Paul L. Caron

Saturday, December 3, 2022

More Commentary On The U.S. News Law School Rankings Boycott (Part 2)

US News Logo 2Reuters, Stay? Go? Law Schools Diverge in US News Rankings Revolt:

Bob Morse, who heads the U.S. News rankings, has been calling law school deans to discuss their participation, and some schools are likely waiting to see if he changes the rankings methodology to address the concerns raised by the boycotting schools, said law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey. U.S. News said in a statement Friday that its data team is having "conversations with law schools on these important topics."

New York Times:

  • Matthew Diller (Dean, Fordham):  [T]he law schools in the T14 are excellent, but there is no magic to the number 14, and the U.S. News algorithm includes as much “noise” as “signal.” ... Prospective students miss out when they substitute reliance on U.S. News rankings for their own research into which law schools are a good fit for them, given their academic records, interests, career goals and financial situations.
  • Susan Pace Hamill (Alabama):  ​As a law professor for more than 25 years, I applaud the recent boycott of the U.S. News & World Report rankings. The rankings serve only the periodical itself and deans adept at prioritizing favored metrics, especially test scores. More insidiously, the rankings harm students. In addition to motivating deans to award scholarships to students with the highest test scores instead of students with true financial need, and discouraging public interest work, at best the rankings provide students a one-dimensional picture.

Stephen Ferruolo (Former Dean, San Diego):

Finally! As a sometime law school dean, I can attest that the USNWR rankings have for too long been the principal metrics driving law school and university administrations in making decisions relating to admissions, expenditures and, above all, financial aid that have been detrimental to increasing access to law school and the legal profession for first generation students, advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, and supporting those students committed to public interest and public service. Congratulations to Dean Martinez of SLS and the other deans who have taken the lead in ending this travesty of looking to nonsensical and harmful magazine rankings as the principles driving strategic planning and budgetary allocations. I certainly recognize it will be harder for many lesser ranked law schools to follow. But follow they must! It would have given me such pleasure and satisfaction to have been one of the first among them. Go SLS.

Reuters, Why Rankings-'Obsessed' Law Students May Stick with U.S. News:

U.S. News & World Report faced a steady stream of bad news this month, when at least a dozen U.S. law schools vowed to end their participation in the magazine's annual rankings process.

But admissions consultants and legal educators say the exodus is unlikely to loosen the rankings’ grip on aspiring lawyers.

“Applicants are obsessed with rankings, which makes it hard for law schools not to respond to that,” said admissions consultant Anna Ivey, a former admissions dean at the University of Chicago Law School.

Ivey compared trying to convince applicants to look beyond the U.S. News rankings to “pushing a boulder up a hill.” Applicants and their parents tend to focus on rank over individual career and location preferences, she said, and online discussion boards for law school applicants are similarly dominated by rankings talk.

Slate, College Rankings Are Finally Facing a Reckoning:

Colin Diver has never really liked the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking system for colleges and universities. But at least he’s come to this opinion honestly. As dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1989 to 1999, he dreaded the rankings dance every year. ...

On a recent episode of What Next, I spoke with Diver about why some of the country’s top law schools decided to pull out of U.S. News’ influential ranking system. Are colleges next? Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Part of the logic for the law schools’ dropping out of the rankings involved some of the gaming of the system and how that played out over years. Like, one of the metrics that U.S. News used to judge law schools was employment of graduates. And the problem was that it incentivized graduates to go to big firms, and some schools started employing graduates themselves, so it looked like their students were getting jobs when they weren’t.

U.S. News tightened up this loophole. But then the law schools said: “Now that makes it look like these people whom we’ve given fellowships to go be public interest attorneys rather than going to big firms are unemployed. It makes us look worse.” You can see how trying to fix the loopholes gets problematic after a while.

That’s a good example. For years, the law school rankings were based heavily on the employment rate of graduates. And, as you say, law schools gamed that system by creating phony jobs or short-term jobs to hire their unemployed graduates. Then, the American Bar Association cracked down on that. But, as you say, then schools that try to foster public service careers through fellowships and so forth got penalized for it.

Harvard Crimson Editorial, What, Like it’s Hard?: HLS leaves U.S. News & World Report Rankings:

It’s been a tumultuous year for U.S. News & World Report’s annual school rankings. Earlier this semester, the U.S. News rankings made news when a scandal at Columbia caused the Ivy League institution to drop from 2nd to 18th on the rankings. Now, along with other highly prestigious law schools such as Stanford, Georgetown, Columbia, Berkeley, and Yale, Harvard Law School has withdrawn from the U.S. News annual rankings.

As an Editorial Board that has expressed concern about higher education’s obsession with rankings in the past, we are glad to see that HLS shares similar concerns. We hope this news rings in a new era for higher education — one in which the pursuit of a high ranking does not supersede the imperative to provide a high-quality education to students. ...

In a world driven by numbers, we should strive to limit the influence of abstract rankings and begin to prioritize our own happiness. Following in the footsteps of HLS, we must break ranks.

Bloomberg Law, Law School Diversity May Improve After Rankings, LSAT Moves:

Top law schools’ efforts to increase student body diversity could get a boost from moves to drop LSAT requirements and participation in the U.S. News rankings.

An American Bar Association panel voted last month to move away from a requirement that law schools use the Law School Admission Test or another standardized test for admissions, although the decision isn’t final. About the same time, Yale Law School announced it won’t participate in the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings due to concerns over methodology, triggering an exodus by at least eight other top-ranked law schools.

These two changes will give more flexibility, particularly to top schools, which could seek out more diverse student bodies or offer public interest fellowships after graduation without concern about the impact on their rankings, experts say.

Michael Simkovic (USC), Should Student Loan Balances be Included in Law School Rankings?:

One of the most contentious areas of disagreement between U.S. News and law schools boycotting its rankings turns on whether student loan balances should be included in the rankings.   Currently, a higher student loan balance counts against a law school in the rankings.

Student loan balances are apparently meant so serve as a crude proxy for the cost of law school.  All else being equal, the more a law school costs, the higher the debt balance of graduating students.  Thus, the rankings arguably incorporate both measures of quality and measures of cost.

A hybrid approach that might offer the best of both worlds would be to create three or four categories of law schools--i.e., high-end, mid-tier, and economy--and only rank law schools at similar price points against each other. This is similar to the approach that IIHS uses to rank vehicle safety, even though virtually every luxury SUV is objectively safer than even the safest compact economy car.

Transcript, Podcast: Law Schools Leaving the U.S. News Rankings—Implications for This Year & The Future

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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