Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Muller: Law Schools That Don't Double The Size Of Their Career Development Departments In Response To U.S. News Are Committing 'Academic Malpractice'

U.S. News, Methodology: 2024 Best Law Schools Rankings:

US News (2023)There were a couple differences in how the rankings were calculated, described below. In summary, U.S. News averaged its bar passage and employment indicators over two years. ...

Placement success and bar passage comprise three indicators that total 58% of each school's rank.

  • Outcomes 10 months after graduation (weighted 33%): ... To improve measurement of this indicator – given the common year-to-year fluctuations associated with outcome measures and the small sizes of some graduating J.D. classes – this indicator was derived from the average of the 2021 and 2022 graduating class outcomes 10 months after graduation. Specifically, U.S. News took a nonweighted average by aggregating the score it previously computed from the 2021 graduating class with the newly calculated 2022 class score, then divided it by two. Previously, this indicator was based only on the most recent year. ...
  • Bar passage rate for first-time test-takers (18%): ... As was done with the 10 months after graduation indicator, this bar passage indicator was newly calculated as a two-year, nonweighted average pertaining to the 2021 and 2022 graduating classes.
  • Ultimate bar passage rate (7%): ... Like the previous two outcome measures, the ultimate bar passage rate indicator was newly calculated as a two-year, nonweighted average.

Derek Muller (Notre Dame; Google Scholar), The 2024-2025 USNWR Law School Rankings: Methodology Tweaks May Help Entrench Elite Schools, But Elite Schools See Reputation Decline Among Lawyers and Judges:

[E]mployment effects have now effectively doubled. A good year will redound to a school for two years; a bad year will need to be managed across two years. No more opportunities to rip the bandage off and move to the next year; a bad year will linger. And yes, while it receives less weight in a given year, a school is seeking to maximize the effect each time every year.

So what I said before, about career development being the most valuable job in legal education? Doubly true.

The legal profession is witnessing a slowdown in hiring. Tougher times are coming to graduating law classes in the very near future. And you don’t want to be preparing for the storm in the middle of it. Law schools should be in the process of adding to their career development offices—in fact, I’d say, as a rule of thumb, doubling the size. And if you’re not… well, I hate to use the term “academic malpractice” without an individualized assessment, but it’s the term I’m likely use anyway. And while that may sound like overkill, recall that this isn’t simply a USNWR gimmick. It benefits students to have high quality career advising and mentoring for their future professional careers, particularly as economic challenges arise in the near future.

(The same is true for bar passage, but at many schools, I think, the value will largely be in ensuring that students get over the finish line at the end of the day if they fail the bar exam on the first attempt. The state-specific relative metric of the bar exam makes it tougher to quantify here. So the same is true, I think, just to a smaller degree, of bar support more generally.)

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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