Thursday, April 28, 2016
A new book, Engines of Anxiety: Academic Ranking, Reputation and Accountability, may be of interest to many in the legal academy. Written by two sociologists, Wendy Nelson Espeland of Northwestern University and Michael Sauder of the University of Iowa, it looks at the role that US News and World Reports (USNWR) rankings has had on law schools and the students they accept.
Despite many changes in the market for legal education and legal services, over the last several years law schools have continued to focus their attention and energies on maintaining their existing status within this legacy model used to rank and compare law schools. While the researchers heard a lot of bashing of the UNSWR law school rankings during interviews of law school administrators, they also find that most schools make decisions based on how they will impact their own place in the rankings.
The authors conducted interviews with law school admissions directors and faculty members who serve on admissions committees and the concluded that there is an overwhelming focus on Law School Admission Test scores. In fact, they found that LSAT scores are given more weight than any other factor in making admission decisions, sometimes regardless of whether other factors indicate that an applicant would be excel as student or lawyer or not.