Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Muller: What Is The Endgame For Law Schools Boycotting The U.S. News Rankings?

Derek T. Muller (Iowa; Google Scholar), What Does the Endgame Look Like For Law Schools Refusing to Participate in USNWR Rankings?:

US News (2023)Whether it’s Ralph Waldo Emerson or The Wire, the sentiment in the expression, “If you come at the king, you best not miss” is a memorable one. That is, if you seek to overthrow the one in charge of something, you must truly overthrow it. If you don’t, and merely wound or annoy, well, perhaps all you’ve done is make that person angry at you, and perhaps you’re in a worse place than when you began.

I’ve been puzzling over this sentiment over the last week as Yale and Harvard (and now a handful of other elite schools in tow) announce they will not “participate” in the USNWR rankings in the future.

The puzzle is this: so what? Or, what’s the endgame here? ...

[W]ill the “boycott” redound to the boycotters’ benefit? Perhaps not, if the direction is toward more transparent data.

Paul Caron has blogged about another interesting feature. Many of the schools that have joined the early boycott have fallen in USNWR in recent years, perhaps a suggestion, again, of a desire to “lock in” the present ranking. And many other schools that have publicly come out against the boycott (or who have been noticeably silent) have had advantageous boosts in recent years. So there are different incentives for those who want to change the rankings (by boycotting, forcing the hand) and those who do not (by maintaining the status quo). ...

Finally, what “boycotting” looks like. I openly asked whether schools “boycotting” intended to “boycott” the surveys sent around to law schools. It’s apparent that answer is no. “Boycotting” law schools submitted promotional material to prospective USNWR reputation survey voters (including me) even after announcing the boycott. So it’s a partial boycott, one in which schools intend to maintain as high a ranking as possible while also being recalcitrant in handing over data.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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