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Author Topic: For those who don't like rankings...  (Read 4186 times)

TheCause

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2010, 06:41:36 PM »
The rankings should include at least some factors that aren't directly tied to the intelligence of the incoming class and the student created "prestige" of the university.

Think about it, if you took the smartest kids in the Nation and put them in a school ranked around 80, eventually, more employers would start interviewing on that campus.  I guess it's a bit of a chicken/egg debate, but I think the intelligence of students creates future prestige, not vice versa.

Take a look at http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/best-graduate-schools/2008/03/26/law-methodology.html
The US news bases their rankings primarily on:

The Opinions of Peers (other law schools and professors) 25%
Employment Placement: 18%
The Opinions of Lawyers and Judges 15%
The LSAT scores of the incoming class. 12.5 %
The GPA of the incoming class 10%

Those categories make up 80.5% of the rankings.  
Professors, lawyers, and judges don't really know whether the quality of education is high at a certain institution unless they attended or taught there, and then their judgments are biased.  They understand that these schools are prestigious and kids with crazy high LSATs and GPAs go there.
Employers interview at the schools with the most competitive classes and the highest scores.  Does anyone honestly think Harvard placement would stay consistent if they only admitted students with LSAT scores between 150 and 160?  Their ranking would drop overnight.

All of those things, including prestige, have to do with how smart/hard working the students are.  Smart Kids choose to go to the schools with the highest prestige and best career prospects, so it's just a perpetual cycle.

These assumptions are supported by the fact that the rankings are relatively stagnant.  Sure, schools move around all the time, but there are very few "new" schools in the top 25.  What if a good state school, like the University of Arizona (Ranked at the bottom of T2) came up with a brilliant way of educating and preparing prospective lawyers?  Would their ranking shoot up to the top ten?  It's doubtful, and I'm pretty sure it's never happened.  I assume that is because Law Schools consider themselves to be academic temples, not vocational schools.  "Our purpose as guardians of the holy legal tradition is to bring together the best and the brightest young minds, and carry out amazing intellectual discussions thereby combining our knowledge and creating a type of idealistic pedagogical kingdom."
If a school's slogan was "Our purpose is to train you to be successful practitioners," U.S. news would just save them a place at the Tier Three Table (Or Toilet)

The cycle needs to be broken.
In reality, the US news rankings are only meaningful because students use them to make decisions.  
Why can't the US news implement other factors?

-Quality of Life  (Based on student surveys, weather, crime rate, entertainment, market size of surrounding city.)
-Satisfaction with Professors  (Based on student reviews, and the real-world experience of professors)
-Tuition Amount.  I know the US news considers financial aid (a whopping 1.5%), but why isn't tuition a factor?
-Average salary ten years out of law school.
-Percentage of Students still in the legal industry after 10 years.

My point is that student's should choose their law school based on criteria other than prestige, but that won't happen until employers start hiring from schools with less prestige, which won't happen until smarter students go to schools with less prestige..

Wait... I guess we're screwed.




 



Thane Messinger

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2010, 04:58:03 PM »
The rankings should include at least some factors that aren't directly tied to the intelligence of the incoming class and the student created "prestige" of the university.

Think about it, if you took the smartest kids in the Nation and put them in a school ranked around 80, eventually, more employers would start interviewing on that campus.  I guess it's a bit of a chicken/egg debate, but I think the intelligence of students creates future prestige, not vice versa.



The paradox now is that prestige is based, in large measure, not on faculty but on students.  Nearly all law faculty are now cut from the same cloth: Top 5 law school, top clerkship, perhaps a year or two in a national firm. 

As to employers, it's unclear why this is wrong.  Aren't employers entitled to select their employees? 

[The legal hiring game is horribly mis-done, but it makes sense if one looks at it from the employers' perspective.  The real problem is that, as law school is now "done," most law students simply do not learn the law in the way that employers need it, or, at the very least, they do not prove that they have learned the law in the way that employers need it.  As a result, legal employers are very much going to use rankings--but only coincidentally.  The real story is a bit more nuanced.  Employers will seek that which they need.  Among those needs are prestige (vis-a-vis clients) and raw talent.  Until law schools and law students alter the way they teach and learn, there is zero incentive for employers to change.]


bigs5068

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2010, 08:07:30 PM »
The rankings are ridiculous, the formula makes absolutely no sense as I pointed out earlier in this thread. Certainly Harvard is higher ranked and employers will go the HIGH ranked schools first, because clients will be much more impressed to have a Harvard Grad then a California Western Grad. That is the average Joe's way of thinking and honestly the Harvard grad will probably be the better attorney 9 out of 10 times.   

