Thursday, March 14, 2013
Robert L. Jones (Northern Illinois), A Longitudinal Analysis of the U.S. News Law School Academic Reputation Scores between 1998 and 2012, 40 Fla. St. L. Rev. ___ (2013):
This article summarizes the results of a longitudinal study of the U.S. News academic reputation scores between 1998 to 2012. Among other things, the study reveals that there has been a downward trend in the academic reputation scores of law schools since 1998. While the academic reputation scores tended to be relatively stable throughout the fifteen year period, a full half of the law schools in the data set finished the fifteen year period with an academic reputation score that was lower than the one with which they began in 1998. In contrast, less than one quarter of the law schools in the data set managed to finish the period with an academic reputation score that was higher (even by .1) than the one with which they began in 1998. One of the most interesting findings of the study, furthermore, is the fact that the declines in academic reputation scores were inversely correlated to the strength of the schools’ academic reputation scores and U.S. News ranks. The schools that started the period with the highest ranks and academic reputation scores posted the largest declines as a group while the law schools with the lowest ranks and academic reputation scores experienced the most success in improving their scores. The study also revealed a disparity between public and private law schools in terms of their abilities to positively impact their academic reputation scores during the period.
As part of the study, furthermore, the law school academic reputation scores were analyzed to determine whether there has been an "echo effect" between the law schools’ academic reputation scores and their overall U.S. News ranks. The empirical analysis suggests that a law school’s U.S. News rank does tend to influence its academic reputation score, particularly in instances where a law school is consistently "under" or "over" ranked relative to its academic reputation score. The article concludes with an identification of those law schools whose academic reputation scores have improved or declined the most during the fifteen year period, along with a brief discussion of some potential causes for those changes.
Undoubtedly there are a number of other ways in which a school’s administration can, at least under certain circumstances, significantly influence their school’s academic reputation scores. It is quite possible, for example, that Pepperdine’s substantial gains over the period (a rise of .4) could in some ways be related to the notoriety of their dean (Ken Starr). Chart M plots Pepperdine’s academic reputation scores with the timing of Starr’s arrival and departure at the school.