March 14, 2023

CEO of company that makes its $$$ by peddling consumer misinformation to students... morally indignant that schools won't cooperate with his enterprise.  This is some real chutzpah!  They don't provide information, they collect data, don't audit it for accuracy, and then throw it into a nonsensical and inexplicable formula to produce an illusion of precision regarding supposed "qualitative" differences.  It's precisely because they are not providing information that they probably can't be sued under "consumer fraud" statutes.

March 14, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink

March 02, 2023

More on gaming the rankings via "median" LSAT and GPA

UPDATED:  A reader sent along the site to which my colleague, below, is referring.

A colleague at a proverbial "top ten" law school writes with some interesting observations a propos yesterday's topic (esp. the issue raised in the "Update"):

Because US News ranks schools based on *median* GPA and LSAT, many schools game admissions to optimize their medians for the purpose of rankings.


A school can try to admit 49% of its class with LSAT scores at or above their target median, even if their grades are atrocious. They can admit another 49% of the class with GPAs at or above their target median, even if their LSAT scores are terrible. Then they admit 2% that are above the median in both — offer them scholarships if necessary. Any student who was just below the median for both GPA and LSAT would be rejected, even if they would be more likely to succeed than most of the students admitted.

Continue reading

March 2, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink

March 01, 2023

These are *not* the "choosiest" law schools, these are the ones most busy gaming rankings

This is, alas, fairly gullible "reporting":

No. 1 for the highest median undergraduate grade point average is the University of Alabama School of Law, which accepted students with a 2022 median undergrad GPA of 3.95. Yale Law’s undergrad GPA was 3.94, putting it in a tie with the University of Virginia School of Law and the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. In fifth place is the Texas A&M University School of Law.

The top five in terms of median LSAT are Yale Law (175), followed by Harvard Law School (174). Tying for third place are the University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School (173).

Most law schools figured out long ago that in the formula, you get more benefit from a high median GPA than a high median LSAT:  that's because the scores are normalized, and with the LSAT there's only about 20 places in play (175 to 155, say), while with GPA it's a much wider spread (sixty places or more), so that if you're near the top, you do better in the formula.  That's why, e.g., places like Alabama, Wash U, and Texas A&M can be in the "top five" for median GPA but nowhere near the top for five median LSAT:   they made a choice to sacrifice LSAT in order to inflate GPA.  That's a good strategy for rising in rankings.  It doesn't make them "choosy," it makes them strategic.  And, of course, omitted from the picture is what majors these GPAs are in:  a 3.95 GPA in chemistry or economics or philosophy is quite a bit different than a 3.95 GPA in communications or education.  If it's more of the latter than the former, than once again it's not "choosiness" but strategy. 

UPDATE:  A colleague at Wash U points out that I am mistaken about Wash U, which has a very high median LSAT as well (although not "top five").  Since the combination of a high median LSAT and a high median GPA tracks past rankings (plus location--which helps the coasts, not the midwest), and Wash U's combination is a real outlier in this regard, the question is how are they doing it?  There are three (not mutually exclusive) possibilities I can think of:  (1) they are paying a fortune to get these students; (2) they are admitting a very small 1L class, and increasing the number of transfer students to make up lost revenue (their credentails do now account in land); (3) they are disregarding the demandingness of the curricular program when it comes to GPA.

ADDENDUM:  These data suggest #1 is a key factor.

March 1, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink

February 21, 2023

Best American judges of the 20th century?

The earlier poll got nearly 200 responses, though since Professor Kerr (Berkeley) linked to it from his popular Twitter account, the responses probably came from more than just the regular blog readers.  Of the write-ins (some of whom were not eligible, like Roger Taney [!]), the only one that got traction, rightly so, was Robert Jackson, who should have been on the original list.  In any case, here are the top 15 from the poll:

1. Louis Brandeis  (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)
2. Learned Hand  loses to Louis Brandeis by 54–51
3. Benjamin Cardozo  loses to Louis Brandeis by 59–45, loses to Learned Hand by 57–54
4. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.  loses to Louis Brandeis by 55–47, loses to Benjamin Cardozo by 60–52
5. William Brennan  loses to Louis Brandeis by 57–45, loses to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. by 52–49
6. Henry Friendly  loses to Louis Brandeis by 53–33, loses to William Brennan by 48–37
7. Thurgood Marshall  loses to Louis Brandeis by 60–32, loses to Henry Friendly by 42–33
8. Earl Warren  loses to Louis Brandeis by 52–39, loses to Thurgood Marshall by 48–41
9. John Marshall Harlan II  loses to Louis Brandeis by 51–23, loses to Henry Friendly by 39–29
10. Richard Posner  loses to Louis Brandeis by 60–36, loses to John Marshall Harlan II by 45–31
11. Ruth Bader Ginsburg  loses to Louis Brandeis by 68–28, loses to Richard Posner by 50–39
12. Hugo Black  loses to Louis Brandeis by 58–32, loses to Richard Posner by 47–41
13. Roger Traynor  loses to Louis Brandeis by 40–20, loses to Hugo Black by 33–25
14. Robert Jackson (write-in)  loses to Louis Brandeis by 51–36, loses to Roger Traynor by 35–29
15. Felix Frankfurter  loses to Louis Brandeis by 64–24, loses to Robert Jackson (write-in) by 45–34

