Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Contradictory Goals of Law School Rankings

Daniel Solove of Concurring Opinions:
As usual, a ton of blogospheric attention has been devoted to the US News law school rankings. Over at PrawfsBlawg, Geoffrey Rapp has found a way to get the numerical rankings of law schools in the Third and Fourth Tiers. At TaxProf, Paul Caron ranks the law schools by reputation score. At Brian Leiter's Law School Reports, Brian Leiter offers suggestions for improving the rankings. At Law Librarian Blog, Joe Hodnicki tracks law school rankings from 1996-present. I, too, have posted about the US News Rankings.

Law schools, like many institutions, are not incredibly dynamic and changing in the short term. They often change slowly, not dramatically. The result: We shouldn't see much movement year to year in the rankings. Most schools should stay about where they are. A few schools might move over time, but any one year's movement is not significant in the grand scheme of things. So to be accurate, rankings shouldn't change all that much.

But rankings systems have a contradictory goal: They need to reflect some kind of change, or else looking at the rankings each year would be like watching glaciers move. There must be some drama in the rankings year by year. We eagerly await our rankings each year, and we don't want rankings at five or ten year intervals. And we don't want stable rankings -- we want changes to cheer and kvetch about.

So ultimately, law school rankings are partially for information and partially for entertainment? That sounds right to me.

Solove's post also points to these links:

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