It sounds ridiculous, right? And yet….
I immediately thought of
Good Samaritan liability products liability cases and failure-to-warn litigation when I read the following paragraph on the blog of U.S. News rankings guru Robert Morse, Morse Code (via ABA Journal):
If prospective students or their advisers are using the U.S. News law school rankings as the only basis to choose one law school over another, that would be the absolutely incorrect usage of the rankings. As prospective law school students research and weigh different schools’ intangible attributes, U.S. News’s rankings can help them compare each school’s academic excellence. However, rankings should only supplement—and not replace—careful thought and emphasis on all the factors that really matter. The rankings can inform a person’s thinking, but they shouldn’t be used as the easy answer. We urge everyone to use them wisely.
Perhaps a condensed version of the paragraph above should be printed prominently on every page of the U.S. News law school rankings issue, just like a warning label on a pack of cigarettes. It’s only a matter of time before a desperate and/or publicity seeking law school graduate, jobless and broke, files a lawsuit against U.S. News.
(It would be frivolous as all get-out, but we’d sure enjoy covering it on Above the Law.)
Note the first sentence of Bob Morse’s warning: “If prospective students or their advisers are using the U.S. News law school rankings as the only basis to choose one law school over another, that would be the absolutely incorrect usage of the rankings.” To play devil’s advocate, isn’t that “absolutely incorrect” usage of the rankings by far the most common one — as suggested by this study by Kaplan? And don’t the folks at U.S. News know that?
Boxes of Q-tips have a warning against sticking a Q-tip in your ear, even though the whole point of a Q-tip is its ability to get inside your ear, thanks to its ingenious design. Could a similar argument be made with respect to the U.S. News rankings, even with a warning or disclaimer on every page?
So perhaps the warning is beside the point. U.S. News can tell prospective law students over and over again that its rankings aren’t everything. But aspiring law students will treat them as such, no matter how many warnings they are given.
P.S. I know that I chose my college and my law school based almost entirely on the U.S. News rankings. Sure, I consulted other sources, visited various schools, and talked to lots of people. But my stated rationales for my picks were really just post-hoc rationalizations for relying on U.S. News. (And yes, like a good prestige whore, I chose my law firm based on the Vault rankings, too.)