Should Ethics Be Part of the Law School Rankings?

Is it possible to measure how successfully law schools teach ethics?

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U.S. News editors regularly appear at conferences to discuss our rankings and to gather information on ways to improve them. On February 11, I gave a short presentation at a meeting of the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC) in Boston. The presentation was titled "U.S. News Best Law School rankings: Are law schools offering adequate preparation? The role of the law school rankings."

NOBC's members are legal professionals whose members enforce the ethics rules that regulate the professional conduct of lawyers who practice law in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

One purpose of the presentation was to explore a very preliminary idea about whether professionalism and ethics should or could be added to the U.S. News law school rankings. There are a number of very key questions that need to be studied and answered in consultation with experts in this field before U.S. News would consider such an addition to our law school ranking methodology.

Some of these issues are:

  • Why should professionalism and ethics be added to the U.S. News law school rankings?
    • Why are professionalism and ethics important to legal education and to practicing lawyers?
      • Is it possible to measure and compare either quantitatively or qualitatively how professionalism and ethics are being taught at U.S. law schools?
        • Is there any agreement among experts in this field about how such comparisons could be done and what variables or questions should be used or asked to collect such information?
          • Could professionalism and ethics be added as a specialty law ranking, like the ones U.S. News currently has for such areas as clinical training, dispute resolution, environmental law, healthcare law, intellectual property law, international law, legal writing, tax law, and trial advocacy?