Friday, July 03, 2009

A fresh take on rankings

Bridget Crawford has a fascinating post at Feminist Law Professors regarding ranking law schools using SSRN downloads (here). Hat tip to Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog for this one. Thanks, Paul!

Another ranking system that I'm eagerly anticipating is Green Bag's Deadwood Report (here).

Frankly, I'm trying to devise a ranking system based on the opportunities for the faculty, students, and alumni to network--something along the lines of measuring law review placements, clerkships, and careers 5, 10, and 20 years out. My theory (still working on it) is that there are really just three categories of law schools: the truly elite, distinguished more by the networking opportunities; the modal (most frequently occurring) law schools, which are good but don't have the same networking opportunities; and the truly sub-par schools, which provide few if any options for their graduates, especially with respect to bar passage. If anyone has any ideas for methodology, I'm open.


workhard said...

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Chris said...

If your reason for ranking schools is to help potential law school students select a law school, three classifications doesn't seem like enough. The premier law schools will primarily admit only the smartest and most well-connected students. The lowest law schools will accept anyone who meets the minimum qualifications and should be avoided. And the rest of the law schools are just acceptable. Or are there further important distinctions that can be made?

Look at Ohio's 9 (!) law schools. None are in the category of premier law schools where networking is king. But the caliber of students accepted to Cleveland State (highest bar passage rate the past few years -- efforts to teach to the test are succeeding) are far from the caliber of students at Ohio State (consistently high bar passage rate for decades). What is the significance of this difference? I would argue that the difference in the students' objective quality measurements can make a significant difference in the students' interactions with each other and the faculty. I would expect the students at OSU to be pushed a little harder and have a richer experience because of it compared to the students at CSU, even though CSU turns out a lot of good attorneys. Career goals are important considerations as well. If you want to live and work in Cleveland for a nonprofit agency -- Cleveland State might be a better fit. As long as CSU isn't in the "don't-go-there-if-you-can-help-it" category, who cares about the ranking. If you're angling for a corporate or litigation career with Jones Day, CSU is likely to be a dead end, even though it's likely to fall in the same middle ground with Ohio State. Should your proposed middle tier be split to allow students to make that distinction?

Nancy Rapoport said...

Thanks, Chris! I'm trying to do some research on exactly that question--whether the distinctions in the "modal" category really, really make a difference. My guess, and I'm far from a point where I have anything to back this up, is that interactions w/the top X% of students at any of the modal schools would be fine, and the real distinctions fall more toward the bottom 20% of the classes. But I clearly have more work to do, and I appreciate your food for thought.