April 1, 2008
Solove on the Contradictory Goals of Law School Rankings
If we step back from this year's frenzy, I believe that there's an important fact about law school rankings that accounts for much of the displeasure about them. Law school ranking systems have contradictory goals. Here's why. Law schools, like many institutions, are not incredibly dynamic and changing in the short term. They often change slowly, not dramatically. The result: We shouldn't see much movement year to year in the rankings. Most schools should stay about where they are. A few schools might move over time, but any one year's movement is not significant in the grand scheme of things. So to be accurate, rankings shouldn't change all that much.
But rankings systems have a contradictory goal: They need to reflect some kind of change, or else looking at the rankings each year would be like watching glaciers move. There must be some drama in the rankings year by year. We eagerly await our rankings each year, and we don't want rankings at five or ten year intervals. And we don't want stable rankings -- we want changes to cheer and kvetch about.
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