lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Icon
Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Law School Rankings Discover Blogs, or vice versa

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.

Unconfirmed: Law School Rankings Released, University of Houston Jumps 10 spots to #60

Via Marshall Preddy at Legalese, the University of Houston Law Center has jumped 10 spots to #60 in the 2008 U.S. World and News Report Rankings. The USWNR site still shows 2007, but Concurring Opinions has the scoop on 2008 law school rankings which were apparently released earlier to subscribers and posted on LawSchoolDiscussion.org.

I’ve made my feelings known on the matter in earlier posts, I wish I could say it doesn’t matter at all, but of course it does. Why? Not for any intrinsic matter, but because someone out there pays attention to these things and acts accordingly – those bright-eyed, terrifyingly insecure youngsters in the throes of acceptance/rejection letters trying to figure out where they’re going to spend the next three years. Orin Kerr makes this argument at Volokh; this comment nails it specifically.

In my opinion, and to borrow from Malcolm Gladwell, there are two schools of thought on the value imparted by an educational institution. Law Schools can be more like modeling agencies or more like the Marine Corp. Modeling agencies earn their reputations be selecting only the best. The Marine Corp is far less selective, but you can be damn sure it will turn whatever it gets into a soldier. Of course neither motive is completely true of all law schools, but for the average law student, you’re much better off at a school that sees itself as more marine corp than modeling agency.

UPDATE# 1: Houston’s former Dean Nancy Rapoport takes a look from a perspective only a Dean can bring – We’re number, uh, something?. The decision to promote Houston’s appearance on the Vault’s underrated law school list I thought was a bit like a company touting a depressed share price.

UPDATE# 2: Bill Henderson at the Empirical Legal Studies Blog, puts the modeling agency / marine corp dichotomy in terms of stronger students / better education –

List of Top 25 Underrated Law Schools

Yet another list for whatever it’s worth – Vault’s List of Top 25 Underrated Law Schools, Houston #19.

Blawgraphy: Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Categories