Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tobin on the U.S. News Tax Rankings: Why Aren't NYU, Florida & Georgetown Tied for #1?

Tobin_7We previosuly blogged the new 2007 U.S. News rankings of the Top 20 (21 with ties) law school tax programs.  Donald Tobin (Ohio State) takes issue with the rankings:

When you look at U.S. News and World Report’s survey of top ranked law schools specializing in tax you see a familiar group. But U.S. News also presents these schools in rank order, implying that some formula has legitimately ranked the programs. For example, the survey ranks NYU as the number one school specializing in tax, Florida as two, and Georgetown as three. As a recipient this year of the U.S. News Survey on tax programs, I thought I would shed light on the way U.S. News reaches its conclusions.

The survey asked me to identify the top 10 tax programs in the country. While many of us can differ on what schools are in the top 10, I assert that no one with even basic information about these programs can doubt that NYU, Florida, and Georgetown are in the top 10. (Disclosure: I received my J.D. from Georgetown). I would put others in that group as well, but their inclusion might at least raise an argument. It is, however, hard for me to believe that anyone knowledgeable about tax programs would contend that NYU, Florida and Georgetown are not in the top 10. Since the methodology used by U.S. News appears to be adding up the number of times that a school is on a survey recipient’s top 10 list, NYU, Florida, and Georgetown should all be tied for first. The only way a tie does not result is if the survey is being “gamed” or if people who are ignorant about tax programs are filling out the survey. I will leave it to others to determine the merits of the rankings, but thought it might be interesting to shed some light on how they are created.

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This argument is actually stronger when applied in the general reputation scores. The only way Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago etc score less than 5 is that someone did not think they are in the top 20% of schools (ranked 1-5). That's hard to believe. On the tax rankings, though, it is not clear whether you are ranking programs for the JD student or the LLM student. Arguably, JD tax students fare worse in law schools with tax LLM programs because the faculty and programmatic focus is elsewhere, especially when the schools admit large numbers of LLMs. Most LLM programs also have at least some faculty who couldn't get hired in JD programs because they don't write. Thus, the question is whether they are better than adjunct professors who currently practice and may be better plugged in than the LLM professors. This is particularly salient for a school like UF which has weak adjuncts as well.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 12, 2006 1:55:45 PM