March 14, 2011
The Symbiotic Relationship of Deceptive Practices
Unless there is another unauthorized sneak preview of the traditional ritual known as US News Law School Rankings, tomorrow will once again be the day when the legal academy's "productivity" grinds to a halt because the latest edition will be published. Hello, law school students, if expect to meet with your law prof during regular office hours, he or she might be distracted. The ant farm that is the law professoriate -- at least those law profs who need their egos stroked (or worry about their egos being deflated) and those hoping their current employer's rank will inch up a notch or two to help promote their career aspirations to move on to an even higher ranked law school -- will be busy thinking about other matters.
US News law school rankings guru, Robert Morse, has recently stated about the 2012 Best Law Schools edition that
In an effort to make our law school employment data more reflective of the current state of legal employment, U.S. News has modified how we calculate the employment rates that are used in the new law school rankings. We will also be publishing more detailed law school employment data on our website as part of the new rankings.
Bill Henderson and Andrew Morriss report that
The prevailing view on the law school administrator list-serves (which nearly a dozen people have forwarded to us) is that U.S. News will be increasing the weighting of "employed at graduation," presumably because U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly sent a letter to law school deans--reprinted in Bob's blog post--discussing the importance of employed-at-graduation as a metric.
In their Legal Profession Blog post, Data on the "Employed at Graduation" U.S. News Rankings Input, Henderson and Morriss explain why this change will not matter:
Over the last decade, fewer and fewer schools have been supplying U.S. News with employed-at-graduation data. Employment at graduation is not a statistic required or collected by the ABA; as such, its accuracy cannot be checked through cross-reference to the annual ABA-LSAC Official Guide.
U.S. News agrees with the efforts of Law School Transparency to improve employment information from law schools and make the data more widely available. We are also aware that the American Bar Association is studying changes to the standards that law schools must use when they report employment data for graduates. We agree that more still needs to be done by all parties. To that end, U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly reached out to law school deans in a letter mailed earlier this week.
The letter is reprinted in his post which, BTW is dated March 9, 2011. That means this issue isn't stopping US News from published unaudited employment data in tomorrow's rankings edition. See also, Brian Leiter's US "News," which has aided, abetted, and encouraged the dissemination of fraudulent and misleading employment data.... Of course, US News could simply not rank schools that don't provide such data but that would be bad for business.
I think Henderson and Morriss deserve the last word on this and here it is from the above-linked post:
We would like to suggest to our colleagues in the legal academy that we are approaching an endgame. Here is the reality: prospective students are not being given an accurate picture of their future employment prospects. Why? Because we are all focused on filling next year's class with as many high credential students as possible, thereby protecting our school's place in the pecking order. Our focus is so shockingly narrow that, from the outside looking in, it appears that our intent is to deceive incoming students. Brian Kelly's letter to the deans essentially makes that point--law schools fall short on candor and ethical behavior.