Monday, July 06, 2009

Political pressure, the rankings, and one law school's response

This morning, I read Larry Ribstein's post about the brouhaha between the Chicago Tribune and the University of Illinois Law School (here). Seems to me that we should have been discussing the pressure brought to bear on admissions years ago: pressure not just by highly connected politicians but also by powerful donors and alumni. There's a difference between strongly recommending someone for school (totally OK) and linking the failure to admit with a serious threat of retaliation (not at all OK).

Of course admissions decisions are affected by the additional benefits that some candidates bring to a school--and, within the range of acceptability (the ability of the candidate to perform decently at the school), I have no particular beef with the process. No admissions process has mathematical certainty, and there's plenty of room for leeway. At some point, of course, the candidate fails the blush test, and someone has to say no to the pressure.

How do the rankings fit in? Thanks to the weighting of LSAT and UGPA, the admission of more than, say, 25% of the class with candidates having low quantifiable indicators of success runs the risk of dropping a school's USNWR rankings. Schools may well be wary of accepting candidates with low quantifiable indicators who don't also have powerful outside references (the offsetting benefit), although many of these candidates can end up doing quite well in law school. (I'm pretty sure that I had the lowest LSAT in my Stanford Law entering class....)

In an era where we're getting angrier about corruption, Larry Ribstein is--again--quite right: get angry at the people exerting the pressure, not at the law schools that are victims of it.

1 comment:

Jason Solomon said...

Agreed -- and particularly important to understand rankings pressure.

As Nancy knows, LSAT/GPA are so important in law school admissions these days, not just because of their weight in the US News formula, but also because there is no competition among schools on the thing that counts most in the formula (40%): the "quality assessment" by law profs and lawyers.

But we can change that.
For more on how, see