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April 26, 2010
Like Share Prices for Non-Blue Chip Companies, the Only Thing That's Certain is US News Rankings Annually Fluctuate Up and Down for Most Law Schools
Conglomerate blogger Usha Rodrigues recently offered neophyte law profs advice on what to say about the US News Law School Rankings in any casual conversations that might arise:
Step 1: State: "Of course the rankings don't mean anything." (Pause and nod sagely).
Step 2a: IF your school has fallen in the rankings: repeat above, elaborating generally on poor methodology, including well-known instances of schools gaming the system by employing recent graduates as hall monitors, including every copy of the local bar association's newsletter in their count of total number of volumes in the law library, etc. Repeat Step 1.
Step 2b: IF your school has risen in the rankings: observe that a higher rank will mean better quality students, more publicity and increased opportunities for development. Smile at one another in congratulatory fashion. Repeat Step 1.
Rodriques failed to mention that a corollary to Step 2b beyond observing this "strict protocol" is prepare your CV for mailing to even higher ranked schools, hopefully a blue chip Top 30 school that pays a dividend of relatively stable ranking status, while the opportunity presents itself to move onward and upward the legal academy status chain. Do it before you have to revert to Step 2a conversations next year because of annual fluctuations where a school can rise or fall a substantial number of ranks because of a couple point scoring difference relative to the "perfect score" of the number 1 ranked school in a numerical ranking system that produces far too many schools tied in one rank in any given year.
On Law Blog Watch, Bruce Carton added his own comments to Rodrigues' post:
Sure, that's easy enough for law professors, but what about law school deans who are confronted by packs of panicked law students when their school plunges nearly 30 spots in the rankings? Missouri University Law School had the misfortune of falling from 65th in 2009 down to 93rd in 2010, which apparently caused MU law students considerable stress.
Read Carton's date references to 2009 to refer to the 2010 edition and 2010 to refer to the 2011 edition of the US News Rankings.
What caused the wild fluctuation in Missouri's ranking this year compared to last year? Based on the US News ranking methodology it looks like Missouri's placement success is the primary factor. See below (click to enlarge). Maybe next year Missouri will join other law schools in fudging its employment data. [JH]