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[Andrew Morriss (guest-blogging), August 10, 2005 at 2:29pm] Trackbacks
More rankings:

The idea of more rankings touched off a lot of comments to my last post, so I'd like to push the point a bit further before moving on to additional findings from the paper. (Everyone can read - and download - the whole paper here, and help Bill and me crack the top 10 downloaded papers on SSRN).

My point about specialty rankings was not that a series of such rankings would solve the U.S. News problem, but that there is a market opportunity for a wide range of entities to get into the rankings business there because U.S. News uses a very, very small sample (one faculty member at another school told me that she had discovered that under 50 people responded to one of the most recent specialty surveys) from surveys to rank specialty programs. A much better job could readily be done by any journal interested in exploring the details of programs, and the universe of law schools with serious specialty programs (i.e. more than a professor or two) in any given area is small enough that the ranking could include more detailed qualitative information on the programs.

There is also a lot of room for competitors to U.S. News - and law schools could do a lot to encourage that by stating publicly that they are willing to provide data for alternative attempts at rankings. Unfortunately the main voice of law schools thus far - the joint letter from lots of deans - mostly condemns rankings as inherently flawed, which does not suggest that there will be much cooperation forthcoming to potential competitors. If all a new ranking system had to go on was the ABA data, it would probably come down to simply reweighting the U.S. News system (already possible at Jeff Stake's The Ranking Game).

Of course, there has to be a limit - law schools spend an enormous amount of time filling out questionaires for the ABA, AALS, U.S. News, their universities, etc. (Don't even get me started on the data needed for reaccreditation.) When I was associate dean I had to help with those sometimes and they took a fair amount of time. But law schools (and the ABA) could do a lot to facilitate comparisons. So far, they've chosen not to do so.

frankcross (mail):
I think the specialty rankings could be big but will take a major "guts" move by a dean. So far, we have specialty schools but none so strong that they have a big market effect. If corporations want environmental lawyers, they go to Harvard and Yale, not the top environmental law schools. But we have seen how some schools have raised their status by specializing in a theory (like George Mason).

I think some private second tier school should declare itself the "Bankruptcy Law School" or the "Real Estate Law School" dedicate the majority of their curriculum to a narrow field of law, hire adjuncts from the top firms in the field, and get those firms to recruit there. Assuming accreditation problems could be overcome, I think that might work to get better students placed in better jobs.
8.10.2005 3:35pm
Guest (mail):
In this regard, I'm surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the USNWR rankings of undergrad schools. Lately, the rankings have been broken down into so many "specialties" (or subgroupings, really) that the ranking function has almost disappeared. There's a prize for everyone.
8.10.2005 4:08pm
Andrew Kvochick (mail):
So the schools won't open up to new rankings because they don't like rankings, but they won't quit submitting data to US News for fear of dropping out of the rankings?

It sounds like US News is here to stay.
8.10.2005 5:47pm
Public_Defender:
Would it be legal and practically possible for the ABA, as part of the reaccreditation process, to require law schools to disclose all data the school has provided in response to ranking surveys?

If so, could the ABA require schools to submit that information to the ABA at the same time the schools send it to USNWR?
8.11.2005 8:00am