Paul L. Caron

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Reading The U.S. News Law School Rankings Tea Leaves

Reuters, U.S. News Law School Rankings Release Date Set, Methodology Changes Expected:

US News (2023)Rankings watchers expect that U.S. News will modify its formula to make it more difficult for people to use publicly available American Bar Association data to forecast the results months before the official list comes out and to reduce volatility in schools’ rankings. ...

Projections of the rankings by [Mike] Spivey, Pepperdine Law Dean Paul Caron, and Notre Dame professor Derek Muller suggest New York University School of Law this year would drop to either No. 10 or 11 from the current No. 5 without a change in methodology. The University of Virginia School of law, now No. 8, would jump to No. 4 in all three projections. Year-over-year moves of that magnitude among the top 14 schools are unusual. ... U.S. News may seek to reduce the volatility of the upcoming rankings by adding new metrics or reducing the weight of certain metrics, Muller said., US News Law School Rankings Shrouded in Mystery:

The U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings are set to release on April 9. While the organization is doing some things differently this year, it hasn’t revealed anything about possible changes in methodology.

One certain change this year, however, includes each law school receiving only its own data this week to check for accuracy instead of law schools receiving a full early report of all schools to review. ...

Since some of the data wasn’t part of the calculations last year, this might suggest changes in methodology, but that’s hard to say for sure, a couple of law deans told ...

“We expect to see some methodology changes to the rankings this year,” Dave Killoran, chief executive officer of PowerScore Test Preparation, told on Wednesday. “If they were to use the same methodology as last year, then anyone could predict the final outcomes since the rankings are built on public data,” which U.S. News doesn’t want, “so they will change the weighting on some items, and this will produce movement among their top schools.”

This is exactly what Paul Caron, the Duane and Kelly Roberts dean and professor of law at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, has been doing in his TaxProf blog. On Monday, he ranked Yale as No. 1 and Stanford as No. 2—they were tied in last year’s U.S. News rankings.

“Most commentators anticipate that U.S. News will tinker with the methodology in the forthcoming 2024-25 rankings,” Caron wrote.

Killoran said the thing to remember is that U.S. News’ methodology is “arbitrary” meaning it chooses “what is supposedly important and what should weigh the most.” Further, U.S. News has a financial incentive to create movement in the rankings, Killoran said, adding, “We continue to hope that students realize that these rankings are in no way absolute or definitive.” ...

Interest in the survey continues to wane as several schools that participated last year have reported to that they won’t be participating or are unsure whether they will be participating this year.

Last year, 63 law schools boycotted the rankings, which began in November 2022 when Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken announced the school’s plans to no longer participate, referring to the rankings as “profoundly flawed.”

Schools that didn’t participate last year are still being sent emails from U.S. News and are included in the process, which involves U.S. News collecting data from the American Bar Association 509 reports being used for all schools no matter whether they participate or not.

Some deans still rally behind the U.S. news rankings, like Peter “Bo” Rutledge, dean and Talmadge Chair of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law, who told that he is happy to still participate.

Mike Spivey, Some Law Rankings Inside Scoop:

U.S. News seems to be asking schools to verify some data on their curricular offerings. This could be a new metric (which wouldn't be surprising) measuring some ratio of number of classes overall, classes with 25 students or below, etc., to total enrollment. This would stabilize the T14, which USNWR needs to do, and add a somewhat ambiguous but credible metric (which they also need to do). It’s possible that the ratio of clinical seats to size of class will also matter. And a multiyear average is something they could still do with same data that they need (we think) and we couldn’t detect. But if the curriculum part is true, this would hurt large schools.

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