I suspect politics dominated quality in some of these results, but at least a lot of clearly skilled jurists made the list.  I was surprised Brandeis came out on top, rather than Hand or Cardozo, but so it goes with online polls!  Thoughts from readers welcome; submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.




February 21, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 17, 2023

Who were the best American judges of the 20th-century?

Here's a poll with I hope most of the likely choices for the "top 10".  You can write-in others.  Only judges no longer serving were eligible.  Have fun!

February 17, 2023 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

January 30, 2023

40 law schools are now "boycotting" the rankings...

...according to Blog Emperor Caron, who has been keeping track.  Most of those joined after announced it would utilize only public data and its own survey data.  According to the Blog Emperor, 53 schools have officially declined to join the boycott, while the rest are either hedging or not telling!

January 30, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink

January 19, 2023

So what might the new ranking look like?

We know what the criteria will be, and we know most (but not all) of the inputs, what we don't know is the new arbitrary "weightings."   Professor Muller (Iowa) charts the possibilities on various reasonable assumptions about weightings.  (I'm not sure those schools boycotting the rankings will do worse in the reputational surveys, but we'll see.)

January 19, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink

January 09, 2023

UC Law San Francisco (formerly Hastings) joins the ranking boycott

Dean Faigman's statement is here.  I'm not sure what joining the boycott at this point means, since has indicated it will use public data, plus its own survey data.

January 9, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink

January 02, 2023

Big changes coming to rankings has written to law school Deans announcing some significant changes, as a result of the boycott initiated by Yale.  Here are the highlights:

1. will give full credit in the employment metric to "school-funded full-time long-term fellowships where bar passage is required or where the JD degree is an advantage," as well as to those also enrolled in graduate studies.  This will help Yale, but not only Yale.


2.  More significantly, will rely entirely on the public ABA data.  (For schools that complete the surveys, says it will make more information available, but it looks like this will not be used in the ranking.)   What the letter to the Deans did not say explicitly is what this will mean for the per capita expenditures measure, which has long been the tail that wags the dog.   Expenditures data is not among the public ABA data, which would mean that US News would have to drop it as a criterion.  That will be very significant.  Yale has been #1 for many years only because of per capita expenditures (most recently, for example, Yale was #3 in both reputational surveys of academics and practitioners); Stanford has been #2 for the same reason.  If, in fact, per capita expenditures will not be included, then there will be a massive shake-up in the rankings.


3.  Reliance on public ABA data will also affect the use of the numerical credentials of students, since the ABA reports the 75th and 25th percentile LSATs and GPAs, but not the median (which is what uses).  One possibility is that will simply use the median or average of the 75th and 25th, another is that they will use the reported 75th and/or 25th in a more complicated formula.  Since runs American legal education, whatever choice they make will affect admissions decisions going forward.  (Derek Muller points out to me that the ABA does report the median credentails, so this concern is moot.   Of course it's still true that runs American legal education!)


4. will give less weight to the reputational surveys.  It is unclear how much less weight.  Relatedly, more weight will be given to outcome measures, meaning employment outcomes and bar passage.


5. is still considering adding other factors to the ranking stew in future years:  loan forgiveness, need-based aid, "diversity and socio-economic considerations."   Adding "diversity" just as the Supreme Court is poised to render it an unlawful consideration would be ironic.


Without per capita expenditures in the mix, I would not be surprised to see Harvard come out at #1 in the Spring  But the whole rank order will be shaken up quite a bit--and in no intelligible or meaningful way of course, since the whole thing will still be a stew of factors, weighted inexplicably.  So the "reign of terror" will continue!

January 2, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink

Cal Western joins ranking boycott

Statement here.   I'm not sure what the import is of joining the boycott at this point, since I believe reporting to was due before this announcement.  In any case, we now have, I believe, about 20 schools boycotting which will not make much difference to's annual mischief.

January 2, 2023 in Rankings | Permalink