You are right it is highly illogical, but a lot of what legal education has become is illogical. The rankings make no sense yet schools are obsessed with upgrading it even though they have no control over it. The majority of a schools ranking is based on judges/lawyers nationwide marking a scantron from 1-5. So a judge in Miami that has never been to Washington state rates a school there. That makes no sense, but it happens. The sad thing is U.S. News does not have to make sense, because it is a for-profit private magazine offering their subjective opinion without any authority. LSAC and the Bar adamantly disapprove of the rankings as seen in this articles from LSAC. http://www.lsac.org/JD/Choose/deans-speak-out-rankings.asp http://www.lsac.org/LsacResources/Research/GR/GR-07-02.pdf
The majority of the rankings is completely out of a schools control, but 20% of a schools ranking is based on GPA/LSAT score so they do everything they can to get numbers. U.S. News does not do any investigation into where the applicant went to school or what their major was they just report the GPA. So schools will use the 4.0 in basket weaving to show a 4.0 student choose their school. There is no in-depth analysis of where the 4.0 came from. I am proof of this. Currently I have a huge scholarship at my school, because I played college basketball and got numerous free A's, therefore my GPA was heavily inflated. Below is a copy of my transcripts from one semester. My friend in law school went to a very good undergrad and had a 3.0 in molecular biology and was offered no money. It makes no sense, but that is what happens.
CALIF STATUTORY LAW 3.00 B
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION 3.00 B
ART HISTORY 3.00 B
THEORY OF BASKETBALL 1.00 A
VARSITY CONDITIONING 1.00 A
MEN VARSITY BASKETBALL 1.00 A
Men's Varsity Basketball 1.00 A
CIRCUIT WEIGHT TRAINING 1.00 A
BASKETBALL BIA *V* 1.00 A
Schools also manipulate the rankings by sending out fee waivers to students they know they are going to reject. This is because acceptance rate is also calculated into U.S. News formula. Again there is no in-depth look at who is applying just how many applications were sent and how many were rejected. So schools will send out fee waivers to all kinds of people. If a free application comes in a lot of people will apply and they will promptly reject them making it look like they are more selective than they are. It really is sad, but schools are often more focused on improving their ranking than providing a quality legal education. This is because important things like bar passage make up a whopping 2% of the ranking. Then the bottom line is a school boosts their rankings by the kind of students that start at their school. There is no look at the quality of students produced at graduation. This makes no sense, but it is the way it goes.
To show how far the scam U.S. News has perpetuated has gone Villanova has recently been caught for lying to U.S. News http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/02/09/villanova-law-school-admits-it-lied-to-boost-rankings-but-so/
. I am sure many schools are doing this, but Villanova was courageous enough to step forward.
I have personally loved my law school experience up to this point, but there are lot of things that make no sense in legal education and much of it is perpetrated by U.S. News. Unfortunately, law schools have resorted resort to lying to this for-profit private publication instead of uniting against it. I hope one day law schools get the balls to do something about it, but that day probably won't come anytime soon. Instead schools will continue to spend time, money,and energy attempting to manipulate this magazine so they can be an 11 way tie for 84th place. As you can see there is currently an 11 way tie for 84th place http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-rankings/page+4
I realize there are top schools Harvard, Yale, etc and they don't fall for the kind of manipulation that I am discussing. However, the remaining 90% of law schools spend more time trying to rise from 92nd to 84th in this private magazine than they do on preparing students for the real world.