April 27, 2006
What Law Schools Do to Improve Their US News Ranks
Over at Orinkerr.com, Orin's asking for vignettes on what crazy things law schools do to improve their US News rankings--like starting a part-time program and forcing applicants with lower LSAT scores into it, I guess. (The idea here is that those part-time folks aren't counted by US News.)
Then there's this piece ("Brand U.") from the New York Times, about efforts Universities have been making to improve their US News rankings. It's pretty funny and I think you'll enjoy it. But it would be funnier if it weren't so true. The consumer culture is coming to law schools in a big way, I think. In some ways this is good; every business ought to focus on delivering value to its customers. In other ways, I find this troubling; students ought not to just be "buying" a degree. I'll have a few thoughts shortly on how property profs fit into this picture.
One low-cost strategy (with perhaps some yield--the jury's still out on this one) is to pay more attention to what scholarship law journals publish. Maybe sometimes US News will take notice of a high quality review and respond. I've already suggested that the University of Houston's very strong Houston Law Review ought to drive up their rankings. I think one example of where this may be happening is DePaul Law School. The DePaul Law Review is a strong review (it's in the top 40s of law reviews in terms of citations). This year DePaul moved to 80 on the US News chart, up from the third tier last year. Anyone who's spent time reading the DePaul Law Review in recent years has to draw the conclusion that there's a really vibrant intellectual climate at that school. Cause and effect? I'm not in a position to say right now--got to look at some other numbers. Suggestive nevertheless.
Alfred L. Brophy
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