Paul L. Caron

Friday, July 30, 2010

ABA Issues Report on U.S. News Law School Rankings

U.S. News Logo A Special ABA Committee on the U.S. News and World Report Rankings sent this 4-page report (and 61-page annotated bibliography) to the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar:

On February 17, 2010, ABA President Carolyn Lamm asked the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to examine rankings of law schools. She did so to follow through on a Resolution of the ABA House of Delegates that the ABA “examine any efforts to publish national, state, territorial, and local rankings of law firms and law schools.” ...

Of the adverse effects of U.S. News rankings on law students identified by the scholarship, three are of greatest concern to this committee:

  1. The current methodology tends to increase the costs of legal education for students. ...
  2. The current methodology tends to discourage the award of financial aid based upon need. ...
  3. The current methodology tends to reduce incentives to enhance the diversity of the legal profession. ...

These three adverse tendencies of the U.S. News rankings methodology have been widely known and discussed for many years, and have motivated extensive reform efforts by numerous individuals, groups, and organizations. These efforts have included, as the bibliography shows, campaigns attempting to persuade U.S. News to change the methodology, to persuade the public to reduce reliance on rankings, and to persuade law schools and organizations to refuse to cooperate with rankings by various means. While some of these efforts have produced minor changes or reforms at the margins, in our view none of them have been totally effective. We believe that, for better or worse, U.S. News rankings will continue for the foreseeable future to dominate public perceptions of how law schools compare, and that there is relatively little that leaders in legal education can do to change that in the short term.

This is not to belittle the importance of constant vigilance seeking to reform the rankings and to call attention to their adverse effects. It is our hope that various rankings methodologies might someday recognize the diverse missions of American law schools and employ factors that create incentives in keeping with the interests of law students, the legal profession, and the public. But once a single rankings system comes to dominate a particular field, it is very difficult to displace, difficult to change, and dangerous to underestimate the importance of its methodology to any school or firm that operates in that field. This, we believe, is the most important lesson from the law school experience for those law firms who may ranked by U.S. News in the future.

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But other than that the rankings have a very positive impact . . .

Posted by: mike livingston | Jul 30, 2010 12:39:23 PM