PreLaw - Back to School 2010 - 24
The problem with U.S. News
U.S. News & World Report first came out with its rankings in 1987, and almost immediately it was surrounded by controversy. It was the first ranking of law schools of its kind, and most law schools hoped it would go away. Instead, the rankings expanded from 50 to 200 over the years, and its influence grew even more. “The problem is that U.S. News is done incompetently and has too much influence,” Leiter said. “It is a terrible charade at this point. But if students do not have other information, they will fall back on it.”
Paul Caron, a law professor at University of Cincinnati and a legal education commentator on his Tax Law blog, said U.S. News’ ranking grew in stature because of a void in data for prospective students. “I am a critic of the ABA [American Bar Association] and AALS [Association of American Law Schools],” he said. “They are responsible for U.S. News because they abdicated their role in collecting helpful and useful data for consumers.” The ABA started to provide data to consumers in 2000. But the data is extensive and offers no guidance to the prospective student on what is important. Some have
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There are a lot of publications that rank business schools. But for law schools it is me and U.S. News and one of us is getting rich off of this.
—B RIAN L EITER , U NIVERSITY
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also questioned the validity of some of the data — especially the employment numbers. “If the ABA and AALS required better information, then U.S. News would have better data to slice and dice,” Caron said. Leiter said one of the main problems with U.S. News is that it does not audit the data that it receives from law schools, which he said allows for “massaging of the data.” “Because moving up in the U.S. News rankings requires no explanation, while falling invariably does, schools have grown increasingly sophisticated — or sometimes just duplicitous — in how they report data to the ABA and to U.S. News in order to