U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has joined the growing chorus of U.S. News & World Report law school rankings critics, saying during a talk this week at the University of Notre Dame Law School that the annual list fails to accurately gauge which schools are providing the best legal education.
“I think they’re based on things, from what I understand, that are very amorphous, very subjective, very word of mouth factors that don’t correlate well with the education that you’re actually receiving, and I find them highly problematic,” Kavanaugh said during a Monday panel with law dean Marcus Cole, a video of which the school released on Thursday. ...
U.S. News has said it will continue to rank law schools despite the boycott and that is modifying its methodology to rely only on publicly available data supplied annually by the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools. It will no longer include expenditures-per-student, a metric that has been criticized as rewarding schools for driving up tuition, among other changes.
But the revamped rankings will still assign each school a “reputation score” derived from surveys of legal academics, judges and practicing lawyers. Kavanaugh called the reputation scores “kind of a joke,” adding that most people don’t have enough knowledge about different law schools to effectively rank them. He added that he does not consider law school rank when hiring clerks.
Justice Kavanaugh:I think those ratings are very problematic. I think they're based on things, from what I understand, that are very amorphous, very subjective, very word of mouth, factors that don't correlate well with the education that you're actually receiving, and I find them highly problematic. The reputation score, that's kind of a joke, isn't it? Who has the knowledge of all the different [schools], as a judge, to give anything approaching a good analysis of that? ... I should probably stop, but I'm going to say it anyway. As I understand it, they look at how much money is spent on this versus that, and the library. [Does] that really show whether a student is getting a better education at School A or School B? I think they're very problematic, and they cause, as I understand it, again, I'm a judge, I don't know everything as you all might know. it seems to cause all kinds of perverse incentives to kick in at law schools. Transfer policies seem to be affected dramatically at some schools that I'm familiar with by trying not to hurt their U.S. News ranking. Got anything else? I'm down on them. I don't think they accurately reflect what — You think. what are you trying to accomplish at a law school? You take a group of people ... and try to get them as lawyers as close as they can be to whatever their potential is in three years, and that's very hard, U.S. News is not measuring that, and that's really an analysis of the kind of professors you have, how much time they put in with the individual students, how much mentorship goes on, how much writing they're teaching you, what kind of extracurriculars like this symposium and law review are going on, and I just don't think that's measured — as I understand it, I could be wrong, I'm going to get a letter from U.S. News, I could be wrong. I just don't think that's measured. It's like if you measured a good coach by how much money he spends on shoes. Well, no, that's not really relevant, does the coach get the team to play together and get the team to achieve its potential and bring out the best in each player. That's what I think law schools should be doing. And I think Notre Dame is doing it, and I don't think the rankings quite capture that. And I think they ... I've gone on too long.