Ross E. Davies, George Mason University Law School, has published Ranking the Olympians Before U.S. News: When Vanity Fair and The Bookman Told Their Readers Who Really Mattered at 21 Green Bag 2d 241 (2018). Here is the abstract.
When were the first law-related rankings published? Answering that question would be like determining when the first baseball game was played. You would have to start by settling fundamental and disputable definitional issues: What is a publication (or what is baseball)? What counts as a ranking (or a game)? And so on. Experts, even those who are most eminently knowledgeable and admirably reasonable, sometimes disagree about such things. Then, if you were to miraculously manage to settle all such matters of meaning, you would have to look everywhere that such a ranking might have been published (or such a game recorded). That is too much. Better to work incrementally – to report ever-earlier sightings as you find them and hope that definitional consensuses grow as unexplored territories shrink. That is the spirit in which I offer this report on two sets of rankings published in the early 20th century.Download the article from SSRN at the link.