Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Over at MoneyLaw, some new factors for rating law schools

I just finished a post over at MoneyLaw on a new way of rating schools, focusing on the current black box that is between admissions statistics and graduation/placement rates. (Finally, some talk about rating the internal life of a school!)

If we examined whether a school is mentschlekhkeyt or unmentschlekhkeyt, maybe we'd give the school's potential students and potential faculty candidates a more useful picture of the place. Places like Ohio State would, I think, come out near the top. We could reward environments with high standards and nurturing environments--places that model the sorts of lawyer behavior that we want our students to learn. Schools that choose to create some standards for behavior (and those standards must be peer-created, not imposed from above) should, over time, move up in mentschlekhkeyt ratings.


Anthony Ciolli said...

The idea sounds promising, but I'm skeptical as to how useful this would be for students... a few companies like Princeton Review publish ratings like these and the results are rather laughable, especially in categories like "career placement" where you often see students at third tier schools rating their career prospects higher than students at Top 14s like Stanford or Georgetown.

Nancy Rapoport said...

Anthony, you're right--if we just measure subjective reactions by law students, we're not going to get any better info. (It's a bit like asking 1Ls to evaluate whether their law school courses were excellent, good, average, etc.--no real basis for comparison.)

But if there were a way to find out, e.g., how many professors were in their offices during office hours, whether the professors stayed after class to discuss issues or ran an electronic discussion board about their classes, that might be useful information. Other things, such as whether professors helped students in their job searches, would also give some info to potential students, and it might be useful for potential professors to get a feel for the school's culture. I'm not sure if such objective info could be gathered w/o gaming behavior, but it's an interesting thing to ponder. Thanks for your comment!

Anthony Ciolli said...

True, it would be useful if it could be gathered without gaming behavior, but it seems unlikely. Also a lot of these criteria seem ambiguous... for instance, would a professor who volunteers to be a reference for a students be considered "helping students in their job searches?" What about a professor who just sends everyone a link to vault.com? And what about professors who are willing to write LORs for clerkship applicants etc. but just happen to never get any takers in a given year?

I also have a feeling that a lot of schools (namely those that don't think they do well in those areas) just wouldn't participate. I guess that's the biggest drawback to measuring culture -- unlike measuring employment placement, reputation, faculty quality, etc. there's really no way to completely take the schools themselves out of the equation (unless you want to survey students and end up with ridiculous results like in Princeton Review).

Nancy Rapoport said...

I hear you--and I guess that it'd be difficult to do any better than Princeton Review on these sorts of things, although I have fantasies of law school faculty members filling out the Culture Survey that Jim Chen suggested at "Law School Risk Factors," http://money-law.blogspot.com/2006/12/law-school-risk-factors.html. Even then, though, the survey would suffer from the same types of problems that other surveys do--only the most disaffected would probably answer them, as the happier folks would probably not spend the time. Yet another insoluble problem that still intrigues me, though.