Law school ranking shuffle

April 23, 2009
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I feel like I need an advanced degree just to understand the methodology behind the recent U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of law schools, in which one Indiana law school jumped higher in the rankings and one fell dramatically.

This year’s rankings: Indiana University Maurer School of Law and University of Notre Dame Law School tied for 23rd; Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis sits at 87 with six other law schools; and Valparaiso University School of Law remained alphabetically listed under Tier 4 schools.

The Bloomington law school went up from No. 36 last year; IU – Indy dropped 19 spots, and ND just lost one spot from last year.

I never went to graduate school, so I may never understand the interest in these rankings year after year. Are they really that influential as to where you decide to spend three years and tens of thousands of dollars going into debt to become an attorney?

Answer me this: How does IU – Indy jump nearly 20 spots in 2008’s list only to fall back down nearly the same amount this year? The new methodology says it’s factoring in part-time students into the mix now, but IU – Indy’s part-time program ranked 21st. Plus, the school finished in the top 10 in legal writing and teaching health-care law. How can those rankings not help the school achieve a higher rank?

U.S. News and World Report’s Web site also says for the first time it has averaged the two most recent year’s surveys to compute the assessment score among professionals who hire new graduates. It also looked at the qualities students and faculty bring to their educational experiences and graduates’ achievements linked to their degrees. What does that mean? If 20 Maurer School of Law graduates received “Super Lawyer” designations and only 5 did from IU- Indy, does that affect the score? I sure hope not. Is it based on how many students from each school are on the partner track? Again, no clue.

Really it boils down to how objective these rankings can be and on that, I’m not sure. The methodology based the rankings on 12 weighted averages of measures of various data. Data typically doesn’t lie, but again, I go back to the “graduates’ achievements linked to their degrees” criteria to question the final results.

Needless to say, some law school deans don’t enjoy this time of year when the rankings come out and even want to do away with them. Students seem to anxiously wait to see where their school ranks, as noted by all talk about the “leaked” results earlier this week.

Let’s hear from you as students or attorneys. How influential were these rankings on where you went to law school? Do you feel pride when your school jumps up in the rankings and anger when it goes down? How much weight should be given to these types of rankings?
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