss's article should have been listed in 72nd place (with 729 citations) in Table I, Most-Cited Law Review Articles of All Time. Professor Fiss's article fell into the category of articles published in nonlegal journals with over 50 percent of the citations to them occurring in legal journals. See Shapiro & Pearse, supra, at 1487–88. This category by its nature was impossible for Mr. Shapiro to capture completely. With this correction, Professor Fiss enters into a tie with Frank Michelman as the only scholars with four articles on the all-time list.