The New U.S. News Rankings Are Here! The New U.S. News Rankings Are Here!

This hidden camera shot catches a law school dean as he wets his pants as he sees that his school has moved up two slots in the U.S. News rankings.

This hidden camera shot catches a law school dean as he wets his pants as he sees that his school has moved up two slots in the U.S. News rankings.

Ok, not here. I’m not publishing them. All the lawprof blogs are all aflutter with the new leaked U.S. News rankings — obsessing over which schools moved up and down. But, nobody is talking about the real story — that U.S. News’ rankings don’t mean jack for anyone except law school marketing departments. Here’s a news flash:

U.S. News doesn’t consider quality of teaching, practical skills training or faculty-student relations, while bar passage rate and placement have low importance in the U.S. News rankings. (source)

I am so tired of seeing law schools chase the U.S. News rankings. They mean nothing in terms of quality of education, yet they mean so much in terms of marketing. Why? Because law schools let them.

If I ever become dean of a law school, (which I probably won’t, but if I do…) when I get that U.S. News survey, I am going to gut a fish, wrap the entrails in the form, and send it back to them. Then I am going to focus on what really matters — quality of teaching, mentoring, and faculty-student relations.

One of my readers wrote to me one time:

U.S. News is just a corporate shill for the Establishment and their anointed legal indoctrination centers. The rankings are a rigged beauty contest where the big boys trade slots every year, but they always stay on top. That is why “teaching, practical skills training or faculty-student relations” aren’t factored, because they would plummet into the lower tiers.

Word to that Johnny.

No wonder American legal education is worthless. Perhaps if we were all more concerned with the Vault rankings, the profession would be better off.

UPDATE: My fellow Satyriconista, Chris Harbin, disagrees with me.

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3 Responses to The New U.S. News Rankings Are Here! The New U.S. News Rankings Are Here!

  1. […] and World Report leak day. The USNWR ranking is flawed, like all ranking systems (ahem BCS), but my colleague, Marc doth protest too much, methinks. The rankings serve a  legitimate and useful purpose – comparing law schools by employment […]

  2. Halcyon 0L says:

    I can only really comment as a future law student and someone with a lot of experience in secondary and elementary education, not as someone with much experience (yet) with legal education.

    The rankings are a useful tool, but not a useful Bible.

    It was good to know where I should not waste my time applying based on scores. Further, it was good to know where I would look like an attractive candidate, worthy of a scholarship (and I was offered half a dozen very substantial scholarships). I applied to more than 20 schools, and researched even more than that. It was a time intensive process–I looked at the faculty in the news, a number of elements of the program, and checked out blawg gossip for a sense of internecine drama. I couldn’t do that for all of the schools out there, and as it was, this took an enormous amount of time. The data in the rankings did help me narrow my search, and had a few tidbits of useful data for what was valuable in a school.

    Now, I have chosen a school with a fabulous faculty:student ratio, one where it was clear to me that faculty have strong relationships with the students, one with a culture focused (generally) on the students, and one with access to a number of strong job markets within a few hours. These are critical elements of an education, and for acquiring those meaningful recommendations and connections for a future career. I have no idea how to distill most of these aspects into quantifiable metrics–but these absolutely were the deciding factors. Functionalist things like parking access, exam-time space in the library, and experiences with career services also weighed in to varying degrees.

    As another example, I know you went to GULC–it’s impossible to put into a number the fact that you could intern/extern/clinic in DC, vs. intern/extern/clinic in, say, the Twin Cities. So yes, the rankings fail at measuring these most important elements of an education. However, smart consumers will research their opportunities thoroughly. Buyer beware.

    It is, however, unfortunate that these rankings are used as a Bible, a divine text to tell what is Good and True. Frankly, from my perspective, that’s just an extension of the cultural gatekeeping that pervades education at large. The leaders stay leaders because that’s how cultural boundaries are maintained. But, I submit that if you *were* a dean, I don’t think you would wrap the survey in fishguts like your (I’m guessing by your last name) seaworthy Italic peninsular ancestors. It is part of that game, and however inane you know it to be, you would want to play it as well as you could for your students, because you value them because your (I’m guessing) actually care. No. You’d fill it out, and you might actually even fill it out honestly, rather than just trying to sabotage competitors.

  3. No, I would wrap fish guts in the survey. Of course, I would also let the students know in their application materials that we do not respond to US News — so they could make an informed decision based on that fact.

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