Tuesday, March 13, 2018

An Open Letter to Other Law Bloggers Regarding the US News.com Rankings


When the new rankings come out shortly, may I suggest that you not post the overall ranking.  You all know the overall rank assigned to a school by U.S. News is meaningless, often perniciously so.  It combines too many factors, in an inexplicable formula, and much of the underlying data isn't reliable, and some of it (e.g., expenditures on secretarial salaries and electriciy) isn't even relevant.  You all know this.  So don't report it.  The fact that this garbage appears in what used to be a major 'news' magazine doesn't change the fact that it is garbage. 

Instead, let me suggest that if you want to blog about the rankings when they come out, write about some of the underlying data that speaks for itself:  the reputational scores, for example, or the bar passage rates, or the numerical credentials of the students.  Those have limitations too--the median of 500 is not really comparable to the median of 200; the reputation scores are not based on presenting evaluators with any information about the schools being evaluated; and so on--but one can at least say clearly what the limitations are, and one is not hostage either to the dishonesty of the schools "reporting" the data or the sheer idiocy of the U.S. News ranking formula.

APRIL 9, 2009 ADDENDUM:  I should also note that, to my knowledge, U.S. News has done nothing to address the methodological problems raised last year.

UPDATE (MARCH 5, 2013):  The Dean of a flagship state law school writes, "Your post on US News Rankings is much appreciated. Schools like mine do not play the game, and truly try to keep our tuition low.  We spend our money on our students and their education. The hypocrisy of the 'legal education reformers' astounds me. They will be the first to denigrate the education we offer here, since we are not a top 100 school. Thanks for the good message, even if not enough schools listen." 

UPDATE (MARCH 10, 2014):  Lawyer Bobby Cheren writes: "How about referring to them as the 'USNews.com' rankings from now on, as the magazine is essentially defunct?"  Apt point!

AND REMEMBER:  Changes in ranking do not mean anything in reality changed:  it means only that some law schools lied/fudged in their data reporting/massaging more than their competitors.


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