Thursday, October 4, 2012

Whether looking for value or prestige, law schools rankings help applicants make better informed decisions

Professor Rob Steinbuch (Arkansas) authored this editorial from the National Law Journal on why, though many academics abhor them, law school rankings are a good thing insofar as they help students make decisions about which school to attend.

Moneylaw: Look at the law school data

[M]y school recently received the admirable grade of "A-" under the National Jurist's assessment rubric for the "Best Value Law Schools"—placing the school in the 21-to-35 range. Because U.S. News & World Report's overall law school ranking does not consider affordability and evaluates several key factors not considered by the National Jurist, under U.S. News' metric, my school garners the 119th spot. Both measures, among others, are useful to informed consumers.

In contrast, some eschew law school (and other) ranking systems. I find unsupportable claims against quantifying and then comparing complex matters. Rankings naysayers tend to prefer finger-in-the-air analyses or concealed, and often less rigorous, methods; and to the extent that these cynics are in the system under evaluation, their crypto-pseudo-evaluative tools frequently tend to inure in their own favor. . . . .

Of course, as a law professor, I'm required to rank complex matters all the time, as I grade law students. I'm never sure whether when academics attack the notion of rankings, all along grading students, they realize their hypocrisy. Of all the academically related rankings, grades are the most ubiquitous and likely have the most dramatic impact on students' lives. Yet some professors take this process for granted, while questioning the legitimacy of even pursuing such an endeavor in other contexts—be it ranking law schools, academic scholarship or something else. And, unfortunately, grading is often far less scientific and disciplined than the systems under greater critique by some in the academy.

. . . .

Law students should be particularly informed consumers; they are learned and investing considerably in further education. Rankings are one sound resource available to assist them in this search for knowledge. These metrics should be evaluated—dare I say, ranked—and used appropriately.

Read Professor Steinbuch's complete remarks here.


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