However, once you get outside of the top 25 or so law schools the rankings become pretty irrelevant. I really think they should do it more as an honor like the NCAA does and rank the top 25 instead of making the ludicrous distinction between the 94th and the 132nd best school. Especially seeing how they measure it makes even less since to distinguish between these schools.

I will just make this final comment to anyone considering law school. If you are not going to an elite school Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Yale, just schools of that elk.  Do not get caught up in the rankings, go to a school in the location you want to live.  Do not go to the 89th best school in Timbuktu and turn down the 117th best school in the area you want to live in. If you go outside of the elite schools for the most part you are going to end up in the location you go to school.  Obviously, there are exceptions, but you are going to create some big hurdles for yourself and no employer is going to go out of their way to recruit across country from the 89th best law school if they have the 102nd best school in the same city. 



Thane Messinger

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2010, 08:39:31 PM »

* * *

I will just make this final comment to anyone considering law school. If you are not going to an elite school Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Yale, just schools of that elk.  Do not get caught up in the rankings, go to a school in the location you want to live.  Do not go to the 89th best school in Timbuktu and turn down the 117th best school in the area you want to live in. If you go outside of the elite schools for the most part you are going to end up in the location you go to school.  Obviously, there are exceptions, but you are going to create some big hurdles for yourself and no employer is going to go out of their way to recruit across country from the 89th best law school if they have the 102nd best school in the same city.  



The rankings are not ridiculous.  Neither are they more than a substantially subjective assessment of quality/prestige/promise.  

In any event, Big offers good advice:  One should not make a determination of where to go to law school based solely on rank.  Nor should one put too much emphasis on this.  Nor should one put too much faith the farther below the top tier one is.  Nor should one think of rankings as a fine distinction; they're anything but.  (The point made above would have been stronger had the nominal comparison been between 94 and 112; 38 spaces is pushing the boundaries of the point.)

Rankings do reflect common perceptions, fair or otherwise, and these will make a difference, in ways large and small.  The key is to use rankings, rather than being used by them.  Consider your own situation, scores, and preferences.  Rankings are a part of the stew, and should be taken seriously . . . but not as "the answer" to any law school question.

One way to think of rankings is not to think of them as a linear scale.  Rather, they are three dimensional, above and across the nation.  In this way, it makes much more sense how to compare a variety of dissimilar schools.  

bigs5068

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2010, 01:55:55 AM »
You are right rankings have some merit, certainly Hastings is more respected than GGU in the Bay Area and University of San Diego is more respected than California Western in San Diego. The rankings mean something, but once you get concerned about rankings and attending a slightly higher ranked school outside of the location you want to work in you get in trouble.

If you take my situation last year I nearly made a HORRENDOUS decision based on U.S. News rankings. I have always wanted to live and work in San Francisco and for some idiotic reason I thought going to Michigan State would give me a better chance of accomplishing that than going to Golden Gate. Michigan State was t-3 and GGU was a t-4 so the ranking was technically higher. However, had I gone to MSU I would have created a massive hurdle for myself and nobody in San Francisco would be that impressed at the distinction between 110 and 132 or whatever the difference between a t-3 and t-4 might be.

I do want to say I am shocked at how ridiculous the formula for the rankings is. To have 40% based on completely subjective opinions of unidentified agents of a private company is shocking. In reality the only two objective ranking things that are measured in the ranking formula are LSAT score and Bar Passage and they only make up only 12% of the schools rankings, which is baffling to me. The other factors can be toyed with and manipulated and it really does surprise me that such a horrendous formula carries so much weight in student's decisions to attend law school.

Thane Messinger

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2010, 01:46:15 PM »
You are right rankings have some merit, certainly Hastings is more respected than GGU in the Bay Area and University of San Diego is more respected than California Western in San Diego. The rankings mean something, but once you get concerned about rankings and attending a slightly higher ranked school outside of the location you want to work in you get in trouble.

If you take my situation last year I nearly made a HORRENDOUS decision based on U.S. News rankings. I have always wanted to live and work in San Francisco and for some idiotic reason I thought going to Michigan State would give me a better chance of accomplishing that than going to Golden Gate. Michigan State was t-3 and GGU was a t-4 so the ranking was technically higher. However, had I gone to MSU I would have created a massive hurdle for myself and nobody in San Francisco would be that impressed at the distinction between 110 and 132 or whatever the difference between a t-3 and t-4 might be.

