Monday, November 23, 2009
Quite possibly! Various readers have sent me e-mails marvelling at the fact that a legal educator, a Dean no less, actually used the category "top 14" in public and without irony. (As one colleague quipped: "Didn't Van Zandt notice that according to U.S. News, Northwestern's reputation is no longer "top 14"!") The category, purportedly based on the overall U.S. News rank of schools, is meant to draw a line between schools at the bottom of the elite law schools (like Northwestern, Cornell, Duke, and Georgetown) and schools with which, in reality, they frequently compete for faculty and students, notably Texas and UCLA (but also often Vanderbilt and USC). Yet, as we noted before,
It's hard to quarrel with the fact that the same 14 schools have been ranked in the top 14 by U.S. News since circa 1994. The question one might have expected someone to ask is: so what? The "top 14" by this measure correlates with nothing of any interest to anyone: it does not correlate with faculty quality, quality of student body, job placement, placement in law teaching, or Supreme Court clerkships. In other words, "top 14" correlates with nothing that would matter to anyone informed about legal education and the legal profession.
And it doesn't even correlate with the same fourteen schools based on reputation as measured by U.S. News!
So far, to my knowledge, Duke, Cornell, and Georgetown have avoided trying to imply that they compete on a different level from UCLA and Texas by appeal to this silly concept whose provenance is discussion boards for college students. (If I've missed others pulling the same stunt, please e-mail me.) The Super Lawyer ranking of law schools was already silly enough without then re-doing it, as the Northwestern Dean did, to exclude schools with far higher per capita representation on the grounds that they weren't in the U.S. News 'top 14.' No doubt UCLA Interim Dean Yeazell and Texas Dean Sager are impressed!
I used to run examples of ludicrous hyperbole by law schools and law school deans; perhaps we need a new category for "can a law school or dean sink any lower in self-promotion"?