While most law schools decry law school rankings for failing to represent the true successes of their institutions, they also recognize that where they end up on the list is crucial to wooing strong applicants, raising funds and getting their graduates into top firms.
As a result, some schools are directing resources-or even gaming the system-to boost their scores on the annual survey, a move that critics say compromises legal education.
The rankings, have become “the 800-pound gorilla of legal education,” according to Jeffrey Stake, a law professor at Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington.
Last week, Stake helped lead a symposium at the Indiana law school called, “The Next Generation of Law School Rankings.” Participants included Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and professors from Northwestern University School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, University of California, Berkeley School of Law and many more.
Concern that the rankings are prompting law schools to change their operations in hopes of increasing their scores, all to the detriment of legal education, informed the program.
“There are incentives being created out there that are not good for law students,” Stake said. His school came in 36th this year, up four spots.
U.S. News & World Report is aware that “some of the schools have a numbers game,” said Robert Morse, director of data research for the publication. He said that it has modified its methodology in some ways to help alleviate the problem and may continue to do so.
This year, for example, the magazine changed the way it measures each school’s Law School Admission Test (LSAT) numbers because of concerns that schools were not reporting the figures accurately, Morse said. Those changes have stirred controversy of their own, with some saying they now create a disadvantage for minorities.
The publication receives enormous attention and scrutiny because it has virtually no competition in law school rankings, Morse said.