Nov 17, 2022Liked by David Lat

Thanks for the very thorough reporting on this. A few things to add to the mix:

1) Law schools love to complain about the one-size-fits-all nature of USN. But the alternative many promote is "every law school is special in its own way", which isn't very helpful to applicants. USN exists because law schools have fought tooth and nail any effort to provide meaningful data to enable applicants to make informed choices.

2) as a result, over time, USN has evolved toward a mix of auditable data submitted to 3rd parties (like the ABA) which law schools cannot lie about - as they did routinely lie about the interview data used in early versions - and the reputation surveys, which are unique content to USN.

3) The reputation surveys are silly, no question. They ask people (specific positions at law schools, lawyers and judges nominated by law schools) to award every school a rating from 1 to 5. Nobody has an informed opinion about that many schools. And in any honest ranking, one would expect the top tier to all get 5.0 scores or close to them. That Yale, Harvard, etc. don't is probably because the voters at Harvard who didn't go to Yale are dinging Yale (and vice versa). They do tell us a little - but not much. Probably best ignored - but applicants can ignore those if they want focus on the other numbers.

4) job numbers are really helpful. Yale's complaint is valid although it doesn't strike me as particularly consequential. It could be readily addressed since USN isn't making up these job categories in a. vacuum - if Yale thinks well funded public interest fellowships should count more than helping mail out brochures in the admissions office (the type of job schools trying to goose their ranking often created), Yale is influential enough to get a new category created. And that might incentivize more schools to create more of those sort of positions! That it chose to take its ball and go home is, to me, a sign it doesn't care as much about change as it says and cares more about getting itself out of the USN box.

5) USN has many, many, many flaws. I've written articles about many of them. Schools lie and cheat to go up in the ranking (and your comment about Columbia is really too easy on them - Columbia didn't just withdraw from the USN university ranking, it was outed by one of its faculty for misrepresenting things in the survey.) BUT - and this is a huge "but" -- it is one of the few places that an applicant can see basic comparative data on law schools like the band of UGPA and LSAT scores the school has or some normalized bar passage data. Could USN do better? Yes! It would be awesome to see bar passage data by LSAT band, for example. Then schools that say they add value could be evaluated on whether they do. Or MBE scores by entering LSAT - another great way to see if there's been value add in terms of bar passage. You know who doesn't seem to want such data out there? Law schools! Or how about some more fine-grained data on what kinds of jobs people end up in from various parts of the class? Very useful information - but law schools don't seem to want to put that out there. At an AALS panel long ago, a faculty member denounced USN for ranking schools "46 and 47", forcefully saying there was no meaningful difference between 46 and 47. Hiram Chodosh, then dean at Utah and chair of the panel, asked him "Tell me, does your school rank students 46 and 47?" The faculty member paused, thought, and then said "I concede the hypocrisy, but I am still outraged."

I could go on and on, but I won't - I think a key point is that USN does impose some outside accountability on law schools and they generally just hate that. Just leaving US News won't fix the problems that Dean Gerken identifies. What would fix them would be if Yale put its prestige and effort behind creating an alternative basis for applicants to really understand outcomes relevant to them from the education at different schools. My prediction: it won't.

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Nov 17, 2022Liked by David Lat

I'm rooting for U.S. News and I hope they crush this rebellion. Many reasons.

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I'm a bit mystified by this comment from Dean Gerken:

"I raised this point with Dean Gerken, who said that she made the change with precisely these applicants in mind—applicants who might not have lawyer relatives or who might be first-generation professionals. She said that although YLS will no longer provide its data to U.S. News—a private, for-profit magazine—the school will continue to provide important consumer data to applicants and prospective students."

This is either self-deluded or astonishingly cynical. *Of course* Dean Gerken and her counterparts would enjoy a world in which applicants received all "important consumer data" through ex parte communications from the schools themselves. It's obvious why a seller of services about which reliable information is difficult to obtain might relish a situation like that. And it's obvious why the seller might, contemplating its advantages vis-a-vis first-time market participants, devise a strategy "with precisely [those buyers] in mind." But it's not clear how the buyer benefits from that scenario at all.

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