On the Importance of the U.S. News Rankings:
In response to my earlier thread posting the latest U.S. News law school rankings, some commenters expressed shock and dismay that I would include them in a post. Commenter BlackDoggerel wrote:
Prof. Kerr, I know it's "newsy" to report the U.S. News Rankings, especially when they're hot of the presses, and I'm sure a lot of people are interested in knowing them (in particular, 23-year-olds on chat boards). But I'm actually surprised that you would post them here. I always thought you/the VC would look quite skeptically on these very imperfect, crude measurements of the "quality" of law schools. But your post suggests that you buy into them as legit.

I guess what I'd like to know is, do you view these rankings as helpful in any way, rather than simply broad generalizations pandering to the rankings crowd?
Commenter "the critic" wrote:
Am I the only one who sees the irony here? Everyone decries the USNWR rankings, but even the blog scholars can't resist obsessing over them. How sad.
  Just to be clear, I personally think it's silly to focus on year-to-year fluctuations in the U.S. News ranking as a sign of changes in school quality. The rankings themselves are highly flawed, for all the reasons Brian Leiter and others have pointed out many times. Fluctuations occur every year, and real movement over time is actually quite rare. Plus, my understanding is that some schools put more effort than others into gaming their numbers, which means that their numbers will be out of whack (at least until the gaming efforts are exposed and the numbers drop). So I certainly wouldn't take year-to-year changes in U.S. news rankings as any indicator of changing school quality.

  At the same time, a lot of people care about these numbers. Students factor them into their admissions decisions; schools know that, so they make decisions to optimize their numbers; and the result is that the U.S. News rankings are relevant year to year in and of themselves even if those changes don't accurately signal school quality. Given that, it seemed worth pointing out even though it's hardly a major news story. Anyway, that's my tentative take on this.

  UPDATE: I have fiddled with the post to make the point clearer.