Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NLJ article on new U.S. News rankings

Here.  It has two interesting bits of information:  first, that U.S. News used the more fine-grained job data now available to give more weight to actual, full-time law jobs, but Bob Morse won't disclose the new weightings so that schools can't "game the rankings" (a remarkable admission, about twenty years too late in coming!); and second, schools that saw major improvements in their overall U.S. News rank due to this more sensible weighting of employment outcomes were precisely many of those moderately priced flagship state law schools that I pointed out awhile back were still very much worth considering by prospective students.

UPDATE:  Scott Altman (Southern California) writes:

I agree with your comment that US news was wise to rely on more fine-grained data.  But I do not think they did so in a way that benefits consumers. The employment figure that they disclose – full-time, permanent jobs that require or benefit from a JD – was said to get full weight in their rankings.  But these figures did not discount the full-time, permanent JD required jobs that law schools funded.

Most schools, of course, do not report any full-time permanent jobs that are law school funded.  But some schools report many such jobs.  GW, for example, reported that 80 of its graduates were employed in full-time permanent positions funded by the school.  US News includes these 80 jobs in GW’s fully-weighted employment statistic.  Virginia reported 64 such students.  The University of Chicago reported 24.

I am unsure whether these law-school-funded jobs are genuinely full-time, permanent, JD required positions – though I have my doubts.  I am quite sure that they are not the kind of job that should be lumped for consumer purposes with permanent jobs not funded by the schools.   By displaying statistics that include these jobs, US News does a disservice.  By refusing to disclose the role these jobs play in rankings, US News only exacerbates the infirmities of its rankings with nontransparency.

In the case of Chicago, the jobs are all public interest-related, and are part of a major push Dean Schill has made since taking over here in January 2010 to increase public interest work by Chicago graduates (Dean Schill also established the most generous LRAP in the country, and has expanded our public interest clinics).  I know several of these students in these p;ositions, and these are both legit jobs and the first choice for the students involved, but they wouldn't have been able to do it without the Law School's public service commitment.  Obviously, I do not know about the other schools.

ANOTHER:  Dean Paul Mahoney at Virginia kindly shared with me (and gave me permission to post) an e-mail he sent to Professor Altman, which confirms that UVA's approach is similar to Chicago's:

I saw a statement of yours on Brian’s blog in which you questioned whether students receiving Virginia’s public interest fellowships are in full-time, long-term legal jobs.  For the record, our fellowships provide funding for full-time jobs for at least a year in government or public interest organizations.  Recent fellows have worked in federal agencies, on Capitol Hill legal staffs, in prosecutors’ and public defenders’ offices, and in public interest organizations.  As Brian said of Chicago’s program, these are “legit jobs” and in many cases are exactly the job the student came to law school to pursue.  I hear often from former fellowship recipients who are grateful that UVA helped them get a foot in the door of an organization that otherwise would probably not have made an entry-level hire.  Like Chicago, we have made a significant investment in encouraging public interest employment, including a redesigned loan forgiveness program and increased funding for summer public interest fellowships.


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