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Rankings: A Dramatization of the Incentives Created by Ranking Law Schools

16 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2008 Last revised: 25 May 2008

Jeff Sovern

St. John's University - School of Law

Date Written: 2/25/08

Abstract

Sellers in a competitive market shift resources from attributes buyers don't care about to attributes buyers do care about. In markets in which buyers rely on imperfect signals for quality, sellers move resources away from improving the quality of their product to enhancing the illusion of quality. For example, before freshness dating, when consumers tested the freshness of bread by squeezing it, bakers reportedly added chemicals to bread to preserve its softness longer, thereby creating the illusion of freshness. Similarly, law school rankings encourage schools to shift resources away from improving the quality of the education they provide in favor of investing in improving their standings in the rankings. Consequently, under the guise of serving the market, rankings which are based on the wrong criteria are likely to subvert the market because they both fail to measure accurately the quality of a school's education and reduce the quality of legal education.

This piece dramatizes some of the ideas discussed in the preceding paragraph. It takes the form of a fifteen minute-play with three characters: a law school dean, a junior law professor, and a law student. The play illustrates how the incentives created by a ranking system could affect law schools and their administrators, faculty, and students. The play format is intended to make the ideas expressed more vivid.

Suggested Citation

Sovern, Jeff, Rankings: A Dramatization of the Incentives Created by Ranking Law Schools (2/25/08). St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-0097. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1097602 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1097602

Jeff Sovern (Contact Author)

St. John's University - School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-6429 (Phone)

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