Paul L. Caron
Dean


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Deans Say Rankings Penalize California Law Schools for Bad Economy; U.S. News Rejects Call for State-Adjusted Employment Data

U.S. News 2015The Recorder:   Deans Say U.S. News Rankings Penalize Schools in the Golden State:

In the wake of declining rankings in the all-important U.S. News & World Report, one California law school dean says the problem is not underperforming schools, but an underperforming state economy.

Tom Campbell, whose Chapman University School of Law has fallen from No. 104 in 2011 to No. 140 in the list released Monday, says the state's poor employment prospects are a drag on the rankings at all 21 accredited California law schools. The rankings take into account the percentage of a school's recent graduates that have found legal jobs—an awfully low number at some schools.

So Campbell emailed his fellow deans to rally them to demand the state's employment picture be factored into the U.S. News methodology. His proposition triggered a "flurry of emails" in support, said Lisa Kloppenberg, dean of Santa Clara University School of Law.

"The slow recovery of California's economy, compared with the rest of the nation, has had a deleterious effect on all of us, once again; and it's particularly cruel to our students, who are punished twice: once by the difficulty of getting a job, and a second time by falling US News rankings of their law school," Campbell said in his email, which was forwarded to The Recorder on Tuesday. ...

The overall rankings at eight California law schools—USC, UC-Davis, UC-Hastings, Loyola, University of San Diego, Santa Clara, Pacific McGeorge and University of San Francisco —have fallen, in some cases plunged, in recent years. The rankings at four other programs—Stanford, UC-Berkeley, UCLA and Pepperdine—have remained relatively stable. (The remaining eight schools remain unranked.)

I had seen this trend last year, and now its overwhelmingly clear," Campbell said Wednesday. "[The data suggests] not a single California school has improved its performance. That's a false statement."

Inspired by U.S. News' method for adjusting for bar passage rates, which takes into account the average rate in particular states, Campbell proposes that schools designate the state where the largest number of their graduates land jobs. "The percentage of each law school's graduates with jobs would then be normalized by the state's unemployment rate compared with the national unemployment rate," he wrote.

In essence, he wants the U.S. News formula tweaked so that schools whose students are looking for work in California won't pay a price for the state's relatively poor employment prospects. Campbell said he proposed this method to U.S. News last year, to no avail, but plans to resubmit it with another year of evidence substantiating what he calls the "California effect" on the rankings. He also said he'll have unanimous support from California's law school deans. ...

But Bob Morse, U.S. News director of data research, isn't buying it. "The schools that are underperforming or falling in the ranking, [it's] not because of the state of California's employment woes," he told The Recorder Wednesday, "but because their students are not in demand, or they're unable to obtain real legal jobs," defined by the magazine as full-time positions requiring a J.D. "That's broadly independent of the state of California's economy."

For proof, he pointed to the list: "The top ten schools in California have seen little change in their rankings over the last few years, showing that their graduates are still in demand and they're still getting real legal jobs, despite the California employment status."

School

Name

2012

Rank

2013

Rank

2014

Rank

2015

Rank

1 Year

Change

3 Year

Change

Stanford

3

2

2

3

-1

0

UC- Berkeley

9

7

9

9

0

0

UCLA

16

15

17

16

+1

0

USC

18

18

18

20

-2

-2

UC-Davis

23

29

38

36

+2

-13

UC-Hastings

42

44

48

54

-6

-12

Pepperdine

54

49

61

54

+7

0

Loyola-L.A.

54

51

68

87

-19

-33

San Diego

67

65

68

79

-11

-12

Santa  Clara

84

96

96

107

-11

-23

Chapman

104

110

126

140

-14

-36

McGeorge

100

101

124

146

-22

-46

San Francisco

100

106

144

Tier 2

-2 +

-46+

Cal Western

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Golden Gate

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Southwestern

121

129

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

-25+

T. Jefferson

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Western State

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Whittier

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/03/california-law.html

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

Dear Deans:

You are the perpetrators here, not the victims. Keep that in mind.

