Monday, December 25, 2006
Posted by Alan Childress
That's the question asked by Chapman's Tom Bell over at MoneyLaw, in "Law School Rankings as if the Public Mattered." He can't answer the question, since those are not data with which the ABA readily correlates its recently-collected malpractice and bar discipline statistics (which he helpfully links). But it's a question worth asking -- even acknowledging the difficulty of measuring ethicalness and competence, and the coarseness of the proxies one might use (as Tom adds here in comments).
And of course it's not part of typical law school ranking systems. Tom Bell knows ranking systems: previously he meticulously examined the U.S. News & World Report process and offered these meaningful reforms. Even with the factors it purports to measure, it fails considerably:
I discovered that almost no safeguards exist to correct or prevent such errors. I think it fair to say that, but for my peculiar obsession with the USN&WR rankings, nobody would have noticed the errors I've documented. That won't do. We cannot rely on one nutty professor to keep the rankings honest.
Until his newly suggested scoring factors are known or approximated, or if you "find that lack of interest [by law school ranking sources] troubling," Tom thinks one thing to do is support the tax-exempt HALT, a legal-profession-watchdog group (also watching the disciplining bar institutions and processes) on which we previously posted here. As Mike Frisch commented then, "HALT performs a most useful public service in its attempts to bring scrutiny to bar discipline. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for outsiders to know how truly bad a system may be."
Tom Bell's addendum is that outsiders can't truly assess law schools' most fundamental performances either--until the institutional production of ethical, competent lawyers is part of the ratings calculus.