Paul L. Caron

Thursday, July 24, 2008

U.S. News Responds to Case Dean's Call to "Just Say No" to Rankings

Robert Morse, Director of Data Research at U.S. News & World Report, responds to the forthcoming National Law Journal op-ed by Gary J. Simson, Dean at Case Western (which fell ten places in the U.S. News overall rankings last year to #63), Say "Enough" to "U.S. News" (blogged here):

I was asked yesterday to comment on criticisms of the U.S. News law school rankings raised in an article Dean Calls on Peers to Unite, Kick U.S. News Rankings to the Curb that was published on the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. ...

The U.S. News rankings also do not, as the dean implies, have a negative impact on legal education and law school admissions. The rankings provide prospective law school students with information about the relative merits of law schools that is not available from any other source. Going to a law school is a very expensive and time-consuming process, and our rankings provide one tool for students to use in choosing the best school for their needs.

If a law school refuses to provide U.S. News directly with statistical data from their annual American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation data questionnaire, then U.S. News still can get almost all of that school's official ABA data from the ABA website. U.S. News would still be able to rank a law school, even if it refused to participate.

The next U.S. News law school rankings aren't published until late March 2009, and we do not plan to make a decision on this issue until fall 2008 or early 2009. As we have done in the past before we change our methodology, U.S. News will carefully consider the impact of any such modification.

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Law schools should withhold the data and the ABA should withhold the data too. US News is a joke. The rankings have almost no correlation with the real world in the macro sense and schools are playing the ratings game rather than training lawyers.

Does 1 vs 2, 67 vs 68, or 1 vs 68 really affect anyone's choice? If US News wanted to be "honest" they would not "rank" at all; they would group schools together by tier (like they do in the 3rd and 4th tier) to demonstrate which schools are roughly equivalent with one another and which ones aren't.

I suggest 4 categories, with no numerical ranks given to ANY school and using some subjective judgment calls at the bottom of the group (e.g., no rigid 50/51 differential that automatically classifies 51 as 3rd tier and 50 as 2nd tier):

1st Tier: the top 15-20

2nd Tier: 16/21-50

3rd Tier: 51-100

4th Tier: 101 and below

Once you know which group your law school is in, you should know what your expected outcome will likely be.

Then, maybe, the info might be valuable.



Posted by: Adjunct Law Prof | Jul 24, 2008 6:16:11 PM