In Praise of Law School Rankings: Solutions to Coordination and Collective Action Problems
14 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 1998
This essay defends the widespread but recently maligned efforts to rank law schools, arguing that the critics misunderstand the utility of such efforts. The first part of the essay argues that rankings serve a valuable coordination function in the legal labor market. Students read and value rankings because they know that attending a highly-ranked school signals their quality to desirable employers, who also study the rankings in order to interpret these signals. This coordination function is served whether or not the rankings accurately measure the quality of law schools, however defined. The second part of the essay argues that, because any rankings methodology will serve this primary purpose, a methodology ought to be selected that will encourage the production of public goods that might otherwise be inefficiently underproduced by the market. Scholarship is both a public good that would be underproduced if schools could not capture reputational benefits from its production and a good that law schools are uniquely capable of producing. Consequently, the essay contends, rankings should be based primarily or exclusively on the production of scholarship by law school faculty.
Note: This is a description of the paper and is not the actual abstract.
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