Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 13, 2023

More Commentary On The 2024 U.S. News Law School Rankings

US News (2023)Chronicle of Higher Education, What the New ‘U.S. News’ Law-School Rankings Reveal About the Rankings Enterprise:

Here are three takeaways from this year’s law list and what they say about the rankings enterprise.

The law schools that opted out clustered at certain places on the list. Of the 15 top-ranked law schools, all but one, the University of Chicago, declined to provide data this year. Several schools at the bottom of the list also didn’t return U.S. News’s survey. In the middle, opt-outs were scarcer. ...  [A]t the bottom of the list, Malik C. Edwards, dean of the North Carolina Central University School of Law, said he hadn’t participated in the last three years, because he didn’t see it as worth his time. ...

The top 14 law schools stayed nearly the same. Historically, U.S. News rankings were designed to change only modestly year to year. Editors feared large shifts “could have undermined the credibility of the project,” Alvin P. Sanoff, an early and influential editor, wrote in 2007. Keeping the most scrutinized part of the law-school list — the top 14 — largely the same reflects that dedication to stability. ...

Did the rankings protest help right inequities in law education? That was the point of the boycott. Did it work?

It did and it didn’t, Edwards said. On the one hand, top law schools’ criticisms of U.S. News helped draw public attention to points that law deans had long made to one another, and drove real change in the methodology. On the other hand, problems persist.

Brian Leiter (Chicago; Google Scholar), Has Outdone Itself: It Has Made Its Law School Rankings Even More Absurd Than Before!:

There's not much to say about what is essentially a random ordering of law schools within tier groups.  Any student who made a decision on the basis of small (and, in some cases, even large) ordinal differences in this year's travesty really should have a cause of action against  (Some of the swings in overall rank are beyond bizarre!  UC Davis and Arizona dropped from the top 50?  Emory and George Washington dropped out of the top 30?  Is this a joke?) 

Brian Leiter (Chicago; Google Scholar), More on the New Ranking Stew:

The whole formula still of course makes no sense, and is inexplicable in terms of the weightings.  What is clear is that the results are even more detached from traditional criteria of excellence, like faculty quality.  The rankings will also now be much more volatile, for reasons Professor Muller explains.

Derek Muller (Iowa; Google Scholar), New USNWR Methodology Will Yield Dramatically More Compression and Volatility in Law School Rankings:

The [methodology] changes move away from the least volatile metrics toward the most volatile metrics. Some volatility is because of compression—some metrics are very compressed and even slight changes year to year can affect the relative positioning of schools. Some of the volatility is because of the nature of the factors themselves—a handful of graduates who fail or pass the bar, or who secure good jobs or who end up unemployed, are much more likely volatile outcomes on a year-to-year basis than changes in admissions statistics. ...

In employment, there is tremendous compression near the top of the rankings in particular. The difference between 99% employed and 97% employed can mean a a rankings change of 15 spots; from 90% to 87% can be 50 spots for the Class of 2021. ...

This compression is the result of two decisions by USNWR.

First, USNWR has increased categories that are much more compressed (e.g, employment) rather than the ones that were much more spread out (e.g., expenditures). ...

Second, it has added Puerto Rico’s three schools to the rankings. While this may not seem like a big deal, it is a huge deal if you are putting all the schools on a 0-100 scoring spectrum.

Derek Muller (Iowa; Google Scholar),  What I Got Right (and Wrong) in Projecting the USNWR Law Rankings:

In January, when I projected the new USNWR law rankings, I wrote, ”I wanted to give something public facing, and to plant a marker to see how right—or more likely, how wrong!—I am come spring. (And believe me, if I’m wrong, I’ll write about it!)”

With the rankings out, we can compare them to my projections. ...

I thought USNWR would need to add some weight to admissions statistics to make up for the loss of other categories. I was wrong. They diminished those categories and added a lot—a lot—to add to outputs. Employed at 10 months rose from 14% to 33%. First-time bar passage rose from 3% to 18%. Those are massive changes.

David Lat (Original Jurisdiction), The New U.S. News Rankings: Harvard Takes A Tumble:

[T]he tie with Penn that had Harvard grads up in arms has been broken—in Penn’s favor. No longer a “T3” school, Harvard is #5—and tied in that spot with NYU and Duke. The horror, the horror! ...

  • Go Duke! Rising six spots, it was the biggest gainer in the T14—no small feat, given the “stickiness” at the the top of the rankings.

  • As it has done on a handful of occasions over the years, Georgetown fell out of the T14, replaced by UCLA. Can the Hoyas claw their way back into that illustrious group? Tune in next year.

  • In terms of the NYU v. Columbia rivalry, NYU gained the upper hand over its uptown rival: NYU rose from #7 to #5, while Columbia fell from #4 to #8. As for the rivalry between Boston University and Boston College, they’re converging: BU dropped 10 spots and BC rose 8, so now they’re #27 and #29, respectively.

  • The new methodology, by placing much greater weight on employment outcomes and bar passage, seemed to favor state schools—which makes sense, since state schools usually have strong in-state employer networks and excel at preparing students for their state’s bar exam. Eight state schools in the top 53 climbed by five or more spots: Minnesota (+5), Georgia (+9), Ohio State (+8), Texas A&M (+17), Utah (+5), Kansas (+27), Oklahoma (+37), and UT Knoxville (+5). Only three state schools in this group dropped by five or more spots: Alabama (-10), Iowa (-7), and Illinois (-8).

Mike Spivey, U.S. News Puts Blame On Schools & Decides Transparency Is Overrated:

Apparently U.S. News has decided to pretend that its botched rankings rollout never happened. That transparency is overrated, or at least, that it only applies to law schools, not to U.S. News. And that law schools are to blame for the rankings fiasco this year.

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