Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

More Commentary On The U.S. News Law School Rankings Boycott (Part 3)

US News Logo 2Brian Leiter (Chicago), Ranking Boycott Update:

[I]t's a safe assumption that any school that hasn't announced (or doesn't announce very soon) is also not joining the boycott. Alas, if only 15 or 20 schools boycott, that will not create insurmountable obstacles for, Why Some Law Schools Are Sticking With the US News Rankings:

I was at ground zero—visiting Yale Law School—the day the news broke on Nov. 16 with Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken—and seemingly unbeknownst to all of us at the time—she was starting a revolution of sorts.

As with any revolution, there are two sides, so what is a newer angle to all this are the three [now five] law schools who announced they plan to continue to participate in the rankings.

Robert Kuttner (The American Prospect), The End of College Rankings?: Maybe Law Schools Will Start an Overdue Stampede:

The U.S. News rankings have always been suspect, and in turn they have corrupted America’s universities. Now, several major law schools have begun a boycott. This could end with the collapse of the ranking system if undergraduate schools follow. Let’s hope so. ...

As innumerable critics have pointed out, the rankings use arbitrary indicators of quality, including such inherently subjective and circular criteria as reputation. But far worse than the rankings themselves is the ways colleges and universities try to game them. ...

These patterns of social class and higher education are deeply entrenched in the intergenerational inequality of American life. The irony is that universities claim to be avenues of upward mobility. Most of the things they might do to change those patterns are hard. Boycotting the U.S. News rankings should be relatively easy.

James Goodnow (CEO & Managing Partner, Fennemore Craig (Phoenix)), Has Yale Changed The Law School Rankings Game?:

The reasons the law schools have given for their rankings exodus are varied but mostly come down to variations on the theme that the U.S. News rankings collectively do more harm than good for our profession. Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken cited as an example how the rankings systematically penalizes programs that encourage students to move toward public-interest careers.

The U.S. News rankings place a premium on law schools’ employment numbers for their graduates. When some underperforming schools tried to game the system by “hiring” their own graduates when they were unable to find gainful employment, the U.S. News stopped counting school-funded positions towards a schools’ employment numbers. Per Gerken, this meant that Yale was punished and disincentivized from its longstanding practice of funding a number of highly competitive fellowships in public-interest fields. The U.S. News rankings were forcing the school to choose between keeping its metrics high or honoring its mission to serve the world, so Yale chose to stop chasing the U.S. News numbers. ...

My head and heart say this exodus from the top is probably an overall good thing. The culture of law is heavily informed by concepts of ranking and prestige, largely to our detriment. ... The U.S. News rankings give helpful structure and order to assessing legal academia, but too often they short-circuit our thinking and prevent us from making more rounded, holistic decisions. ...

Academia has been wrestling in recent years with its relationship to rankings, lists, standardized tests, and other putatively “objective” criteria that may help or harm students in equal measure. If nothing else, it’s admirable to see some of the chief beneficiaries of a system calling out its flaws rather than blindly accepting its accolades. We’re probably never going to get this balance just right. But we can keep working to make it better.

Inside Higher Ed, What Will Happen to ‘U.S. News’ Rankings?:

Some think (and many hope) that the move of law schools away from the publication will prompt undergraduate colleges to do the same. But no new challenges have emerged on undergraduate rankings … thus far. ...

[Colin] Diver said he’s “puzzled” by why more colleges have not joined the law schools. He offered theories via email about why they haven’t.

One theory is that “undergraduate schools view their constituency (mostly 16- to 18-year-old high schoolers) as more naïve, gullible, impressionable (and therefore rankings-bewitched) than law schools view their constituencies (22- to 30-year-old college graduates and often early-careerists).” As a result, “at least many of the top-tier law schools are willing to take the risk that a postboycott drop in their ranking won’t hurt them and might actually help them with their more worldly constituencies.”

But Diver noted a “problem with this explanation is the abundant evidence that law school applicants seem even more mesmerized by rankings than anyone else.”

He cited another possible reason: “law schools, which seek to prepare people for careers in law practice, public service, and the like, are more attuned to concerns about justice and the public good, than undergraduate schools, and therefore more unsettled by the U.S. News rankings formulas’ patent bias in favor of wealth and privilege.” Many of the law schools leaving the rankings have indeed cited such values. But Diver added that “the top law schools send the vast majority of their grads to the big corporate law firms, and benefit from that fact in many ways—good job-placement data, rich graduates more able to make big alumni donations.”

Diver (and others) suggested timing may also be a factor. Many law school deans are receiving the forms to fill out now, “prompting them to ask: Why the hell are we doing this?” Undergraduate rankings are based on surveys in the spring.

Mike Spivey, Law Schools Leaving The U.S. News Rankings: Implications For This Year & The Future

National Jurist, Top Law Schools Rebel Against U.S. News’ Annual Rankings, but the Magazine Vows to Publish Anyway

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

Law School Rankings, Legal Ed Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink