Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New U.S. News Rankings of Law Schools: Facts and Fictions

Dan Markel (Law, Florida State) has come up with a copy of the new U.S. News law school rankings.  It's old news, of course, that the ranking methodology is baroque and indefensible and prone to gaming, but let's put that aside.  Even if U.S. News rankings of law schools are, to put the matter gently, weird, it might at least be useful to break out the one component of the survey that, at least at the higher end, has some relationship to reality and which also can't be manipulated by the schools:  namely, the reputational surveys.

Jeffrey Stake (Law, Indiana-Bloomington) has shown that the reputational survey of academics is increasingly an "echo chamber" reflecting the overall U.S. News rank.  Still, the effect isn't (yet, anyway) absolute, and the academic reputation results still tend to be a bit closer to "common wisdom" among informed academics than the overall rankings.  So here they are:

Academic Reputation Score (67% of Deans, Associate Deans, Hiring Chairs, and recently tenured faculty responded)

1.  Harvard University (4.9)

1.  Yale University (4.9)

3.  Stanford University (4.8)

4.  Columbia University (4.7)

4.  University of Chicago (4.7)

6.  New York University (4.6)

6.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (4.6)

8.  University of California, Berkeley (4.5)

8.  University of Virginia (4.5)

10. University of Pennsylvania (4.4)

11. Cornell University (4.2)

11. Duke University (4.2)

11. Georgetown University (4.2)

14. Northwestern University (4.1)

14. University of Texas, Austin (4.1)

16. University of California, Los Angeles (4.0)

17. University of Southern California (3.8)

17. Vanderbilt University (3.8)

19. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (3.6)

19. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (3.6)

21. George Washington University (3.5)

21. University of Iowa (3.5)

21. University of Wisconsin, Madison (3.5)

21. Washington University, St. Louis (3.5)

25. Boston University (3.4)

25. Emory University (3.4)

25. University of California, Davis (3.4)

25. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (3.4)

25. Washington & Lee University (3.4)

30. Boston College (3.3)

30. College of William & Mary (3.3)

30. University of California, Hastings (3.3)

30. University of Notre Dame (3.3)

Not a crazy set of results, but if we assume reasonably enough that "academic reputation" ought to track the quality of faculty and students, then some schools (UC Davis, Washington & Lee, Duke, Michigan, perhaps North Carolina, perhaps Northwestern) are too high, while others (UC Hastings, Illinois, NYU, BU) are too low, relative to the actual academic merits.  (Addendum:  It should go without saying, I hope, that these are my judgments about the relative merits only:  e.g., Michigan is "too high" in the sense that NYU is now clearly better; and so on.  Michigan can obviously have an outstanding faculty, which it does (and even before adding Laycock, Radin, et al.!), without it being sensible to rate Michigan on a par with NYU.  The same point applies to the other instances mentioned.)

The surveys of lawyers and judges suffer from the fact that the way U.S. News chooses whom to survey, a disproportionate number of those asked to be evaluators are on the two coasts, and in the Northeast in particular.  The response rate is also low, so it's also possible further geographical biases are introduced.

Practitioner Reputation (only 26% responded; those surveyed skewed toward the coasts, esp. the Northeast)

1.  Yale University (4.9)

2.  Harvard University (4.8)

2.  Stanford University (4.8)

4.  Columbia University (4.6)

4.  University of Chicago (4.6)

4.  University of Virginia (4.6)

7.  New York University (4.5)

7.  University of California, Berkeley (4.5)

7.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (4.5)

10. University of Pennsylvania (4.4)

11. Duke University (4.3)

11. Georgetown University (4.3)

13. Cornell University (4.1)

13. Northwestern University (4.1)

13. University of Texas, Austin (4.1)

16. Vanderbilt University (4.0)

17. University of California, Los Angeles (3.9)

17. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (3.9)

19. Emory University (3.8)

19. George Washington University (3.8)

19. University of Iowa (3.8)

19. Washington & Lee University (3.8)

23. Boston College (3.7)

23. Indiana University, Bloomington (3.7)

23. University of California, Hastings (3.7)

23. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (3.7)

23. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (3.7)

23. University of Notre Dame (3.7)

23. Washington University, St. Louis (3.7)

30. College of William & Mary (3.6)

30. Ohio State University (3.6)

30. University of California, Davis (3.6)

An amusing sidenote:  the only school in the U.S. News top 100 claiming 100% employment for its grads nine months out was Duke.  Not Harvard, not Chicago, not Columbia, not Penn.  Just Duke. Given that these figures are "works of the imagination," I'm afraid this doesn't redound to Duke's credit. 

More U.S. News thoughts tomorrow...

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2006/03/_academic_reput.html

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Tracked on Apr 2, 2006 10:12:17 PM