April 09, 2018
Pepperdine’s law school recently made an error when submitting enrollment data to U.S. News.com. Pepperdine contacted U.S. News promptly after uncovering the error and submitted corrected data in time for U.S. News to use the corrected data in its ranking. Although the erroneous data was more positive than the corrected data, no reasons have been given to believe that Pepperdine intentionally sought to deceive U.S. News.
I know and respect Paul Caron, the current Dean of Pepperdine. While we don’t always agree on technical or political issues, the notion that he would intentionally commit fraud—and then immediately correct his error—is outlandish. (In the interest of disclosure, Leiter Reports joined a network of legal education blogs that Paul organized, but Leiter Reports and Caron’s blog, TaxProf, often compete and advance different perspectives. I have vocally criticized some of the research covered on TaxProf blog.).
Nevertheless, U.S. News punished Pepperdine by making it an “unranked” law school this year. Those who are not familiar with the reasons for this move in the rankings might mistakenly believe that Pepperdine fell outside the top 100. According to analyses by Bill Henderson and Andy Morriss, if not for the penalty imposed by U.S. News, in all likelihood Pepperdine’s rank this year would have risen from 72 to between 64 and 62.
Unranked status could have an adverse impact on Pepperdine’s enrollments and finances. It is punitive, unnecessary, and perhaps even counter-productive in that it might discourage honest self-reporting of mistakes. A more reasonable and compassionate approach would be to let Pepperdine off with a warning, and report the incident without changing the rankings, for example by including a footnote in the ranking explaining the misreporting. U.S. News is a private business, but because of its virtual monopoly on rankings, enjoys quasi-regulatory authority.
Some of Pepperdine’s competitors might rejoice at Pepperdine’s misfortune, believing that admissions and enrollment are a zero-sum game. They are making a mistake.
The lesson of the last decade is that law schools rise and fall together far more than they benefit from each other’s hardship. What U.S. News does to Pepperdine this year, it could one day do to any law school that makes a mistake, even if it honestly and reasonably attempts to correct it.
Healthy competition between law schools can promote innovation and efficiency, and be good for students and research productivity. But we should be careful that competition does not erode our ability to act cooperatively in pursuit of shared beliefs and shared values of fairness and due process.
March 19, 2018
March 13, 2018
MOVING TO FRONT, SINCE IT IS THAT TIME OF YEAR (BLOG EMPEROR CARON: I'M LOOKING AT YOU!)
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.
March 04, 2018
We did a related poll nearly a decade ago, and I've taken pointers from that one in constituting the list of candidates here (though this one covers a shorter time span). I also consulted lists of the most cited legal scholars and the most cited articles in compiling the list. For living faculty, only those 60 or older in 2018 were included. Have fun! Some figures straddle the pre- and post-1945 period, but you may consider the impact of their pre-1945 work on American legal thought since then.
SINS OF OMISSION from the poll include Thomas Merrill, Martin Redish, Martha Fineman, and Janet Halley, among others that have been called to my attention. Others complain that there are too many choices!
UPDATE: A number of readers complained that more than 100 choices was too many, and is clearly discouraging people from participating, so I've shut it down. I may try again, perhaps breaking this into more discreet areas of legal scholarship or even more discreet time periods. Thanks to all who voted, and thanks to those who sent feedback.
February 28, 2018
February 20, 2018
...according to LSAC. This won't mean a 30% increase in applications, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a 10% bump in total applicants this year. This year has already been the best year to be on the law teaching market in at least five years, and I expect if we do see an increase in qualified applicants to law schools, we will see an increase in hiring of new law teachers next year as well.
February 02, 2018
January 08, 2018
The top 11 "most downloaded" law authors in the last 12 months are eleven tax professors who co-authored two papers on the recent tax overhaul, which garnered a prominent mention in The New York Times, leading to more than 70,000 downloads in the last month. For 10 of these 11 tax professors, these two NYT-plugged papers constitute 95% or more of all their downloads. The traditional #1 in downloads among law professors, Cass Sunstein, is now a mere 12th! This has happened before with SSRN, but usually involving one author (e.g., Christopher Fairman, or Daniel Solove). Farewell to SSRN downloads as a metric of any interest for at least a year!
December 18, 2017
Jerry Organ updates his data for 2017. Taking large numbers of transfer students--whose credentials are invisible to the US News ranking gods--can allow a school to take a smaller 1L class (whose credentials are reported to the ranking gods) while still generating tuition revenue. Of course, not all schools take transfers for that reason, but the larger the numbers, the more likely that is part of the consideration.