Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Guthrie: U.S. News Should Replace Its Current Law School Rankings With A Mission-Driven Ranking

Chris Guthrie (Vanderbilt), Toward A Mission-Based Ranking?, 60 Jurimetrics J. 75 (2019):

2020 US News Law SchoolLaw schools exist to generate knowledge about law and the legal system and to prepare students for entry into the profession. Law school rankings, in turn, should evaluate schools on their success in carrying out this two-part mission. ... I propose that U.S. News replace its current ranking with a mission-based ranking. U.S. News could do this in any number of ways, but I propose below three steps U.S. News could take toward that end: 

  1. Replace Subjective Surveys with Objective Measures of Scholarly Impact ...
  2. Retain, But Tweak, the “Placement” Category ...
  3. Eliminate Remaining Criteria as Irrelevant or Harmful ...

The approach I propose here is imperfect—all rankings are!—but it offers several advantages over the current U.S. News approach. First, it rests on a clearly articulated rationale—law school mission—rather than a hodgepodge of criteria, including some, like library volumes, that are meaningless, and others, like expenditures per JD student, that are pernicious. Second, it focuses solely on objective measures rather than relying heavily on subjective measures, as U.S. News does now (40 percent of the ranking is based on surveys). Finally, consistent with general trends in educational assessment, it focuses solely on outcomes—and not just any outcomes, but outcomes tied to law school mission

The mission-based ranking I propose in this comment would provide more meaningful information to our various constituencies—prospective students, prospective faculty, current students, current faculty, university leaders, legal employers, alumni—about how law schools are actually performing. That, in turn, would inform better decision-making on the part of those very same constituencies, which is ostensibly what U.S. News hopes its rankings will do.

Legal Ed Rankings, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink


The reason people pay attention to US News is precisely that it refuses to do things like this

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Mar 4, 2020 12:58:40 AM

Shouldn't high LSAT scores and college GPAs actually count against the schools' gross placement scores (which should include both probability and pay), like a "hurdle rate" an investment manager must reach to show he's actually adding value? And if they show ongoingly valuable learning capacity, the students should feel free to post them on LinkedIn or such directly.

Posted by: Anand Desai | Mar 3, 2020 9:05:25 PM

"Law schools exist to generate knowledge about law and the legal system and to prepare students for entry into the profession"

Prepare students for entry into the legal profession? When did they start doing that, then? Taking Contracts, for example, does not generally entail even reading a contract, let alone drafting, negotiating, or litigating against one. Pierson v. Post does not enable one to make real estate deals. Etc. In the absence of anything resembling vocational training in law school, it is lawyers who take significant hits to time and profit to mentor and train new law school grads that prepare them for entry into the profession.

But anyways, to the point: USNWR wants to perpetuate a certain hierarchy of schools, whether law schools, biz schools, undergrad, or otherwise. Veering from the hierarchy, which is modelled to reproduce already-established notions of prestige dating back to the 19th century, hurts the veracity of those rankings in USNWR's own eyes. To wit, when they recalibrated some per-student expenditure for undergraduate schools a few decades ago and Caltech came out in first place, they IMMEDIATELY re-recalibrated back to the original settings to ensure that HYPS remained in some order of #1-4 as they have ever since. The author's mistake is in the assumption that USNWR is even interested in an objective methodology as opposed to a results-driven, conclusions pre-determined methodology, even if it leaves said methodology wide open to gamesmanship and abuse.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 3, 2020 1:33:17 PM