U.S. News Movers:

Over at TaxProf, Paul Caron summarizes the biggest moves in the new 2007 U.S. News law school rankings. On the one hand, I'm pleased to report that George Mason moved from number 41 to number 37. On the other hand, don't make a decision on where to attend law school based on annual fluctuations in U.S. News rankings, and don't fool yourself into thinking that minor differences in rankings between schools signify anything meaningful.

UPDATE: Two years ago, I wrote: [While the U.S. News rankings suffer from flawed methodology,] the reaction of the Association of American Law Schools to the rankings, which has been to simply condemn them, is unproductive. Prospective law students are going to invest a lot of time and money in law school, and they are looking for as much information as they can get. Rankings, including even U.S. News's rankings, provide useful information. If nothing else, the rankings themselves influence the decisions not only of students, but to a lesser extent of junior faculty choosing among competing offers, law review editors selecting among articles, and employers, and thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy that can't simply be pooh-poohed.

The real problem is not rankings, but that U.S. News has had a virtual monopoly on the rankings, though Leiter has provided more useful (at least for those concerned with the academic quality of the faculty and students at various schools), though less used guidance for students for several years now. One hears of such things happening, but it's absurd, for example, when a student turns Chicago for NYU because the former is "ranked" sixth and the latter fifth. Both are excellent schools, with very different characteristics, located in very different cities. Which one a sudent decides to attend is a personal choice that should be influenced not a whit by a marginal difference in rankings. If there were competing ranking systems, students would recognize that there is a certain arbitrariness in any ranking, and be less hung up on whether a school has moved up or down slightly in any given year. Let a thousand rankings bloom! Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, American Lawyer, rise out of your collective stupors and do your own law school rankings!

Dan Solove has related thoughts this year at Concurring Opinions.