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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Law School Rankings Discover Blogs, or vice versa

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Amir Efrati’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal – Law Schools Also Ranked By Blogs Now – highlights what I think is the only solution to the quandary faced by law schools on how to deal with an skewed rankings formula that’s allowing arbitrary metrics to drive the educational strategy of the institution – “mo’ betta information”.

It’s unsurprising that students are jumping into the gap. In my experience the black market for information among law students parallels the secret service organizations of most of the world’s nations. The collective neurosis of a highly motivated and deeply insecure community racking up monumental amounts of debt to compete for scarce but highly paying positions equals a ravenous market for information.

The article profiles student run blogs such as lawfirmaddict.blogspot.com and lawclerkaddict.blogspot.com that aggregate bits of information collected from other students and disseminate the numbers to the community at large. While somewhat anecdotal and skewed to the communities that are aware and participating (primarily east coast white shoe firms it seems) the information is far more relevant to student aspirations than the general rankings and frequently more specific and up to date.

While the law school deans can sign all the petitions they want to complain about the unreasonable attention paid to a system of rankings with little relevance to legal education (while simultaneously doing everything in their power to improve their performance in those irrelevant rankings), the only thing that beats nothing is something. Nancy Rapoport, Houston’s former Dean, has written in detail about the rankings from a Dean’s perspective. William Henderson and Andrew Morriss recently highlight this state of affairs in The American Lawyer
Rank Economics, noting the following -

U.S. News is influential among prospective students at least in part because the magazine does what the law schools don’t: give law students easy-to-compare information that sheds light on their long-term employment prospects. Law schools could easily supply that information themselves, but they choose not to. In fact, as the collective head shaking about the rankings has increased, the growth of the large law firm sector—which pay salaries that justify the rapidly escalating cost of legal education—has made the rankings more important.

While criticism of the rankings is becoming a favorite past time, proposals for viable alternatives are few and far between. It’s clear that the idea of ranking the law schools is not going away. It serves a need of students to make a cost-benefit analysis of their choices that’s growing increasingly vital in proportion to the debt load they’re taking on. It’s also clear that the current system of rankings is far from adequate. A change is a comin’ in other words. The most likely source of the imminent revolution in evaluating law schools is the collective power of students themselves, harnessed by the internet. A multiplicity of methodological approaches and data sets is increasing the competitiveness of ranking systems and will force both U.S. News and the ABA to adapt to an increasingly demanding market.

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