'Wall Street Journal' Joins the Law Debate

Updated 7/25/08

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Updated 7/25/08: Paul Caron's Tax Prof Blog has just posted "Deans React to Call for U.S. News Rankings Boycott" which comments on Case Law School's Dean Gary Simson's call to arms against U.S. News.

I was asked yesterday to comment on criticisms of the U.S. News law school rankings raised in an article Dean Calls on Peers to Unite, Kick U.S. News Rankings to the Curb that was published on the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. Here is the entire response I submitted to them:

My blog post " Changing the Law School Ranking Formula" about the possibility of U.S. News modifying our law school ranking formula to include the admission credentials of all of a law school's entering students, both in full and part-time J.D. programs ( U.S. News currently only uses full-time students' LSATs, GPAs, and acceptance rates) continues to stir-up a healthy debate about the effect such a change would have on the both the rankings and part-time legal programs.

In his op-ed in the National Law Journal titled Say 'enough' to 'U.S. News', Case Western Law School Dean Gary J. Simson does raise a number of points we'd like to address. First, of course, U.S. News is not forcing any law school dean to change school policy in order to improve in the rankings. Each law school's admission and financial aid policies are determined by the school itself, not by U.S. News. One hopes that the proper education of potential lawyers is the driving force in such decisions.

The U.S. News rankings also do not, as the dean implies, have a negative impact on legal education and law school admissions. The rankings provide prospective law school students with information about the relative merits of law schools that is not available from any other source. Going to a law school is a very expensive and time-consuming process, and our rankings provide one tool for students to use in choosing the best school for their needs.

If a law school refuses to provide U.S. News directly with statistical data from their annual American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation data questionnaire, then U.S. News still can get almost all of that school's official ABA data from the ABA website. U.S. News would still be able to rank a law school, even if it refused to participate.

The next U.S. News law school rankings aren't published until late March 2009, and we do not plan to make a decision on this issue until fall 2008 or early 2009. As we have done in the past before we change our methodology, U.S. News will carefully consider the impact of any such modification.