- Over my morning cup of tea, I read "Dropping 23 Spots in U.S. News: Dean of Buffalo Law Responds" in the WSJ, in which Buffalo’s interim dean, Makau Mutua comments on his school’s dizzying drop in the rankings. Robert Morse of US News responds to his comments.
- That piece led me to "Law Schools Shouldn’t Grub for Rankings" by a Yale 1L who feels that law deans pay too much attention to rankings.
- I also stumbled across the WSJ’s "Tennessee Law Prof Lampoons Responses to U.S. News Rankings." While Prof. Stein is officially spoofing administrative reaction to the rankings, his piece closely resembles reality.
- Finally, thoughtful commentary on Law.com: "There are Only Two Kinds of Law Schools". Professor Cameron New York School of Law divides law schools into two categories. "Those where students decide which firms they want to interview at and those where the firms decide." Sobering perspective.
Applicants put way too much emphasis on small differences in overall rankings. They should be looking at ability to get a job after graduation, bar passage rates, overall student satisfaction, the actual program at a time when many law schools are becoming innovative, and a host of other factors. They tend to focus on the rankings which too frequently are a crutch that replaces research into a program and its strengths and weaknesses. The data behind the rankings provides some of that info, but the applicants should go deeper to really understand the different programs.
At the same time, the frequently two-faced and sometimes defensive reaction of law schools to the rankings is spineless. Schools brag about their ranking to alumni and prospective students — if it goes up. They respond defensively if they go down. How about examining them with a degree of objectivity? Perhaps the rankings provide clues to areas in which a school needs to improve. If they are meaningless, then schools shouldn’t brag about them or cooperate with them regardless of the result.
Rankings should neither be the sole source of feedback for schools nor determinative in applicant or administrative decision-making. While I welcome a constructive examination of ranking results on the part of law schools, as Michael