Sunday, March 9, 2014

Just Say No to U.S. News

The U.S. News Law School Rankings are coming out tomorrow.  As I have noted several times before (here), these rankings have had a pernicious effect on law schools.  They cause law schools to spend money on things that add no value to the law students or the law school.  For instance, law schools spend thousands of dollars on glossy fliers just to make themselves look good for U.S. News.  In addition, many of the things that law schools do to move up in U.S. News have had terrible consequences.  For example, many law schools offer "recruiting scholarships" that are funded by tuition of law students who don't receive the scholarships.  This makes law school much more expensive for the students who can afford it the least.

As I have also said before, the U.S. News rankings do not provide useful information for law students.  (here; here)  As everyone knows, the rankings are subject to "gaming" by law schools.  As Brian Leiter has noted, student-faculty ratio are manipulable because it depends on how schools "count" their faculty.  Likewise,  Lynda Edwards has written, "Critics of the U.S. News rankings say the magazine exercises too little control over the quality of the information submitted; several of the self-reporting factors utilized in the methodology, they say, actually reward those law schools willing to cheat." (here)  In addition, many of the categories are meaningless.  For example, last year, the lawyer/judge reputation survey category had a response rate of only 9%.  Such a low response rate is statistically meaningless.  While they do average the scores for two years, two meaningless surveys do not make a meaningful one.  Similarly, the peer assessment score (by deans, most recently tenured faculty member, etc.) constitutes 25% of the total, but these are based mainly on faculty scholarship, which tells students little about which law school is best for them.

In sum, just say no to U.S. News.  Buy a ouija board instead; it provides hours of entertainment.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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