Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The more things change, the more thay stay the same...again

From the 1973 Blau-Marguiles survey of law schools Deans, the top five law schools:

1. Harvard University

2. Yale University

3. Columbia University

3. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

5. University of Chicago

From the 1974-75 Blau-Marguiles survey of law school Deans, the top nine schools:

1. Harvard University

2. Yale University

3. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

4. Columbia University

5. University of Chicago

6. Stanford University

7. University of California, Berkeley

8. New York University

9. University of Pennsylvania

From the 1977 Cartter Report survey of faculty quality:

1. Harvard University

2. Yale University

3. Stanford University

4. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

5. University of Chicago

6. Columbia University

7. University of California, Berkeley

8. University of Pennsylvania

9. University of Virginia

10. University of Texas, Austin

11. University of California, Los Angeles

12. Cornell University

13. New York University

14. Northwestern University

15. Duke University

From the 1987 U.S. News reputational survey of Deans, which was the basis of its first ranking of law schools:

1. Harvard University

1. Yale University

3. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

4. Columbia University

4. Stanford University

6. University of Chicago

7. University of California, Berkeley

8. University of Virginia

9. New York University

10. University of Pennsylvania

11. University of Texas, Austin

12. Duke University

13. Georgetown University

14. University of California, Los Angeles

15. Cornell University

16. Northwestern University

From the fall 2007 academic reputation survey by U.S. News:

1. Harvard University

1. Yale University

3. Columbia University

3. Stanford University

5. University of Chicago

6. New York University

6. University of California, Berkeley

6. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

9. University of Virginia

10. University of Pennsylvania

11. Cornell University

11. Duke University

11. Georgetown University

14. Northwestern University

14. University of Texas, Austin

And, finally, the fall 2011 academic reputation survey from U.S. News (just released):

1.  Yale University

2.  Harvard University

2.  Stanford University

4.  Columbia University

4.  University of Chicago

6.  New York University

7.  University of California, Berkeley

7.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

9.  University of Virginia

10. Duke University

10. University of Pennsylvania

12. Cornell University

12. Georgetown University

14. Northwestern University

14. University of Texas, Austin

Apart from Michigan, NYU, Stanford, maybe Texas, maybe UCLA, not much movement over 30+ years--and even with the movers, the movement is slight. (The movement looks more dramatic if one looks at the overall U.S. News rank, but that's a nonsense number for reasons with which everyone is, by now, familiar and is an apple/orange comparison since, until U.S. News, rankings had focused almost entirely on academic criteria--the U.S. News reputational survey is the last vestige of that, as it were.) And some of the movement is just a consequence of the U.S. News echo chamber effect (a lower overall rank results gradually in slightly lower reputation scores).

One curiosity about the reputation results this year:  Illinois's reputation score plunged from 3.5 last year to 3.1 this year--the kind of change in score that one never sees.  This is a clear indication that other academics punished the school en masse for the fraudulent data reporting that came to light last fall right when the surveys were going out.  Pretty remarkable, but also absurd, since the quality of the faculty didn't change in the space of a year!  But it's a cautionary lesson for other schools about what happens when you are found out for cheating.

For those curious, here is the rest of the top 25 in academic reputation based on the fall 2011 surveys:

16. University of California, Los Angeles

17. Vanderbilt University

18. University of Southern California

18. Washington University, St. Louis

20. George Washington University

20. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul

20. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

23. Emory University

24. Boston College

24. Boston University

24. University of California, Davis

24. University of Iowa

24. University of Wisconsin, Madison

From an academic point of view, these results do seem to me to under-rank  USC and BU, as well as Illinois, quite significantly.

UPDATE:  A colleague at Villanova, which revealed its own data reporting irregularities last year (under a prior administration), writes:  "Note that we were also punished - 2.6 down to 2.2 - dropped us to 101 in the ranking, despite improvements in other areas. Ouch."  It really is weird that the only thing that clearly affects the reputation surveys is stuff like this!

ANOTHER:  Blog Emperor Caron lists all the schools by their academic reputation rank (though in the current version he has UCLA tied with Northwestern and Texas, which is a mistake).

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2012/03/the-more-things-change-the-more-thay-stay-the-sameagain.html

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