Tuesday, November 20, 2018
U.S. News Report is making a dramatic change in their ranking of nine law school specialty programs (Clinical Training, Dispute Resolution, Environmental, Health Care, Intellectual Property, International, Legal Writing, Tax, Trial Advocacy). Since their inception, the specialty ranking ballots have asked professors teaching in those areas to identify up to a given number (currently 15) of law schools having the top programs in the area. This year, the ballots give faculty the opportunity to rank all 200 law schools on a 1-5 scale, the approach used in the overall peer reputation survey:
Please review the entire list of law schools before rating individual programs. Identify the law schools you are familiar with, and then rate the overall academic quality of their _____ law courses or programs. In making your choices consider all elements that contribute to a program's academic excellence, the depth and breadth of the program, faculty research and publication record, etc. Rate programs on a scale of outstanding (5) to marginal (1). If you are not familiar with a school’s faculty, programs and graduates, please mark “No answer.”
I contacted Robert Morse, Director of Data Research at U.S. News, for an explanation of the change. His answer:
Our intent/goal is to enable more programs to get enough ratings to be ranked. We don’t expect raters to have in depth knowledge of a specialty in all schools. We do believe they likely know more than 15. They should definitely only rate the schools they know. Our intent/plan is that the law specialties rankings would be based on the average peer score and we would show the average score so there would be more of understanding of the “difference” between schools. 4.8 vs 3.2 for example.
It will be interesting to see how this change will affect the rankings in the various specialties, including tax. As Donald Tobin (Dean, Maryland) has noted, it is more than strange that NYU has finished ahead of Florida and Georgetown in the tax rankings each year. Because the survey previously ranked the schools by how often they appear on the respondents' "Top 15" lists, this meant that some folks listed NYU, but not Florida and Georgetown, among the Top 15 tax programs each year.