my rankings rant

if you go to law school or are a lawyer and do not live under a rock, you heard that new rankings came out this week. they made a major change this year by expanding the rankings from just the top 100 to the top 75%, with the remaining schools unranked and listed alphabetically.

rankings are determined by:

  • academic reputation: 25% of the score. determined by a survey of ~ 700 law school deans and faculty.
  • practitioner reputation: 15%. survey of biglaw lawyers and federal/state judges.
  • median LSAT score: 12.5%.
  • employment rate 9 months after graduation: 12%
  • median GPA: 10%
  • money: 9.75%. this number includes per capita expenditures on instruction, library, and supporting services.
  • employment rate at graduation: 6%.
  • student-teacher ratio: 3%.
  • acceptance rate: 2.5%. hint: lower acceptance rate, higher rank.
  • bar pass rate: 2%.
  • other money: 1.5%. money spent by the school that is not captured in the 9.75% above (eg: utilities, financial aid)
  • books: 0.75%. physical copies in the lawbrary. yes, it is 2011.
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excuse my language, but this is utter bullshit. 40% of a school’s score is determined by what someone else thinks of the quality of your score. i’m sorry, i thought rankings were supposed to be slightly mathematical, rather than a popularity contest. how can you expect professors, who are busy writing and teaching, and judges and lawyers, who are busy practicing, to be fully apprised of the quality of all the law schools in this country? further, 11.25% of the score is based on how much cash a school lays out per student. rather than rewarding efficiency, this factor increases a school’s rank if they spend more.

the other factors–particularly LSAT, GPA, and employment rates–make perfect sense to me. that should be how you judge a school. how employed (or employable) are the students once they leave? what does the market think of the people that school has produced? if students aren’t getting jobs, isn’t that a more damning indictment of a school than what a professor in california thinks of a school in south carolina?

i was an economics major in undergrad–my appreciation for legitimate statistics is probably a bit higher than most. but holy batman, kids! ranking a school based on how many damn books are in their library? i’m pretty sure we all have full access to lexis and westlaw; why does it matter whether we can grab the hardbound version?

to be fair, i understand that rankings can be very helpful, particularly to prospective students weighing their options, particularly in this economy. preparing to spend up to $200k (plus opportunity costs of three years) demands fully educating oneself. but creating a ranking system that is so malleable is absurd. i’m all for visibility and helping people understand what they’re getting themselves into; i think it’s absolutely ridiculous how law schools deceive everyone through lying and shell games. but hell, address it with a real solution with real statistics and a real methodology.

what do y’all think?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “my rankings rant

  1. I agree with you. There are also further (well-documented and exposed) problems with how schools evaluate their “employment rate 9 months after graduation” statistic. Well, that and the “average starting salary.” That’s the one that duped me when I went to law school. Honestly, the statistics in and around law schools and their ranking are out of control. Clearly, something needs to be done. What? That I don’t know.

    • rankings have devolved into a huge joke. much of it is based on a simple opinion, while the actual scientific stuff is totally manipulated by schools. IZ FRAUD. maybe we should forget about practicing law and figure out how to fix this shiz. you in?

  2. Alexandra Robbins talked about this when she spoke at SBC…and in her book.

    The rankings are completely rigged. They actually throw out formulas for ranking systems that don’t but the expected schools at the top. The USA News rankings taht are so popular once ranked Princeton as the #3 law school…but Princeton doesn’t have a law school. The ranking was completely based on outside factors and extrapolations.

    Undergrad rankings are also made based mostly on outside perception, and I also think they factor in tuition cost. Such bull. I’m disappointed that the rankings have grown to include Law schools instead of declining in popularity.

  3. I have a love-hate relationship with them. On one hand, it justifies the $, on the other, it’s really all very poorly done. I worked in admissions in undergrad, and it also forces some very poor and difficult decision-making in those offices, which is quite unfortunate. We used to joke that we should recruit more dumb people to apply so we could drive down our admitted % (which is higher for my school than most in our bracket, and keeps us from moving up).

    • several schools are well known for sending out application fee waivers to students who don’t have a shot at getting in so that their admitted percentage drops. the manipulation makes sense, but it’s just absurd that this is what law schools feel a need to focus on.

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