Paul L. Caron

Monday, March 6, 2023

Muller: Boycotting Law Schools Are Still Admitting 'Splitters' To Maximize Their U.S. News Ranking

Following up on my previous post, Law School Admissions, U.S. News Rankings, And 'Splitters':  Derek Muller (Iowa; Google Scholar), Law Schools Say They're "Boycotting" the USNWR Rankings, But Their Admissions Practices Suggest Otherwise:

Earlier, I pointed out that law schools “boycotting” the USNWR law school rankings really meant that they would not be completing the survey forms circulated to them. ... I also noted that some schools appeared to still be “participating” in other elements of the rankings. Some, for instance, circulated promotional material to prospective USNWR voting faculty about the achievements of their schools and their faculty.

But I wanted to focus on another mismatch between what law schools are saying and what they are doing. And that’s in admissions.

Yale and Harvard, in their opening salvo, lamented the over-emphasize on the median LSAT and UGPA of incoming students. So, the thought might have gone, we are going to consider admissions based on our own criteria, not dictated by USNWR. As I chronicled a decade ago, USNWR significantly distorts the incentives for law school admissions by driving schools to admit students with either an above-target-median LSAT or an above-target-median UGPA. Higher-caliber students who fall just below the cusp are not admitted, as measured by the “index score,” which is most predictive of law school performance. Lower-caliber students who excel on one of these two measures are admitted.

So would boycotting schools simply ignore the consequences of the USNWR formula and instead admit classes less focused on medians? It appears not. With almost pinpoint precision, you can see that law schools continue to target a particular median LSAT and UGPA in their admissions statistics. Self-reported, which in various iterations has been a go-to source of self-reported law school admissions information for twenty years, reflects that these law schools, so far, continue to push medians. ...

I’ll be watching the schools purporting to “boycott” because USNWR inadequately values the things they purport to value in admissions, and then see if they have changed their approach to admissions. So far, it looks like they haven’t.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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