Bad Ideas, Law Professors, Law Schools, LSAT, Media and Journalism, Rankings, U.S. News

Law Profs Want Schools to Stop Reporting LSAT Scores to U.S. News

From the files of “things that will never freaking happen,” the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) is telling law schools to discontinue divulging LSAT scores to U.S. News for the publication’s annual rankings. SALT should duck before that flying pig smacks it upside its head. The National Law Journal reports:

[SALT] has urged law schools to stop providing U.S. News with their incoming students’ LSAT scores on the theory that the immense pressure to snag incoming students with high scores is making it harder to admit diverse classes. The median LSAT scores of the entering class accounts for 12.5% of each law school’s U.S. News score — a greater weight than the magazine gives to average grade point average or acceptance rate.

Not only is this something that will never happen, it’s also an idea that is beyond dumb. Quite an exacta there from the law teachers…

It’s getting very annoying to hear law school professors and deans whine about the influence of U.S. News. Does rankings guru Bob Morse walk around with a gun forcing people to read the magazine? Does Morse sit menacingly  in the room, slicing an apple with a hunting knife,  when an administration loses its s*** because the school dropped five spots?

If you’re a student and don’t know anything about your law school other than what U.S. News says, then maybe your law school needs a new PR campaign. Or maybe your school needs to be (gasp!) better, and not so clearly interested in taking money from kids who won’t be able to get good jobs and pay off their debts.

Look, obviously U.S. News has too much power, but that power is given to them by prospective students who don’t know any better — and the ABA, which has abdicated its role in regulating law schools. Listening to these law teachers bitch is like hearing a person moan about the power of television — a person who hasn’t picked up a book in five years.

The best way to combat the influence of U.S. News is to provide information — lots and lots of accurate information.  That way prospective students can get a true picture of what they are getting themselves into. But SALT’s plan is (of course) to provide even less information. You gotta love it when a bunch of law professors get in a room and collectively decide that silence is what prospective law students are really looking for these days.

“Deans, and to some extent faculty, feel compelled to play the game because of the effects of the rankings on their schools,” said [Andi Curcio, chairwoman of SALT’s legal education committee]. “SALT’s idea is the pragmatic approach to dealing with the problem of the U.S. News rankings. This will allow law schools more freedom to admit a broader array of candidates.”

Bollocks. In the words of Vito Corleone, law deans “could act like a man.” Seriously, U.S. News only exists because of a stunning failure of law school administrations to provide meaningful information and comparative analysis of their schools. Say what you will about the rankings, but at least then tell you that going to that going to Yale is better than going to Georgetown. If law professors had their way, they’d be running around trying to convince people that Yale wasn’t all that good of a law school — not that they’d give you any hard evidence to support that proposition.

But wait, it gets worse. The entire suggestion that the U.S. News rankings unduly force schools to admit high achievers on the LSAT seems to be predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics:

“[SALT] contends that law schools manage their scores because of our ranking, and that the median score inhibits them from taking students whose profile is on a lower level than their standard,” Morse said. “I’m saying that if they understood the median, they would see that’s not the case.”

If U.S. News factored in the average LSAT score of an entering class, schools would be penalized more harshly for accepting students with low LSAT scores. By using the median, however, schools can admit students with significantly lower LSAT scores without lowering their ranking, as long as they admit the same number of students with scores above the median, Morse said.

But who would expect law professors to understand math? Game, set, match — U.S. News.

Let’s be really clear: the last thing law schools should be doing right now is hiding information. Schools are already getting away with shady reporting of their employment statistics. At the very least they should be expected to be honest about what kinds of applicants can get into law school.

U.S News is not a god. It’s just a magazine. If all law schools offered a valuable education to their students, maybe we wouldn’t need a magazine to warn people to stay away from the crappy ones.

Law scholars propose to starve ‘U.S. News’ of LSAT data [National Law Journal]

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