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Author Topic: An idea for U.S. News rankings  (Read 3203 times)

Top Cat

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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2009, 02:04:14 PM »
To elaborate on the sports analogy, I propose that instead of using win/ loss records as your support, you use a gambling metaphor instead.  Which is the better team- Michigan or Appalachian State?  Vegas odds are going to say that Michigan is... and the gamblers (especially gamblers who are fans of the Big 10) are going to bet on Michigan.

The gamblers are your potential employers.  Appalachian State may have had a better team- however, if you are the bookie that year taking bets in the Midwest, which team do you place the odds on? 

Your argument actually allows me to expand on my own.  If you, the bookie, went down to Boone, North Carolina, that year, I can promise you that the money would have still went with Michigan.  Why?  Because the disparity in perception was so large that even local fans were not convinced that the local school was more talented than the top 5 powerhouse.  However, if you would have asked fans in LA and fans in Michigan that season who was the better team between UMich and USC, you would probably have received a higher proportion of USC gamblers in LA and vice versa in Michigan.  Again, talent doesn't matter in this analogy- we are not measuring who is the better team (or law school); we are measuring perception (or hireability).  Thus, it is essential that regional bias is factored in. 

I grew up in SEC country, and if there is an SEC team in the championship game, I will always pull for them over a Big 10/ Pac 10 team.  Likewise, it is reasonable to expect that employers are likely to root for (hire from) schools they are more familiar with, all other things equal.
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Good Teacher

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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2009, 03:30:14 PM »
Here we go again...LOL.

Cool Beans, you never defined "better".  As I said before, that's at the heart of our debate.  If you can't put the words together and clarify what you mean by that ubiquitous term I can't even begin to have a conversation with you.  I mean, in football, if a win doesn't decide who's better then what does?

Top Cat, you make a good point.  If we're talking odds, your point wins the argument hands down.  However, I still postulate that it is essential to describe the odds correctly.  For instance, suppose you were in Tunica (I love the South) and a statistician was offering a book on the amount of money people typically win when they bet on black, green, or red in Roulette.  But instead of calling the book by that name he called it "The Best Colors to Bet on in Roulette".  He might base this on the fact that people win more money when the bet on green or red.  Although many might find the book useful, I would hold that the book would mislead many buyers since it only gives stats on the winnings people had after betting on each color, not the likelihood of each color turning a buck or what he really means by best.

It appears that the sports/election analogies I used earlier has distracted you all from the issue I have with USNWR.  Let me make it very clear, I contend that the report should be appropriately titled.  Moreover, if it is impossible to measure what you claim to report (i.e. the top or best law schools), then publishing the report is improvident and perverse since it will only confuse credulous readers.

It’s been fun guys. 
"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." Henry David Thoreau

Cool Beans

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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2009, 03:49:37 PM »
Defining best is not too hard actually.  The rankings refer to what schools are expected to produce alums who, on aggregate, will be the most effective lawyers.  In other words, if you were hiring an attorney, which school would you most prefer this lawyer earned his degree at if this was to be your only indication of ability.  Therefore, one could determine that Yale is "better" than Memphis.  Maybe Memphis provides an excellent education in terms of helping its students best reach their potential.  However, I'd still take the Yale student.

Good Teacher

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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2009, 05:22:33 PM »
Defining best is not too hard actually.  The rankings refer to what schools are expected to produce alums who, on aggregate, will be the most effective lawyers.  In other words, if you were hiring an attorney, which school would you most prefer this lawyer earned his degree at if this was to be your only indication of ability.  Therefore, one could determine that Yale is "better" than Memphis.  Maybe Memphis provides an excellent education in terms of helping its students best reach their potential.  However, I'd still take the Yale student.

Wow!  You responded without berating The Good Teacher?  Thanks for sparing me of more insults.

On a different note… :-\ You've got to be kidding me...that's your definition? 

Well I’ll give you credit for mentioning something about gauging which schools produce the most effective lawyers.  However, this is still vague since there will varying opinions on what it means to be an “effective” lawyer.  For instance, it could refer the number of cases one wins, the position one holds in the judicial system or in business. 

