Bad Ideas, Cardozo Law School, Law Schools, Money, Rankings, U.S. News

A Law School Shows Everything That’s Wrong With Law Schools and U.S. News Rankings, In One Email

And now back to our regularly scheduled programing. We join this episode of “My Law School Nearly Got Away With It,” already in progress.

We all know that law schools do all kinds of things to game the U.S. News law school rankings. U.S. News knows this, yet does little to stop this behavior. But rarely do we catch a law school red-handed.

Here, we have a school openly calling upon its students to do something for the express purpose of increasing the school’s U.S. News rank.

Even more embarrassingly, the school is targeting a class of graduates who have generally not had much luck in the employment market. The email suggests that the way to increase the value of their law degree is to give money to the school, since right now it’s not good enough to get them a job…

(Please note the important UPDATE at the end of this post, a punchline of sorts.)

This email from the Cardozo School of Law alumni office is truly shameful. They sent it out to the class of 2011. The subject line, bluntly and inelegantly, says it all:

Subject: Help Cardozo Move Up The Rankings

The email is actually written by another person in the ‘Dozo class of 2011. You know how these things go. The school thinks you are more likely to give if one of your classmates makes the ask. But you know the alumni office approved this message. Here it is, in part:

Getting down to business, I would like to let you know a little secret about helping out Cardozo move up the rankings.

Did you know that one of the factors that US News considers in its rankings is percentage of alumni who participate in annual giving?

It’s true. Your gift to the law school can actually increase the value of your own degree…

I know money may be tight and, if you are like me, you may still be making a contribution to your legal education in loan payments every month. But, by helping out the school, it increases the value of what we have already put our hard earned time and money into. Something that I know I’m willing to do.

You can read the full email on the next page.

This email is pretty horrible. It’s instructing Cardozo students to give for the express purpose of gaming the rankings… because gaming the rankings “increases the value of your own degree.”

And you know who is going to be most interested in increasing “the value of what we have already put our hard earned time and money into”? People in the class of 2011 who are unemployed, underemployed, or generally disappointed with what the “value” of a Cardozo degree has gotten them so far.

In essence, the alumni office is telling people who haven’t gotten a lot of value out of a Cardozo law degree that the way to correct that problem is to give Cardozo more money. Does that even qualify as “throwing good money after bad”?

But law schools are going to do what law schools are going to do. What is U.S. News going to do? Here, we have direct evidence that Cardozo is trying to game the U.S. News rankings… is U.S. News going to react in any way? Are they going to punish Cardozo? Or are they just happy to continue to have these factors that have no relation to the value of legal education that schools can use to increase the perceived value of their law degrees?

I’ll note that Cardozo did not crack the top 50 in the Above the Law rankings.

And I’ll note that if the Cardozo alumni office sent out an email trying to “game” the ATL rankings, it would have to be sent to Cardozo alumni who are employers, telling them to give jobs to Cardozo students — not money to the Cardozo administration.

UPDATE (6/28/2013, 11:05 a.m.): As it turns out, Cardozo’s theory about how to influence the U.S. News rankings is completely wrong.

(If you’re interested, you can see the full letter on the next page.)

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