I do want to say I am shocked at how ridiculous the formula for the rankings is. To have 40% based on completely subjective opinions of unidentified agents of a private company is shocking. In reality the only two objective ranking things that are measured in the ranking formula are LSAT score and Bar Passage and they only make up only 12% of the schools rankings, which is baffling to me. The other factors can be toyed with and manipulated and it really does surprise me that such a horrendous formula carries so much weight in student's decisions to attend law school.


This is a good example of how rankings can be misused, and you're quite right about both the intra-regional prestige of various schools, and also the very different calculus that applies across regions.  The more different these factors are, the more one's personal circumstances should be considered, even over a raw rank.  

This is why it's useful NOT to think of rankings as linear--as we tend to do (T14, etc...).  Were you looking at, say, Golden Gate and the University of Michigan, there the difference would be obvious.  (Not a terribly fair comparison, of course, but this is what makes the point.)  Anyone from the University of Michigan is likely to have a better time finding a job in California than anyone in California in a significantly lesser-ranked law school.  Narrow that gap, and other factors (should) start to weigh more heavily.  Within any tier, a difference of a half-dozen is all-but-irrelevant.  Within the top two tiers and within a few dozen places, other factors are more important.  And below that, the range gets even wider, as you state.  The reason, however, is that we're talking about the lower two tiers.  Were this between a T14 and low-T1 school, or mid-T1 and mid-T2, the answer might change.

To all, Big's point is quite right: rankings should not make the decision, usually, and especially not if other factors (such as a clear desire to live in a certain place) are more relevant to YOU.  "You" is in caps because this really should be a personal decision, based on factors unique to your own preferences, circumstances, and finances.

However, rankings ARE important.  This might ruffle feathers, and it's certainly an uncomfortable truth.  But, depending upon what one intends to do, be very, very wary about the tendency to dismiss rankings.  Even if based entirely on fluff (which they're not, not even as to the 40% quasi-subjective component mentioned), they are still important, because they're taken as important.

nerfco

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2010, 03:55:39 PM »
I do want to say I am shocked at how ridiculous the formula for the rankings is. To have 40% based on completely subjective opinions of unidentified agents of a private company is shocking.

It is a bit less shocking if you consider that many people get jobs by sending resumes for open positions. Going to a school that lawyers consider great is likely to get you more interviews than going to a school lawyers think is poor. Of course, US News doesn't take into account regional reputations, which is problematic. If you only want to work in San Diego, it really doesn't matter if lawyers in NYC have a low opinion of your school (or have never heard of it), if people in San Diego think it is a good school.

But, it's hard to correct for that factor in these lists, unless you want separate reputation rankings for each different city/region... but that is more difficult.

nerfco

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2010, 03:59:06 PM »
This is why it's useful NOT to think of rankings as linear--as we tend to do (T14, etc...).

Strongly agree with this point. The difference between the #1 school and the #6 school is substantial and real--YLS students have better opportunities than UofC students.

But as you go down the list, a ranking difference of 5 becomes meaningless. No one cares if you attend, for example, the #91 school instead of the #96 school. They are likely very comparable schools, and the rankings difference doesn't tell you anything useful. (Schools in these rankings can also jump around a lot more--it wouldn't be shocking if #91 and #96 swapped places next year, but it would be shocking if YLS and UofC moved up or down even a couple spots, much less swapped places.)

bigs5068

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2010, 07:30:04 PM »
They do switch without at any real reason. Look at University of San Francisco they were #72 or so in 2007 then moved to a tier 3 in 2008 and then in 2009 they moved back into the 70's. I am sure nothing of consequence changed at all during those three years the professors, library, alumni, location etc all stayed the same.  However, this drop in the ranking probably scared some applicants away from attending based on the superficial ranking formula. I think that is my problem with U.S. news it just has so much power, but it is not regulated  at all. A school is good just based on what U.S. News says, Honestly, if U.S. news put Golden Gate in the top 25 in 2010 applications would skyrocket and that just doesn't make sense to me. Nothing here would have changed the professors, alumni, dean, and so on would be exactly the same. However, U.S. news all the sudden said we were good so we are, that just doesn't make sense at all. They could drop University of Michigan down to 35 and their applications would dwindle and the school would suffer terribly, but everything there would be the same.  It just does not seem right that a private unregulated company has this much power. The ABA specifically says to ignore it, but it obviously is taken very seriously.  

