Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.  (Read 5592 times)

bigs5068

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 1474
    • View Profile
    • Email
I just came across this randomly and have to say it is very well written and realistic view of the effects that U.S. News Rankings have had on legal education. Schools are caught in the Catch 22 presented in the article. http://www.lsac.org/LsacResources/Research/GR/GR-07-02.pdf

Page 27 of the Report
You have people who focus on whether or not the rankings are in fact valid, whether they really show anything,
whether the methodology is good, and so on. And those debates can seem endless at times as everybody kind of
decries the rankings. On the flip side you have the pragmatic reality of the rankings. … Whatever the validity of
the methodology, it’s difficult to pretend that the rankings don’t matter. I mean prospective students use them;
employers use them; university administrators use them. So whether we in legal academics think they’re valid
or not, whether they’re reflective or not, the truth is that I don’t think you can just ignore them. Page 7

This is the sad part whether you support or hate the rankings. Page 10
Reputational rating is the most heavily weighted criterion in the USN ranking formula and therefore has
become an obvious target of attention. Law schools are spending substantial amounts of money15 on brochures and other
marketing publications that are distributed to those who have a vote, or even might have a vote, in the USN survey
(e.g.,
other deans, administrators, faculty members). Administrators note that they receive these brochures throughout the year,
but they arrive in very large quantities in the weeks immediately prior to the October release of the USN reputation
survey, what one marketing director referred to as “sweeps week.” Many report that these mailings usually end up in the
garbage unread.16 Regardless of their effect on reputation ratings, these brochures represent a large expenditure of
resources that could be used for any of a variety of other purposes. Among the alternatives mentioned were new faculty
members, writing centers, scholarships, and library volumes—purposes that, according to most administrators, would
more directly benefit the school in terms of educational quality. Not surprisingly, this is a hot-button issue for these
administrators:
I could hire a faculty member for the amount of money spent on this; I could support twenty students for this
price; I could buy a substantial number of books for our library; all of which strike me as what this enterprise
ought to be about … I could almost support an entire legal writing program, I could fund a clinic, I could do any
of those things. Instead I’m putting out a magazine which goes out to people who aren’t interested in it and
perhaps to some who are interested in it. But those who are interested in it would be the alums, not the federal
judges in Milwaukee.


-This is really bad because students could be much better served if this magazine with no authority choose to not make money of this system. I am completely for ranking the top 25 or so schools. This is because no expenditure needs to be spent on determining these elite level schools. Harvard Grads are hired each year and judges, firms, etc can make realistic evaluations on the quality of the graduates because they are scattered through the country. However, you are unlikley to find many Marquette Grads outside of Wisconsin so why in Gods name is Marquette spending money on sending brochures etc to Southwestern or having Williamette send information to a Federal Judge in Nebraska? Why is all I can ask it's so stupid and inefficient, sadly the only people that really get hurt by this whole system our the student's whose tuition dollars are going to boosting a schools ranking instead of improving the educational experience.

Complaints About the Rankings
Page 7
Many deans criticize the quality of USN measures. To take one example, many suggest that respondents to the
reputational surveys are ill-informed about the schools they evaluate and that their evaluations are strategic responses. As
one dean put it:

The data on the reputational survey are so bad … I don’t understand how you get anything other than some
consensus… There is clear consensus of the 10 or 12 schools that should get a five [where five is “outstanding”
and one is “marginal”]. How is there any difference between Chicago and Yale based on reputation? Anyone
who doesn’t put Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Michigan, NU, or Berkeley as a five, is either being instrumental or is
an idiot.

The Positives of the Rankings. Page 8


USN has forced law schools to place students well; to do a better job of this. Before [rankings] there wasn’t a
number that was running around. … In the past a dean could pontificate about how great his program was, but
now it’s harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes. With these numbers, you can’t just talk. The basic things
that law schools do are still all there: we want to get the best students, the best faculty, and we want our students
to be successful. Our job and our career goals haven’t changed, but now we have metrics. I think it’s just like
Consumer Reports for cars. ( There is no doubt there should be some statistics to make sure law schools don't become like politics and make just make thigns up out of thin air, but I still don't understand why they don't simply rank the top 25-50 schools so they can all strive to be in this category. If they are not in the upper tier of schools then why distinguish between Tier 2/3/4?

Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2011, 11:59:52 PM »
I just came across this randomly and have to say it is very well written and realistic view of the effects that U.S. News Rankings have had on legal education. Schools are caught in the Catch 22 presented in the article. http://www.lsac.org/LsacResources/Research/GR/GR-07-02.pdf


bigs & All -

All quite true, and the system as it has morphed has not, on the whole, been good for students.  That written, what's important is, for a prospective applicant, to know what to do with the information and, for a current student, to know what not to do.

Decisions of which law schools to apply to and attend are made based on any number of factors.  Basing them solely on the U.S. News ranking is unwise . . . but the rankings are a valuable resource.  And . . . with a significant caveat . . . they're also valuable below the top, "national" schools.  The caveat is that below the top schools, geography is (by definition) more relevant.  This means that rankings are neither supreme nor silly; they are as useful as their proper consideration warrants.

Just one counterrevolutionary note, and one in which I have absolutely no vested interest:  U.S. News has created and garnered a franchise.  Good for them.  Others have tried to unseat them, and, if they wanted to, the LSAC or ABA could do so fairly easily.  But, to the extent that U.S. News does a creditable job with an inherently subjective evaluation, well, it seems the real shame is on us if we don't use it well.

(Sorry, bigs . . . love your posts . . . but I do support the careful use of U.S. News, from Yale to #201.  = :   )

Thane.

Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: bags
« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2011, 12:04:00 AM »
for cheap designer handbags at my estore


When I'm thinkin' law, I'm thinkin' cheap handbags. 

= :   )

PS:  All handbags have designers, no?

bigs5068

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 1474
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2011, 10:45:56 PM »
I must respectfully dissent. The rankings could be helpful and to some extent are, but what has happened is schools are focused on manipulating their numbers and not giving students a good education. An example is Villanova having recently been caught LYING to U.S. News for manipulating their stats. http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/02/09/villanova-law-school-admits-it-lied-to-boost-rankings-but-so/ .  The National Jurist did a great article on this and my post is not meant to knock Villanova they came clean and I am certain the majority of schools are doing the same things Villanova did.

Schools are literally putting significant amounts of money, resources, and time to boost the opinion of some magazine that has no authority and uses an absurd methodology to make their conclusions. It is so absurd that schools jump 20 spots any given year and they have 11 way ties in the rankings see the 11 way tie for 84th place. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-rankings/page+4 .

All that being said I don't blame U.S. News for what has happened they are a private magazine making a lot of money for doing nothing. The sad thing is law schools have not banned together to focus on producing competent lawyers. Instead schools will discuss how high U.S. News ranked them in some speciality or my school for my example hired our Dean to boost our ranking. That was the reason and needless to say it didn't happen, because nobody can boost a ranking the system makes no sense. I just wish law schools would disregard U.S. News and ban together to stop it and focus on producing competent lawyers not lying to to get into an 11 way tie for 84th place. That kind of behavior is not good for anyone.

Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2011, 06:46:45 PM »
All that being said I don't blame U.S. News for what has happened they are a private magazine making a lot of money for doing nothing. The sad thing is law schools have not banned together to focus on producing competent lawyers. Instead schools will discuss how high U.S. News ranked them in some speciality or my school for my example hired our Dean to boost our ranking. That was the reason and needless to say it didn't happen, because nobody can boost a ranking the system makes no sense. I just wish law schools would disregard U.S. News and ban together to stop it and focus on producing competent lawyers not lying to to get into an 11 way tie for 84th place. That kind of behavior is not good for anyone.


Human beings will manipulate anything measured, and humans are lustful of quantification.  Ergo, humans will misuse data, and assertively so. 

There's hardly an organization in existence that doesn't (mis)manage its internal systems with poorly-designed systems of quantitative goals.  Every one of those goals--good and bad--will ripple throughout the organization, often in unintended but deeply consequential ways. 

In a sense, this makes it even more important to evaluate these data points well . . . as employers WILL.

In immodesty, I think my book on law school provides an effective way to think about rankings that is quite different from how they are commonly considered.  In addition, a new book, Law School Undercover, does an excellent job for those who are in the application stages.  Well worth reading.

As to law schools, few practitioners (or professors) will argue that law graduates know much (or anything) about practicing law.  Practitioners will say this with varying stages of dismay or dismissal.  Professors will say this proudly.  The sin relates more to the umbrella organization, the ABA.  For those future ABA governors out there, we'll forward you the complaints.  = :  )    By the way, the points in your last paragraph are addressed at length in Planet Law School, for those fellow contrarians out there.

Thane.

FalconJimmy

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 684
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2011, 05:25:45 AM »
There's hardly an organization in existence that doesn't (mis)manage its internal systems with poorly-designed systems of quantitative goals.  Every one of those goals--good and bad--will ripple throughout the organization, often in unintended but deeply consequential ways. 


It doesn't help that so many people have such bad quantitative skills. 

I remember once when I worked for a manufacturing company (which should have had a high proportion of mechanical and industrial engineers), seeing a report where they were boasting the gains due to some recent process improvement initiative.

One of the measures they had was reduction of floor-space.

They claimed that they had reduced floor-space usage by something like 8,000%.

I saw that statistic and shot back an e-mail to the originator saying that you can reduce floor space usage by 100% if you eliminate all the floor space used, but that you can't reduce it by more than 100%.

