These days, it seems like every media outlet that has any remote connection to the law is making an effort to dispel the allure of the esteemed U.S. News law school rankings. U.S. News encourages law school administrators to attempt to game the rankings, they say. The U.S. News rankings are too focused on the test scores of incoming students, they say. And while we agree that some of the U.S. News methodology could be changed for the better, others have only offered up absurdities in their alternative ranking systems.
National Jurist recently came out with its own set of rankings which measure much lauded criteria like the number of Super Lawyers each law school produces, and the quality of each law school’s faculty, as measured by the oft revered website, RateMyProfessors.com. And as with the glorious Cooley rankings, any traction that the new National Jurist rankings might have received went totally out the window when the powers that be at the magazine decided to rank Alabama higher than both Harvard and Yale. Come on, everyone knows that the only place ‘Bama should be ranked ahead of Harvard is on a football field!
As far as we’re concerned, this serves only as an exercise in how not to make a new rankings system….
According to National Jurist, there’s a sound explanation for their latest set of rankings:
Our goal was to provide an alternative ranking that was focused more on results and service, and that would provide legal education with admirable incentives.
We focused on the following categories – postgraduate success, student satisfaction, affordability and diversity.
National Jurist essentially gave the finger to U.S. News and didn’t include such trifling things as GPAs and LSAT scores in its ranking. It also axed the “direct expenditure” category that U.S. News relies so heavily upon in rating law schools. These rankings are supposed to be results-oriented, and they treat law students as consumers to be satisfied (if only the judges presiding over the law school lawsuits agreed on that point).
Paul Caron over at TaxProf Blog breaks down the full National Jurist methodology:
Post-Graduate Success: 50%
Employment Rate: 22.5%
Super Lawyers: 12.5%
Partners in NLJ 200: 10%
Bar Passage: 5%
Student Satisfaction: 35%
Princeton Review: 15%
Affordability and Diversity: 15%
But wait, we thought that this was supposed to be a results-oriented ranking. Why is the bar passage statistic only weighted at five percent? Why is the post-graduate success category so larded up with nonsensical ratings like the Super Lawyers designation — an accolade that’s been repeatedly criticized as being an out and out scam? And why on God’s green Earth is the employment rate only weighted at 22.5 percent? In case you haven’t heard by now, being able to get a job is pretty much the ENTIRE POINT of going to law school.
A little further down the list, holy hell, we see that debt is only weighted as ten percent of a law school’s total score. It’s pretty hard to be successful when you’ve got up to six figures of completely nondischargeable debt hanging over your head. But we shouldn’t have expected more from a magazine that published a “Best Value” ranking which included incorrect debt figures and never issued a correction (to our knowledge).
Anyway, this is the kind of insanity that happens when your methodology is a little wacky (click to enlarge):
So why get so worked up over this? Because every time a ridiculous set of rankings comes out, a terrible idea in the mind of a prospective law student grows its wings. Some poor schmuck might actually believe that Texas Tech (ranked No. 101 by U.S. News) is a better law school than Yale, the number-one law school in the nation (which is insultingly ranked at No. 13 according to National Jurist). Click here to see the full list.
National Jurist’s ranking does have one bright spot: it doesn’t dignify the absurdity of including a library metric. But that’s about all that these rankings have going for the magazine. Congratulations to National Jurist for successfully reshuffling the proven U.S. News rankings methodology and replacing some of its flawed criteria with other flawed criteria. We can only hope prospective law students take them with a
grain shaker of salt.
Earlier: The So-Called ‘Best Value’ Law Schools of 2012 — Which Actually May Not Have the ‘Best Value’ At All
The U.S. News Law School Rankings Are Out!
Latest Cooley Law School Rankings Achieve New Heights of Intellectual Dishonesty