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Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Yale 1L Takes Deans to Task for Obsessing Over U.S. News Rankings

Law Schools Shouldn't Grub For Rankings (Hartford Courant), by Michael Seringhaus (J.D. 2010, Yale):

In this piece, I discuss the overblown and often alarmist reactions of law school deans to the 2009 U.S. News rankings, published last Friday, in light of the their 2006 open letter to prospective students -- in which law school deans united to caution against over-reliance on those very rankings. I also talk about the shortcomings of the rankings in general, and argue that in the business of running law schools, deans should not defer to the editors at U.S. News.

Update:  The WSJ Law Blog has more here.

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Sure. Easy for a Yalie, and a 1L, to say. Doubt he'd feel the same way if BIGLAW didn't care about USN rankings and only hired students who were in the top 10% of their class AND on law review.

Not to bastardize an old adage, but do you know what the person who is last in his/her class at Yale Law School says about his/her legal education? "I graduated from Yale Law School." And you know what his/her resume says? "Yale Law School." And you know what his/her cover letter says? . . . .

And forget first chances, do you know how many second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chances a Yale Law School (even someone in the BOTTOM 10% of their class) graduate gets compared to someone in the top 10-25% of their class at a first tier law school--especially when the economy is tough?

A Yale 1L hasn't even walked a mile in his own moccasins. It is easy for the privileged to decry the foolishness of the very system that enfranchises them. It is those who are not #1 who cling to the hope that their school will rise in the rankings and become one of the blessed few--much like Washington University (St. Louis) has done over the last 15 years.* [see below for comment]

I doubt this guy is going to give away any of the perks and privileges bestowed upon him for being a Yalie to perhaps a deserving 1L at a lower USN ranked school who distinguishes him/herself during first year but won't even get in the door to interview at places that will be fawning over him. After all, he's not a moron--he matriculated into Yale.


* No slight at Wash U. Reputation perpetuates reputation, and if a school does not "work the system" to improve its lot in the rankings, it certainly isn't going to be done for them by others. Some schools are overrated and some are underrated. Perhaps Wash U was overlooked for many years and merited a ranking higher than it had 15 years ago. Perhaps it merits a higher ranking now.

Schools NEED to figure out the system and work the elements they can control to their advantage. Schools only can become more selective and have more and better candidates apply to their school by improving their ranking.

I say 3 cheers to Wash U for not only working to improve their ranking, meaningless as rankings may be in the abstract, and for showing that even at the top of the pyramid you can still leap higher if you are persistent and are willing to work at it long enough--even if it takes 10 or 15 years.

Note that Wash U has not only achieved this with their Law School, but with other schools at the university--notably the undergraduate university which ranked in the top 25 (in the 20's) about 15 years ago and now ranks in the "top 10" right up there with, and ahead of some, Ivy League Schools.
(#12 for 2008)
("[Sep 20, 1994] The top-ranked college in Kansas and Missouri was Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., which placed No. 20 in the nation")
("[Sep 6, 1996] Washington University moved up three notches to 17th on US News & World Report magazine's annual ranking of the nation's best universities.")

Posted by: Adjunct Law Prof. | Apr 2, 2008 4:15:28 PM