Rankings influence schools

December 3, 2009
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A new report says law schools are greatly influenced by the annual rankings released by U.S. News & World Report.

I didn’t need a report to tell me that. What I did need the report to tell me was how influential the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings are. According to the research report, “Fear of Falling: The Effect of U.S. News & World Report Rankings on U.S. Law Schools,” pressure to move up in the rankings influences the way law schools allocate money, categorize students, and hire deans. Faculty members and administrators describe a drop in ranks as “demoralizing” and “devastating,” the report says.

In fact, the majority who responded had a negative view of the rankings and felt they were more harmful than beneficial. Yet, schools are still trying to improve their rankings.

Some schools allocate more money to merit-based scholarships instead of need-based so they attract students with higher LSAT scores. Some admitted to hiring recent graduates on a temporary basis so that they could be considered employed for the survey. Some categorized students as part-time or probationary so their LSAT scores wouldn’t count. I don’t know if U.S. News & World Report caught on to that, but just last year, it changed the methodology to include part-time students in its analysis.

Surprised? I initially was, but now I think it makes sense that schools would try to manipulate the results of their ranking.

Law schools on the list get free publicity and can tout their high rankings in recruiting material or justify tuition or budget increases. Those who don’t rank so high are quick to complain about the survey’s methodology or say the rankings don’t matter. They know that students use these rankings when picking schools. According to the report, prospective law students interviewed said the rankings were the biggest influence on which schools they applied to.

Take Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis as an example. A quick search on its Web site reveals press releases each time the rankings are released. Just last year, when the school jumped nearly 20 spots, it issued a press release about it and how it expected to continue to rise in the rankings.

Cut to this year when IU – Indy fell back nearly 20 spots. I couldn’t find the press release mentioning this, but Dean Gary Roberts had released a statement in April blaming the change in methodology on the school’s drop.

Rankings are important to educational programs of all kinds because kids want to go to highly ranked schools. IU – Indy is currently promoting its “Super Lawyer” law school ranking on its home page.

Indiana University in Bloomington also issues press releases when the rankings come out, although the school tends to emphasize the rankings of all its graduate programs, not just the law school. I couldn’t find any on Notre Dame’s law school Web site, and the press releases I found on Valparaiso University’s Web site touted their rankings of graduate programs but not the law school. (That could be because it’s consistently ranked as a Tier 4 school, where schools are just listed alphabetically.)

The report was released by the Law School Admission Council and conducted by two sociology professors. You can read more about it on the LSCA’s Web site under "Research reports." Interestingly enough, the authors also studied business school rankings for a comparison, but because there are more rankings released by various sources, the business schools’ reputation sand operations were not as affected as the law schools were.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.