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Law School Rankings -- Tail Now Wagging the Dog

Rankings

At the Legal Profession Blog as well as on her own "Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot," law professor Nancy Rapoport discusses the impact of the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings on the behavior of law schools. Specifically, she argues that the tail of USNWR rankings is now wagging the dog of legal education.

For instance, The GW Hatchet recently reported that George Washington University's law school fell from 20th to 28th in the USNWR rankings after the magazine, without any notice, began counting full-time and part-time students' GPAs together. In direct response, GW took significantly fewer evening students this year in an attempt to combat the drop.

Rapoport further notes that several Texas law schools are curiously "dropping the size of their classes, even in a time when budgets are an issue." She makes the interesting comparison between law school decisions driven by USNWR rankings and the "earnings management" that goes on in publicly traded companies:

If schools are changing their programs for good reasons -- e.g., on the theory that smaller class sizes provide better learning experiences for students -- I have absolutely no beef with those decisions. But if schools are changing their programs to improve their rankings, and for no other reason, how different is "rankings management" from "earnings management," where businesses hide flaws in order to make themselves look "stronger" than they are?

In short, it appears that an annual feature in a news magazine that arguably exists primarily to sell advertising is now having a direct influence on the legal education offered in this country.

Posted by Bruce Carton on October 12, 2009 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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