A couple of days ago, we mentioned the new Super Lawyers Law School Rankings. The list ranks law schools by their number of Super Lawyer alumni. At the time, we noted that a potential flaw with the magazine’s methodology was that it is just looking at raw numbers. The rankings aren’t adjusted for class size.
Northwestern Law placed #18 on the list. That’s not too bad if you care about things like rankings. The school placed higher than other traditional Top-14 law schools like Stanford, Duke, and Cornell.
But Northwestern Law Dean David E. Van Zandt does care about rankings. He cares about them a great deal. And while #18 is certainly respectable, it wasn’t quite enough for Dean Van Zandt. Here’s part of his email to Northwestern law students:
As you know, I am a proponent of rankings in general and believe they provide a useful source of consumer information for applicants as well as employers. While their methodology needs improving, I applaud Super Lawyers Magazine for developing a ranking that is based on career performance outputs.
So — in a brilliant exercise of Descartian rationale — Dean Van Zandt changed the list. He (or somebody that works for him) went and changed the methodology to make Northwestern look even more awesome.
Let’s check out Super Lawyers according to Van Zandt after the jump.
Dean Van Zandt did what any autonomous human being has the right to do. He decided to look at a reality entirely of his own making:
This initial ranking, based on a simple count of “Super Lawyers” from each law school does not take the size of a school into account. Naturally, as a result, these rankings correlate closely with student body enrollment. Further information about the ranking methodology can be found here.
Although we rank 18th (11th among the top 14 law schools as ranked by US News & World report and ahead of Cornell, Duke, and Stanford), the result is much more positive when factoring in law school size. For example, in most cases, each “Super Lawyer” graduated from law school at least 10 years ago. When converting the results to a per-capita basis based on total law school enrollment in 1999, we rank 8th among the top 14 law schools, ahead of Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, NYU, and Penn.
I love it! Essentially Van Zandt is saying: “This list doesn’t put us in the best possible light, so I did it myself. I am a rock. I am an island.”
In Van Zandt’s reality, Super Lawyers needs to be adjusted for class size, but only the traditional Top-14 (as ranked by U.S. News) matter.
So, on the Super Van Zandt law school rankings Northwestern ranks #8:
Per Capita Ranking of the Top 14 Law Schools
To be clear, I think Van Zandt is doing exactly the right thing here. There was an obvious flaw with the Super Lawyers list which hurt Van Zandt’s school, so he fixed it. He could have done it for all schools instead of just the Top-14 based on somebody else’s rankings, but whatever. Nobody is stopping Boston College from getting in on this game. Remember, we’re dealing with the laws of law school rankings, not the immutable laws of physics. Van Zandt didn’t cross the streams, he just changed a list.
Why doesn’t everybody do this? And not just with the Super Lawyers list, but with the U.S. News list as well? For God’s sake, Thomas M. Cooley Law School found a way to abuse math and reason and place itself #12 on a list of law schools. If Cooley can do it, what the hell is Georgetown waiting for?
Can we live in a world where every single law school is ranked in the top-ten on somebody’s list? Yes we can!
Earlier: Super Law School Rankings
Cooley Law School Develops More Useless Than Normal Law School Rankings