Still I ask, why would you choose Yale over Memphis?  I could assume you have more faith in Yale because of its position in US history or its record of being highly selective but do those things indicate that their alums will be more effective than a Memphis grad?  Frankly Cool Beans, you haven’t provided enough proof to persuade an intelligent lady or gent.
"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." Henry David Thoreau

Top Cat

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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2009, 07:47:37 AM »
Defining best is not too hard actually.  The rankings refer to what schools are expected to produce alums who, on aggregate, will be the most effective lawyers.  In other words, if you were hiring an attorney, which school would you most prefer this lawyer earned his degree at if this was to be your only indication of ability.  Therefore, one could determine that Yale is "better" than Memphis.  Maybe Memphis provides an excellent education in terms of helping its students best reach their potential.  However, I'd still take the Yale student.

Wow!  You responded without berating The Good Teacher?  Thanks for sparing me of more insults.

On a different note… :-\ You've got to be kidding me...that's your definition? 

Well I’ll give you credit for mentioning something about gauging which schools produce the most effective lawyers.  However, this is still vague since there will varying opinions on what it means to be an “effective” lawyer.  For instance, it could refer the number of cases one wins, the position one holds in the judicial system or in business. 

Still I ask, why would you choose Yale over Memphis?  I could assume you have more faith in Yale because of its position in US history or its record of being highly selective but do those things indicate that their alums will be more effective than a Memphis grad?  Frankly Cool Beans, you haven’t provided enough proof to persuade an intelligent lady or gent.


First off, no one has berated you.

The U.S. News rankings don't rank lawyers- they rank schools.  Part of ranking a school (maybe the only important part in this economy) is job prospects coming out of the school.  It is absolutely, 100% possible that the number 1 student out of Memphis is more brilliant than the number 1 student out of Yale.  Yet Yale will have much better job opportunities anywhere in the country... therefore, at least in career prospects, Yale still beats Memphis.  Not because the lawyers coming out Yale are better, but because Yale provides a better service (through better career prospects).

There is no way to have a perfect system.  My original idea (which we seem to be drifting away from) was not to perfect the U.S. News rankings.  It was to take the existing U.S. News rankings, keep their current formulas and calculations, and improve on them. 
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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2009, 03:11:53 PM »
First off, no one has berated you.

The U.S. News rankings don't rank lawyers- they rank schools.  Part of ranking a school (maybe the only important part in this economy) is job prospects coming out of the school.  It is absolutely, 100% possible that the number 1 student out of Memphis is more brilliant than the number 1 student out of Yale.  Yet Yale will have much better job opportunities anywhere in the country... therefore, at least in career prospects, Yale still beats Memphis.  Not because the lawyers coming out Yale are better, but because Yale provides a better service (through better career prospects).

There is no way to have a perfect system.  My original idea (which we seem to be drifting away from) was not to perfect the U.S. News rankings.  It was to take the existing U.S. News rankings, keep their current formulas and calculations, and improve on them. 


You’ve just proved my point.  Contrary to Cool Beans, you’ve interpreted the title “Top 100 Law Schools” to indicate job prospects.  That’s NOT what it aims to do (please don’t take my word for it, look it up).  That’s NOT what it does (surely you don’t believe their report is telling you that a #40 school has greater job prospects than a #60 school).  It does include employment rate as one of its 12 indicators but those stats can easily be found on LSAC.org or the school’s site. 

There’s an article written by a Judge Louis Pollak of Pennsylvania titled "Why Trying to Rank Law Schools Numerically Is a Non-Productive Undertaking: An Article on the U.S. News & World Report 2009 List of “The Top 100 Schools."

Here’s the link:
http://www.drexel.edu/law/lawreview/issues/articles_v1_n1/Pollak.pdf

It’s funny but he and I make some very similar points.

I’m just curious, are you looking for some external publication to give your school of choice more credibility than that which is already given by the American Bar Association, your community, and your school’s current alum? 

