TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More on The Law School 100 Rankings

In last week's post on the revised The Law School 100: The Best Law Schools in the United States (2009-2010), I said:

Although the site claims that the ranking is "based on qualitative, rather than quantitative, criteria," there is no further description of the criteria used in coming up with the ranking.

Stan Chess responds:

The Law School 100 does not publish details of its ranking system, so as to preclude the easy gaming of the rankings as many law schools do with U.S. News.

We can tell you that, unlike those of U.S. News, the Law School 100 rankings are based initially on personal visits to virtually every law school in the United States. This includes visits to every law school in major states such as Texas (yes, we've been to Lubbock), Florida (Jacksonville is lovely), California (Fresno, etc.), Illinois (a drive down to Carbondale), New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, etc.

On our visits we review the physical law school, we speak with law students, professors, administrators, etc. When we attend CLE programs, we speak with alumni.

We attend the AALS and ABA conventions, as well as Legal Tech. We monitor the media extensively, especially articles on LawSchool.com. Obviously if a law school builds a new building (e.g., U of Colorado; Baylor; U of Missouri, Columbus; Touro; Brooklyn), its ranking might improve. If a law school loses prominent law faculty (e.g., a successful raid on a New York City law school by its arch rival), its ranking might decline.

We monitor bar exam pass rates, and not just in the home state (e.g., not just the NYBE for grads of New York law schools; lots of Columbia, Cornell, and NYU grads sit for the California bar exam). And we care about only meaningful disparities. If law school A this year beats law school B, 98% to 96%, we ignore the difference. Because one recent grad had a hard time with the Rule Against Perpetuities, should her law school drop a notch? We think not. But 98% versus 63%, and you can be assured that the school with the former pass rate will appear much higher on the Law School 100.

With the proliferation of Westlaw and LexisNexis, we could care less about the number of books in the law library. Unless, of course, the library is empty. That would hurt the law school.

We are not in the business of selling magazines, so we don't have to change our rankings each year to create a news angle. Plus, law schools rarely change in quality more than nominally from year to year. When law schools are close in ranking we group them together, rather than pretend that there is a meaningful difference in quality between or among them.

We believe that the methodology employed by the Law School 100 (like that employed by Prof. Leiter) is superior and more accurate than the methodology employed by U.S. News.

We also believe that the Law School 100 is better equipped to evaluate news magazines than U.S. News is equipped to evaluate law schools. As we say on RankingUSNews.com:

News Magazine Rankings for 2009-10:
  1. Newsweek
  2. Time Magazine
  3. People Magazine
  4. TV Guide
  5. My Weekly Reader
Third Tier: U.S. News and World Report
             

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Comments

In my semi-retirement, I download, print and read a lot of SSRN articles. I enjoy these articles. I have never submitted a paper to SSRN.

That said, I have had difficulties from time to time in downloading SSRN articles. Perhaps my unsuccessful efforts have added to the counts of downloads. Through trial and error and assistance from SSRN I have learned NOT to rely upon AOL; rather, use Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. But even then, there have been a few problems. I notice lately that in downloading efforts, I now have to enter my name and password, which I don't mind. Perhaps in this fashion, SSRN will get a download count that is not gamed. But I do not rely upon such counts in deciding to download an article. Rather, I rely upon the abstract AND the blog that provides the links and sometimes recommendation. I rely mostly upon Legal Theory Blog and Legal History Blog, as well as this Blog and How Appealing.

But I have one recommendation to make to SSRN: Display with the abstract the number of pages of the article.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Apr 10, 2009 3:48:25 AM

Ummm, Fresno doesn't have a law school, unless they are in the business of ranking unaccredited law schools.

http://www.calbar.ca.gov/state/calbar/calbar_generic.jsp?sImagePath=Law_Schools.gif&sCategoryPath=/Home/Attorney%20Resources/Bar%20Exam&sHeading=Law%20Schools&sFileType=HTML&sCatHtmlPath=html/adm_law_schools.html

Sounds like they are doing a good job of convincing readers of the lack of credibility for their rankings.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 10, 2009 8:42:58 AM