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Do 'U.S. News & World Report' Rankings Pressure Law Schools to Ignore the Solo Option?

Predictably, the recent announcement of the U.S. News and World Report's law school rankings has generated observations about some of the factors underlying the rankings, from bar passage rates and faculty scholarship to whether the rankings are at all meaningful. But Susan Cartier Liebel has a different take entirely. In this provocative post, Cartier Liebel contends that the myopic focus on rankings deters law schools from offering meaningful training or support to lawyers who seek to start their own law firms, either directly out of law school or shortly thereafter.

Commenting on the recent National Law Journal article entitled When Hanging a Shingle, Solos are Reluctantly Solo (full text available in Cartier Liebel's post), Cartier Liebel writes:

"Why the resistance to providing support for solos within law school?"  The answer [from a career counselor], "you will always have an uphill battle because our agenda is driven by ranking with U.S. News & World Reports.  If we turn out too many solos instead of placing within employment it impacts our all-important ranking." (Yes, sodium pentathol was flowing freely at this conference.)

In Cartier Liebel's view, limiting students' options in the name of retaining rankings, is wrong, and she advocates immediate change:

So, it will take a lot of chutzpah, blogosphere amplified conversation and a conscious decision by the law schools to toss out the U.S. News & World Reports ranking in order to create a curriculum that addresses the paying customer's real needs. In some bizarro way I understand the reason for the enslavement to a magazine's annual 'list' but I don't applaud it, I rebel against it and this sacrifice of multiple thousands of students on the altar of the false god of artifical lists. I would strongly suggest other magazines start creating more informative rather than competitive lists tailored to students' individual successes based upon quality of their education combined with after-graduation success as practitioners which would give rise to intelligent and thoughtful lists that actually matter in the real world.

Readers, what's your opinion on this topic? Are law school rankings responsible for the paucity of law school curriculum offerings and counseling services that would help lawyers start law firms straight out of school? And do we need to change the system in response?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 2, 2007 at 05:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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