Paul L. Caron

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Ranking Law Professors and Heart Surgeons

In our article, What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics, 82 Tex. L. Rev. 1483, 1554 (2004), Rafael Gely and I conclude:

In our view, law schools are faced with a clear choice. We can continue resisting public demands for accountability and transparency through rankings. But such resistance is futile, as a market that demands rankings of brain surgeons and heart-transplant programs will not accept protestations from the legal academy that what we do is simply too special to be evaluated with objective measures.

Today's Wall Street Journal reports on the positive effects of rankings of heart surgeons in Grading Surgeons May Be Healthy Practice, by David Wessel:

[R]eport cards remain surprisingly controversial, and not only among doctors being graded. Daniel Kessler, a Stanford University economist, divides the debate into three camps. One says report cards boost the quality of health care. A second says they don't have much effect, good or bad, because ordinary patients ignore them. And a third group, to which Mr. Kessler belongs, holds that report cards may have some beneficial effects, but those could be outweighed by unwelcome, unintended consequences -- such as encouraging doctors and hospitals to game the system by avoiding sicker patients, thereby reducing the overall quality of health care....

Now come a couple of Harvard School of Public Health physicians, firm adherents to the view that report cards do lead to better medicine, with an intriguing observation: Cardiac-bypass surgeons who get bad marks are more likely to give up practice than their peers....

Other evidence reinforces the case that the report cards may have a big effect even if their consumers don't heed them. Another set of researchers compared the behavior of hospitals in the Madison, Wis., area -- where an employer group publicized report cards -- with other hospitals in the state that were given private report cards and still others that got none at all. Obstetrical care at the first group improved markedly more than at the others.

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Who in their right mind thinks poorly graded law profs will give up their tenure.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 8, 2006 8:02:26 AM