Also, a few months ago I posted my opinion on what USNWR actually does.  You’re not a newbie here so I’m sure you know how to find it if you’re interested.
"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." Henry David Thoreau

Top Cat

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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2009, 03:56:05 PM »
If I thought US News rankings were the only thing could give a school credibility, I would not have gone to UK.  Trust me.  I am an example of someone who chose to take the US News rankings into account, only to disregard them for things that were, to me, higher priorities.  I offered a proposal to IMPROVE the rankings.  You have proceeded to hi-jack my thread and rail against the US News rankings.  Fair enough- have fun.
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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2009, 05:25:45 PM »
If I thought US News rankings were the only thing could give a school credibility, I would not have gone to UK.  Trust me.  I am an example of someone who chose to take the US News rankings into account, only to disregard them for things that were, to me, higher priorities.  I offered a proposal to IMPROVE the rankings.  You have proceeded to hi-jack my thread and rail against the US News rankings.  Fair enough- have fun.

Don't be such a sore loser Top Cat. On a different note, I've got friend that'll be at UK this fall as well.  Small world huh? 

Good luck with your studies.
"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone." Henry David Thoreau

lbk36

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Re: An idea for U.S. News rankings
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2009, 08:59:04 AM »
Just a fly on the wall who observed some points:

Is it possible that the USNWR rankings have multiple aims?  Possibly as many aims as there are columns in the list?  I think the left-most numbers, the "rankings" are really only a small part of any potential value someone could draw from the list.  Because, at the end of the day, if you're looking at 3 different applications to fill a spot in your firm, and they're all in the top 20% of their respective classes, and their schools are ranked #58, #60, and #61, any hiring partner who goes with the guy from #58 just because it has received a technically better ranking is, bluntly, a moron.  The differences between those three schools in terms of the "quality of lawyer/legal mind produced" are minute, if they even exist.  Same principle goes for a student deciding which acceptance off to take.  If we look again at our three schools, and Suzie Student decides on #58 just because it's two or three spots higher on the rankings list that a magazine puts out, she's a moron, and you better hope she's not your attorney some day because that has to be the least sound logic anyone has ever exercised.

Now, I think the true value of the USNWR rankings lies in the synthesizing of so much potentially useful data.  Say you've been accepted and are trying to decide whether or not to attend X school, but you're not planning to ultimately practice in the state where X School is located.  The most valuable piece of data to you, as an individual, at that moment, is what percentage of X grads practice out-of-state.  What if you know, based on your personal learning style, that you need to be at a school with small class sizes and a low student-to-faculty ratio in order to thrive?  How about the specialties at certain schools.  Vermont Law is clearly the place to be if you want to practice environmental law.  But why would anyone in their right mind pick a Tier 3 school if they could go somewhere ranked higher?!?!?!??! (sarcasm) 

The rankings are what you make of them.  Anyone who is an aspiring law student had better be comfortable with taking a lot of raw information and coming to their own conclusions about it; why does it matter what they call the list if the people who matter understand what it's really supposed to represent?  Thinking that the line on the list where that school ends up is the single most important factor than anyone takes into consideration about a given school demonstrates naivete.

So, yes, the idea of compiling statistics from a regional perspective has the potential to be helpful for some people, and I am certainly in support of such a proposal.  After all, the report is more or less just a list of raw numbers, so it can (and should!) be recombined and remixed in a hundred different ways to get more accurate vantage points on a myriad of issues.  When I was looking to apply to law schools, I copied the rankings into a spreadsheet.  Then, I sorted one column at a time- I decided which schools were offering class sizes that I considered too large (dealbreaking-ly too large), and removed them from the list; I removed schools that had poor placement numbers in the region where I intended to practice; because finances entered into to my school decision, I reviewed the average debt and award numbers and removed schools that didn't offer enough money to offset tuition to a reasonable degree for me; I looked at schools that specialized in my intended area of practice.  Thank goodness for this information being all in one place; if it hadn't, there would have been several schools I may not have even applied to, because I wasn't well-versed in what they had to offer, that turned out to be great fits for what I was looking for.  Let's just take the rankings for what they are- a list of statistics.  And let's really stop giving two hoots about what a marketing team wants to name that list of statistics.  Interpret it for yourself.  If you can't do that, keep moving on because law is not the profession for you.