Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Update on U.S. News Law School Rankings

Over the past two days, I have shown how the U.S. News law school rankings are of no value in helping prospective law students make a decision on where to go to law school and how the rankings have had a pernicious effect on law schools and law students.  Now that the rankings are out, there is more information on the rankings.

First, the lawyer/judge reputation survey category had a response rate of only 9%.  Such a low response rate is statistically meaningless.  They do average the scores for two years, but two meaningless surveys do not make a meaningful one.

Second, while U.S. News has fixed some of the problems with the employment category, as the Leiter Blog (Scott Altman) reports,  "these figures did not discount the full-time, permanent JD required jobs that law schools funded."  "But some schools report many such jobs.  GW, for example, reported that 80 of its graduates were employed in full-time permanent positions funded by the school.  US News includes these 80 jobs in GW’s fully-weighted employment statistic.  Virginia reported 64 such students.  The University of Chicago reported 24."  "I am unsure whether these law-school-funded jobs are genuinely full-time, permanent, JD required positions – though I have my doubts.  I am quite sure that they are not the kind of job that should be lumped for consumer purposes with permanent jobs not funded by the schools.   By displaying statistics that include these jobs, US News does a disservice.  By refusing to disclose the role these jobs play in rankings, US News only exacerbates the infirmities of its rankings with nontransparency."

Altman is correct.  With this gap, the employment category is still meaningless. In addition, it leaves open the possibility of law schools still "gaming" the system.

Third, as Leiter notes, "These results are very Northeast-centric, due to the way U.S. News surveys law firms."

Finally, as Leiter points out, "The University of Illinois, which suffered a severe reputational penalty last year for its fraudulent data reporting, sunk even further to 47th overall, and reputational scores outside the top 30 among both academics and practitioners.  In terms of faculty quality, it is now pretty clearly the most underranked law school in U.S. News, but it may also offer a cautionary note to schools that cheat in the reporting." 

(Scott Fruehwald)

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