The Law School Rankings are Harmful Deceptions: A Response to Those Who Praise the Rankings and Suggestions for a Better Approach to Evaluating Law Schools
41 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2008
Date Written: July, 28 2008
This Essay is a response to Mitchell Berger's article, Why the U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings Are Both Useful and Important, 51 Journal of Legal Education 487-502 (2001), and is a renewed effort to depict what is really wrong with law school rankings. In addition to providing that response, this Essay addresses the problem of meeting the continuing need for information about law schools. In critiquing law school rankings, this Essay does not challenge the accuracy of data used in U.S. News & World Report or other law school rankings. Rather, it examines the relevance of the data to the concept of evaluating law schools.
This article presents the following points: Law school rankings are fundamentally flawed because they claim to do what cannot be done, and these claims are deceptive and harmful. This is because rankings have little to do with actually revealing the quality of a law school, either absolutely or comparatively.
Prospective law students need to find and evaluate useful knowledge about law schools. Rankings data and conclusions do not help meet this need in a constructive way. The most substantial criticisms of rankings data and methodology are summarized in the areas of: LSAT scores and undergraduate GPA, selectivity of a law school's admissions process, student/faculty ratio, placement rates, bar passage rates, expenditures, library collection, and reputation. Beyond the academic credentials of incoming law students, these criteria used to rank law schools are shown to be either irrelevant or unknowable.
An alternative to rankings in making rational judgments about the best law school to attend is provided, based on finding and understanding the best information from the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, law school websites and visits. Eleven characteristics that help in judging the suitability of a law school are identified, with only two capable of being subject to any sort of objective description or measurement. Law student candidates are encouraged to choose law schools using these criteria rather than irrational rankings.
Keywords: Law school rankings, Mitchell Berger, ranking criteria, U.S. News & World Report, law school admissions, law school resources, evaluation criteria of law school suitability, legal education
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