US News logo.JPGA new study out from Northwestern says that law school administrators really care about the U.S. News Law School rankings. The National Law Journal reports:

Like it or not, the U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of law schools profoundly influences the way those schools are managed, spend resources and are perceived internally and by the outside world.
That is the conclusion reached by two sociology professors who interviewed more than 200 law school administrators, faculty members and prospective law students and combed through other statistical data. Their report, “Fear of Falling: The Effect of U.S. News & World Report Rankings on U.S. Law Schools,” has been released by the Law School Admission Council, which partially funded the research.
“One of the things that surprised us most is what a big impact the rankings have,” said Northwestern University associate professor Wendy Espeland, who co-authored the report with University of Iowa assistant professor Michael Sauder. “They affect so many aspects of legal education.”

Also, water is wet.
But hey, I suppose it’s good to have even more evidence that the arbiters of legal education jump through hoops to please a magazine. Maybe U.S. News should just open its own law school so everybody could flock to get the most prestigious education on the entire 11 dimension multi-verse.
More details after the jump.


Remember, just last month the Government Accountability Office blamed U.S. News for the rising cost of legal education. Now these researchers from Northwestern are blaming U.S. News for some of the silly things law schools do. Tomorrow, I intend to blame U.S. News for all of my typos, since grammar naziness is not part of their law school rankings.
I think it is a little bit silly to blame a magazine for the fact that some many legal educators have no spine. But still, some of the perverse incentives U.S. News allegedly creates are kind of funny:

[M]any administrators said that they spend a significant amount of money on brochures and marketing materials that they send to other law schools and judges to gin up better results on the reputation survey. To a lesser extent, administrators said that they had increased career services staff, hired junior faculty instead of senior faculty and spent more on record keeping to improve their positions on the list.

Brilliant! I’d love to be in the resource management meetings at some of these law schools: “The economy is tanking. Our students can’t get jobs. Let’s make sure we put a load of money into the brochure, lest the judges and lawyers that refuse to hire our students think our school isn’t prestigious.”
It’s all very funny, from a certain point of view.
Note: There is nothing at all funny about the point of view from law school right now. Law students who realize their law school is more concerned about U.S. News than its own students should seek immediate medical attention.
Research documents the ‘U.S. News’ effect on law schools [National Law Journal]
Earlier: New Villain in Law School Debt Tragedy


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