Posted by: Jojo | Mar 13, 2014 1:53:05 PM

The bigger problem Mr. Morse ignores is that his definition of "real legal jobs" includes school funded jobs. If he omitted those, then the schools who have manipulated the rankings but putting roughly 20% of their classes in such positions -- e.g., George Washington, William and Mary -- would be ranked much farther down. He should redefine his definition to exclude school funded jobs -- none of those continue into the second year. It is the difference between perhaps an 85% employment rate and a 65% employment rate -- this is a big, big rankings flaw.

Posted by: Jimbo | Mar 13, 2014 1:57:34 PM

"Top 70" California law school attorney here. Booo hoo hoo. The California schools, along with countless other law schools, availed themselves of lax ABA rules that, until just a couple years ago, permitted law schools to post, and report, 90% plus "employed within 9 month" statistics that induced countless saps to incur tens of thousands of dollars in high-interest, non-dischargeable debt to obtain the advertised results. We now know that those statistics were smoke and mirrors.

The infamous "Loyola 2L" was "beating his/her drum of discontent" back in 2006/2007, the hay day, likely because he/she looked around at his/her classmates and realized that many, many many more than 10% were unemployed, contrary to what was posted on the school's web page,and at LSAC.

Thank you ABA for shining light on a very dark place, and forcing these Enrons (law schools) to report more accurately.

Posted by: anon | Mar 13, 2014 9:13:28 PM

"Put simply, if a law school in Iowa, where unemployment is 4.2%, places 85% of its students, and a law school in California, where unemployment is 8.3%, places 84% of its students, U.S. News ranks the Iowa school ahead of the California school. That is nonsense, if the purpose is to rank the quality of the two law schools."

(1) It isn't clear what Tom Bell means by the term "quality" with regard to law school. Is it the effectiveness of the instruction? Is it the probability of finding gainful employment after law school? I would assume most students look to the rankings as a rough measure for gauging their probability of landing a postgraduate gig of their choice. So it hardly seems unfair to include postgraduate employment data AS ONE FACTOR in the computation of the rankings.

(2) Tom Bell and other law deans in California act like they have no responsibility when it comes to responding to the changing employment landscape in the backyards. This lack of response is what CA law schools are being punished for (and rightfully so). If Tom Bell and his CA law dean colleagues want to take steps that will arrest their fall in the rankings ***AND*** benefit their students, here are some suggestion:

- In theory, a higher “quality” law school’s graduates will outperform a lesser school’s bar passage rates. If there was ever a time to dump resources into pushing up bar passage rates, its probably when there’s a lower demand for your graduates’ skills.

- If there’s less demand for your graduates, maybe try producing fewer of them? Ironically, this is how the University of Iowa responded to a drop off in applications (http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/09/field-of-nightmares). Unlike Paul Campos, we should applaud them for this. If you don’t respond to the fall in demand for your graduates’ services, all you end up doing is churning out more graduates who can’t find work. No one wins here. It is really hard for me to see why your law school shouldn’t be penalized in the rankings for this.

- Maintain or increase the caliber of your incoming students. You could do this by reducing enrollment or spending more on scholarship money, which only seems fair because your graduates have to tolerate a higher probability of unemployment. People who routinely hire your graduates won’t feel like you’re sending them lesser talent to work with. Why not respond this way? Enroll people who are both more likely to pass the bar exam and more likely to attract interest from potential employers.

(3) My open question to Tom Bell is this – Why shouldn’t California law schools be penalized for not taking effective steps in responding to the recent drop in demand for law graduates their state?

Posted by: Nathan A. | Mar 14, 2014 8:07:25 AM

No sympathy here. California schools benefit from a reputational bump because they are in a 'cool' state. Many of the smaller law schools in fly-over country, that do not have a cool state to call home, or an NCAA division I football/basketball team to lift their name recognition, have suffered from this for years. I teach at a good, solid school in the Midwest - I do not believe our rankings reflect our quality (like most of us, probably), but I can't help but think that we would get a rankings bump if we were anywhere but in Topeka, Kansas. Now that California is no longer "cool", welcome to our world!

Posted by: LM | Mar 17, 2014 9:01:08 AM