Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Muller: How Law Faculty Succeeded In Diminishing Their Importance In The U.S. News Rankings

Derek Muller (Iowa; Google Scholar), Law School Faculty Have Aggressively and Successfully Lobbied to Diminish the Importance of Law School Faculty in the USNWR Rankings:

US News (2023)In many contexts, there is a concern of “regulatory capture,” the notion that the regulated industry will lobby the regulator and ensure that the regulator sets forth rules most beneficial to the interests of the regulated industry.

In the context of the USNWR law rankings, the exact opposite has happened when it comes to the interests of law school faculty. Whether it has been intentional or inadvertent it hard to say.

It is in the self-interest of law school faculty to ensure that the USNWR law school rankings maximize the importance and influence of law school faculty. The more that faculty matter in the rankings, the better life is for law faculty—higher compensation, more competition for faculty, more hiring, more recognition for work, more earmarking for fundraising, the list goes on.

But in the last few years, law school faculty (sometimes administrators, sometimes not) have pressed for three specific rules that affirmatively diminish the importance of law faculty in the rankings.

First, citation metrics. ...

Second, expenditures per student. ...

Third, peer score. ...

[I]n three separate cases, law faculty aggressive lobbied against their own self interest. Maybe that’s because they viewed it as the right thing to do in a truly altruistic sense. Maybe because they wanted to break any reliance on USNWR or make it easier to delegitimize them. Maybe it was a failure to consider the consequences of their actions. Maybe my projections about the effect that these criteria have on faculty are simply not significant. I’m not sure.

In the end, however, we have a very different world from where we might have been five years ago. Five years ago, we might have been in a place where faculty publications and citations were directly rewarded in influential law school rankings; where expenditures on faculty compensation remained rewarded in those rankings; and where how other faculty viewed you was highly regarded in those rankings. None of that is true today. And it’s a big change in a short time.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Citation Metrics and the U.S. News Rankings

Expenditures in the U.S. News Rankings

Peer Score in the U.S. News Rankings

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