  
U.S. News is brilliant for coming up with this scheme it is a great one. I am sure they get wined and dined at every school they visit, possibly getting some type of bribes along the way just so U.S. news will give them a good rank in the ranking system they made up out of thin air. It is brilliant, I might just make a San Francisco restaurant top 100 list up and come up with some formula that everyone will have to take seriously, because I say they do. U.S. news basically did that and created the rankings out of thin air and makes millions of dollars off of it. However, the reality is that U.S. news formula for measuring rankings makes nearly as much sense as the formula Cooley uses to generate their own rankings.

It could be valuable if they went more in depth then I would respect it. Some changes they could do is see how many science undergrad majors there are, because then the UGPA would make a lot more since to measure. The way it is currently set up is not fair at all. Someone could get a 2.8 in molecular biology from Harvard and then another applicant gets a 4.0 in religious studies from Timbuktu State and that is counted equally. That does not make sense, getting a high G.P.A. in a liberal arts degree is far easier than in a intense science degree so they could do some tweaking as to G.P.A. reporting. Then instead of something as broad as placement rate, which could mean working at McDonald's or being partner in a big firm, could also use some tweaking. Possilby reporting MEAN salaries not median salaries of the entire class. They could go into so much more depth than they do and it would make a lot more sense. However, the way it currently is U.S. news has as much power as a dictator. Schools have to satisfy this private company that took it upon themselves to make up a ranking system, because applicants take it seriously and I just think it is wrong.

Honestly, the only piece of the formula that is objective in their entire formula the LSAT and bar passage rate make up only 12% of it and the rest is nearly entirely subjective and gives U.S. news way to much power in my opinion. Maybe someone out there loves the rankings and thinks it is great, but I think it is really wrong.

As an example of why it is wrong one of my friends at GGU majored in molecular biology at UCSB and got a 2.8 or something he is really smart, but molecular biology is a tough subject and had he taken history I am sure he would have gotten a 4.0. Or he could have been an athlete like me and gotten a hundred free b.s. A's. Playing basketball I got A's in the following classes varsity basketball, theory of basketball, principles of basketball, weightlifting, advanced basketball, my transcript goes on with a ton of B.S. A's for every different way you can say basketball and one of those A's is the equivalent of one my friend's A's in advanced chemistry or something.  As a result of these B.S. A's I get a 16,000 scholarship and he does not. I think anyone can see that getting an A in chemistry is a lot harder than getting one in basketball. Honestly, had I known I was going to law school when I was college I would have taken a lot more B.S. classes and gotten a bigger scholarship by getting free B.S. A's in undergrad. That is not fair though, because it discourages people from taking intellectually challenging classes in undergrad and it is all done to satisfy the U.S. News ridiculous ranking system. I think examples like this are bad for the legal profession, but that is my opinion. As a sidenote my friend with the 2.8 in molecular biology finished in the top 3% of the class last semester, but he still won't get scholarship money, because he challenged himself in undergrad. I just think that is ridiculous. The End.

Thane Messinger

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Re: For those who don't like rankings...
« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2010, 02:30:47 AM »
Honestly, the only piece of the formula that is objective in their entire formula the LSAT and bar passage rate make up only 12% of it and the rest is nearly entirely subjective and gives U.S. news way to much power in my opinion. Maybe someone out there loves the rankings and thinks it is great, but I think it is really wrong. \


Bigs & All -

This might be one of the most frustrating aspects of the application process, but the truth is that objectivity is not the sole truth.

I'm reviewing one of Morten Lund's new Jagged Rocks books, and it struck me that many lawyers make the same mistake.  Just because something is subjective does not make it less relevant.  Sometimes, it is all the more so.  So, if we accept that, say, professors' collective evaluations of each other are subjective (which, prima facie, cannot be completely true), that still doesn't take us very far.  This is the essence of repuation, which is the essence of how the law (and world) work.  If everyone believes that x law school is "the best," then it is.  If no one does, then it's not.  The number of books in its library, the brilliance of its professors, students, and staff . . . all lovely, and all beside the point.  The essence of reputation is that, to a large degree, it creates its own reality. 

To further complicate things, these are very much dynamic.  Having many fine law books and professors and students and staff . . . over time those things will begin to seep into the consciousness of the professoriate, which will then be reflected in, yes, the rankings.

So, just because it's subjective "don't make it wrong."  The real key is the legitimacy of that subjectivity.  Arguably, the U.S. News rankings are about as legitimate as any; one can quibble here and there, but it's doubtful any better system will arrive--and it's exceedingly doubtful that we will grow beyond the petty need for rankings.  (Hey, it's your species too.)

See?  This is fun!   = :  )