Sunday, March 13, 2016

Just Say No To the U.S. News Law Rankings, 2016 Edition

The new edition of the U. S. News & World Report Law Rankings are coming out this week.  (In fact, they have already been partially leaked.)  For the past few years, I have written a post for this blog entitled "Just Say No to the U.S. News Law Rankings."  I go into great detail concerning what is wrong with the rankings, (here, here, here, here), and I come up with the conclusion that the U.S. News Law Rankings give law school applicants no useful information on where to go to law school.   None, not even a little bit.

This year instead of giving my own statistics, I would like to discuss an article by Kyle McEntee: The U.S. News Rankings Are Horrible. Stop Paying Attention.

Mr. McEntee writes,

"If the rankings measured something useful, the entire charade would be much easier to stomach. The unfortunate irony is that these rankings adversely affect the decision-making process for law school administrators and prospective law students alike. The stakes are high. Our profession and society need law schools that don’t figure inefficient metrics into annual budgets. Dollars spent chasing U.S. News rankings diverts funds away from students’ education. It also stands in the way of reducing tuition."

Mr. McEntee finds five problems with the rankings:

"First, the rankings pay insufficient attention to what matters most to prospective students: job outcomes. . . . Despite the importance of job outcomes, they account for only 18% of the rank and credit schools for jobs few attend law school to pursue."

"Second, the rankings use a national scope, which places schools on the same scale. Only a handful of schools have a truly national reach in job placement. . . .  Comparing schools across the country just doesn’t make sense."

"Third, U.S. News rankings follow an ordinal system that fails to show the degree of difference between schools."

"Fourth, performance changes over time but year-to-year comparisons are virtually impossible using the U.S. News rankings."

"Finally, U.S. News inexplicably places every ABA-accredited law school on the list of 'The Best.' The best at what? U.S. News doesn’t say. But it implies that every school on the list is good. The truth is that once costs and employment outcomes are considered in comparison to personal career goals, many schools are bad choices. The U.S. News rankings provide no help in drawing the line."

"However, ranking credibility may be lost when methodologies are unsound, through irrational weighting or meaningless metrics, or when the scope is too broad. The legal profession is worse off for elevating the importance of a publication that falls victim to these flaws each and every year."

There you have it.  If you don't want to listen to legal education experts with over twenty years of experience, like me and Brian Leiter, who has chronicled the problems of the rankings in great detail, listen to a recent law school graduate like Mr. McEntee who has been trying to protect law school applicants, by fighting for transparency by law schools.  U. S. News doesn't provide transparency; it only muddies the waters further.

(Scott Fruehwald

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