US News adjusts Law School Rankings formula

by Vault Law Editors | May 21, 2010

  • My Vault

Blogger Budges Behemoth in Rankings Rethink!

Kudos to Paul Caron of the estimable Tax Prof blog (and a dean and at University of Cincinnati's Law School) who wrote a recent post asking Did 16 Law Schools Commit Rankings Malpractice? (Ans: Hell Yes.)  The upshot of Caron’s findings is that a growing number of law schools are not reporting their at-graduation employment rates to U.S. News, thereby gaming that rankings scheme’s convoluted methodology. U.S. News has publicly disclosed that it estimates the employed at graduation figure for nonreporting schools with this formula:

“Employed at Nine Months” [minus] 30% points = “Employed at Graduation”

To which the only response could be: “huh?” The rational basis for this specific formula is obscure, but it was apparently intended to capture the relationship, on average, between the two variables for schools reporting both numbers." (This is according to the law review article Understanding the .)

It hardly takes a criminal mind to quickly realize that, especially in a dismal legal job market, many schools will help themselves in the rankings by simply withholding that data point from U.S. News.

Robert Morse, the U.S. News rankings czar, and a guy who never gets Christmas cards from law school deans, acknowledged this methodological loophole on his blog, Morse Code, and went so far as to promise:

U.S. News is planning to significantly change its estimate for the at-graduation rate employment for nonresponding schools in order to create an incentive for more law schools to report their actual at- graduation employment rate data. This new estimating procedure will not be released publicly before we publish the rankings.

Morse and U.S. New’s forthright response to this matter is admirable, but I think the greater lesson ought to be on the virtues of simplicity and “Criteria that Matter.”

-posted by brian

Filed Under: Law

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