I was told to keep quiet because the executive leading this initiative would be very displeased if he saw that I was criticizing the efforts.

If that's the level of quantitative ability in a manufacturing organization, I shudder to think of what it must be in a group of attorneys.

politicolaw

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 31
    • View Profile
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2011, 09:40:25 PM »

The sad thing is law schools have not banned together to focus on producing competent lawyers. Instead schools will discuss how high U.S. News ranked them in some speciality or my school for my example hired our Dean to boost our ranking. That was the reason and needless to say it didn't happen, because nobody can boost a ranking the system makes no sense. I just wish law schools would disregard U.S. News and ban together to stop it and focus on producing competent lawyers not lying to to get into an 11 way tie for 84th place. That kind of behavior is not good for anyone.

I wish law schools would market what they are doing to improve their quality and how they are producing more competent lawyers as well. I read an article at above the law a few months back on how prospective law students reported on a survey that a large majority choose a law school based on the us news ranking, and not on more practical things like job placement & bar passage. These sort of changes also will not come until the students/customers demand such information.


Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2011, 04:35:43 AM »
I wish law schools would market what they are doing to improve their quality and how they are producing more competent lawyers as well. I read an article at above the law a few months back on how prospective law students reported on a survey that a large majority choose a law school based on the us news ranking, and not on more practical things like job placement & bar passage. These sort of changes also will not come until the students/customers demand such information.


The truth is that all law schools . . . all of them . . . are in pretty much the same boat with regard to these issues.  They have no real reason to compete in these ways, and they have serious incentives to keep doing what they're doing.  (Again, Law School Undercover offers an insider's look at the commodification of law schools, as well as advice for what to do with that knowledge.) 

The "customers" of law schools are not students, but firms; students are the product.  And, for their own reasons, firms like the system as it is.

Moreover, it is an open secret that one does not learn in law school how to practice law, and in fact those courses that were introduced around the scathing MacCrate Report of 1992 are openly dismissed among law faculty.  Hereagain, read Law School Undercover.  That book (and mine) will lend important insight into how to approach (and how not to approach) your legal research and writing course.

So, not to be too brusque but the topics under discussion have been thrashed about for the better part of two decades.  If a report sanctioned by the ABA and headed by one of the most powerful practitioners in the country cannot change an industry practice, well, this is the time for an individual to consider how to navigate in the world as it is, rather than as we would wish it to be.  (Just to be clear, I included a bonus chapter on much of this in my book for law new students.  So I share these sentiments.  I also, however, consider it intellectually treasonous to disregard reality.  Would that Marx had only shared that sentiment.  = :   )

Thane.


Thane Messinger

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 533
    • View Profile
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2011, 04:51:22 AM »

They claimed that they had reduced floor-space usage by something like 8,000%.



At least they were able to secure that 8,000% bonus.

= :   )

bigs5068

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 1474
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Excellent Article from LSAC regarding the U.S. News Rankings.
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2011, 03:58:21 PM »
I think everything you said is true, but it is exactly what is wrong with legal education. Law students should be the customers of the school and who the school tries to impress. The main reason for this should be obvious law students pay tuition at an outrageous rate and this outrageous tuition is frivolously rising every year. Look at the LSAC archives. http://www.lsac.org/LSACResources/Publications/official-guide-archives.asp at every ABA school the tuition has risen about 20% between 2007-2010 what changed at any of these schools? I am certain nothing and the cost of a legal education is simply absurd and continuing to get more expensive. It really seems like the ABA has created an anti-trust situation where you have to go to an ABA school and ALL  of the schools are already absurd tuition rates are increasing significantly every year with no basis.I would love it Congress who is handing money to these schools through Direct Loans actually requested an accounting from schools to explain why tuition is upwards of $30,000 per year.

Aside from all that I hope it is not a secret that public opinion of lawyers is not very good. Could it be that lawyers who are entrusted to handle important  matters in people's lives screw up these situations because they are never taught how to handle situations or be effective lawyers in law school. I have not been to med school, but the whole clinical/residency setup prepares you to be a doctor and if I had to get a heart surgery I would be a little concerned if my surgeon told me I learned nothing about how to be a doctor in med school or my residency. Apparently, this whole I learned nothing about how to be a lawyer in law school is ok to the ABA and the legal profession, but it makes no sense to me. In my two years of internships etc I have seem some atrociously bad lawyers that attended all levels of schools and there inability to handle the most basic problems likely stems from the fact that law school did not teach them to be lawyers. I am just very surprised the ABA does not regulate attorneys and education more and hopefully it changes at some point.  I have seen several cases where lawyers being paid hundreds of dollars an hour regularly hurt their clients and make a simple problem far more complex than it ever needed to be.

It is to bad the MacCrate report did not go any further than it did, but one failure doesn't mean people should stop. Hopefully more people like him stand up and make an attempt to change the system that is in serious need of reform.