More on the ongoing rankings brouhaha. Those wars have heated up for both business schools and now for law schools. The appearance of the August 2 Draft of “The Interplay between Law School Rankings, Reputations, and Resource Allocation” by Professor Jeffrey Evans Stake of Indian University has added fuel to the fire.
He has extensively researched and analyzed the impact of the
rankings on law school practice and admissions. Unfortunately, while he
does offer thoughtful suggestions to mitigate the potential negative
impact of the rankings, specifically US News rankings, the general tenor of the paper is one almost of hysterical antipathy towards US News
combined with condescension toward law school students and almost
everyone in the field. For example he blames the rankings for:
- Encouraging schools to reject applicants with low LSAT scores,
because the average LSAT is a factor in the rankings. He also accuses
the ranking of encouraging schools to reject applicants with high LSAT
scores, lest they reject the school and reduce the school’s yield,
another rankings factor.
- Causing schools to reject applicants with limited prospects for employment. Frankly the schools should
reject applicants who are unlikely to succeed. Doing otherwise is
irresponsible to the applicant encouraged to spend thousands of dollars
and 3 years chasing an unrealistic dream.
- Encouraging teachers teach to the bar to improve bar passage rates
because bar passage rates are an element in the rankings. Sorry, but
bar passage rates are a legitimate concern of law school students.
- Encouraging college students to take easy classes so their GPA
will be higher. I hate to inform you but students had those concerns
(and tactics) before US News.
I certainly agree 100% with Professor Stake that “Presentations of
data as ranks are inherently misleading.” The rankings really
represent surveys, and they sell magazines because they supply
consumers with information they want — information that the schools
are not providing in a digestible form.
As I wrote a about the business school rankings, I am tired of
academics whining about the rankings. Almost every field has some
short-term vs long-term tension. Let the schools have a little
backbone in their admissions process and teaching. Or let the law
school establishment develop more informed surveys and data banks.
Professor Stake admits that the rankings are here to stay. Despite
his aversion, he recommends that there be more rankings measuring
multiple factors and from different perspectives. Competition he feels
will benefit the field.
Ironically multiple rankings and vigorous competition among them
exists in the business school world. And b-schools don’t like. Maybe
the good professor should be careful what he wishes for.