Thursday, March 13, 2014

It's US News Rankings Time!

March is my favoritest time of year.  Springtime is around the corner.  Lemming applications come flying in along with the return of the birds from the tropics.  And America's Second Foremost Ranking Authority(c) issues the all-determinative rankings that determine who is better than whom.

(Also:  Scam Madness is around the corner!!!)

My lesser lemming tends to move up several spots when my news feed fills with delicious articles such as these:

"UH law school continues to rank among best in country"  (...even though it's ranked 100th and dropped 20 spots!)

"US News & World Report: Hamline University Best Private Law School in Minn." (someone tell Cooley to open a campus there, stat!)

"Duquesne Law School Jumps Significantly in U.S. News Ranking"  ("Last year, Duquesne placed among top-tier law schools for the first time in a decade. This year, Duquesne jumped up to the 121st spot, shared with seven other institutions, including DePaul University in Chicago.")

"Wayne State law school makes surge in national rankings" (from 105 to 80-something; also:  "University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which has campuses in Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Lansing and Grand Rapids, both are in a second-tier group")


By far, my favorite dissenting opinion about The Holy Rankings comes from Chapman dean Tom Campbell, whose impressive reasoning goes as follows:
“It puts a substantial amount of weight on what percentage of law school graduates have jobs,” he said, adding that since 2009 attorney jobs in California have been falling, even as more attorneys are being hired nationally. 
“Chapman graduates look for jobs in California,” he said. 
“It's unfair to all California law school graduates that (the U.S. News survey) does not take into account the employment situation in the state.”
I've heard a lot of complaints about the US News Rankings over the years, but this one gets a prize for novelty of scamdom.  California schools - or those in any depressed state - should actually get a credit in the rankings if the local economy sucks and fewer students can acquire jobs.  Meanwhile, this would, of course, suggest that law schools in states with a burgeoning economy should be handicapped.

Although on the surface this seems backwards, batshit crazy, and completely unsupportable under any system of objective thought, I kind of like it.  No one goes to law school for a job, after all, and if it's relatively easy for graduates to get jobs, the poor quality of a school may be masked, while an excellent school in a depressed region may be overlooked with undue emphasis on its students' massive debts and food stamp collections.  I mean, it's a 40-year career we're preparing for, and surely those students graduating into depressed economies aren't suffering any educational disadvantage as a result.

Think of it this way, skeptics:  Yale would still be a great law school even if it moved to the Yukon.  So naturally Chapman is as good of a law school in depressed California as it would be in a booming economic area, such as Chicago or Washington D.C.

So yeah.  Stop being mean to law schools because they dump graduates into over-saturated markets, US News.  That's just unfair.  Consider how crappy the local market is and give a bump to those schools who are able to kick ass in spite of their graduates not being able to land jobs in the only locations where most of them are legally or practically limited to work.


  1. Explain this: Hofstra law's student faculty ratio dropped from 15 to 1 in 2012 to 18.19 to 1 this year despite the fact that Hofstra lost a considerable number of students. That is a 20% drop.

  2. Law schools have collectively ruined themselves chasing after these ratings. Their tuition is sky high, their overhead and borrowings are sky high. All for nothing. Anything they do to boost their ratings, their competitors do also.

  3. To equalize the rankings, US News should not use the crude metric of what percentage of grads obtained law jobs, which cruelly penalizes law schools for being located in regions where jobs are scare. Rather it ought to guesstimate: What percentage of grads would have obtained law jobs if the school was located in Wyoming or Alaska.

  4. Graduate schools have aggregately destroyed themselves pursuing these evaluations. Their educational cost is out of this world, their overhead and borrowings are high as can be. For nothing. Anything they do to help their evaluations, their rivals do likewise.
    US News