April 20 Update: You can find the newly leaked rankings here.
Well, I'm sitting here watching the snow melt off the buds on the cherry tree in my backyard and thinking, how could this be in March ... in North Carolina?! Today's school closing gave me a chance to have lunch for some colleagues from the neighborhood and, since this is March, talk turned to US News. We'll all know soon our ranking. But it seems that speculation has been less than usual this year. Perhaps that's because I'm at a new school that hasn't been as favorably treated by US News in recent years as the University of Alabama. But it feels like there's been less speculation in the blogosphere, too. Is this new, quiet, wait and see approach to rankings a result of the post-market crash era. Who knows?
Maybe the market will turn around soon--at long last, stocks no longer seem over-valued (at least as measured by price to earnings ratio). So we can, perhaps, look forward to more spectacles of spending to increase rankings (and increase the quality of education as well). But right now that just isn't the feeling in the legal academy, at least as I detect it.
Here's another sign of the new austerity. Bob Morse over at Morse Code is asking whether US News should include ethics in its law school rankings. What particularly interests me are the factors that Morse considers. They are a mix of practical (can we measure ethics in a meaningful way across schools?) and the substantive (why is ethics important to legal education). Some of his questions are:
- Why should professionalism and ethics be added to the U.S. News law school rankings?
- Why are professionalism and ethics important to legal education and to practicing lawyers?
- Is it possible to measure and compare either quantitatively or qualitatively how professionalism and ethics are being taught at U.S. law schools?
- Is there any agreement among experts in this field about how such comparisons could be done and what variables or questions should be used or asked to collect such information?
Several people comment, including Nancy Rapoport, who's an expert in legal ethics. The comments are somewhat skeptical of getting good measurments. Seems to me that you might have a few concrete measures: how many hours are students required to take? US News might also ask about students' scores on the MPRE (if those are collected by schools--this I don't know); and it might also ask about how many students face problems with bar character and fitness committees--though that might dissuade law schools from reporting problems with applicants.
Update: Well, actually the rankings may not be coming quite as soon as I'd expected. A good friend of the faculty lounge pointed out that the countdown clock at Morse Code (it's on the right hand side of the page in the "about this blog" box) is reporting that the rankings won't be out until April 23. Now that's a little strange, because I'd think that a lot of law students would already have made their choice of school by then.
Update 2 (well, not really so much as update as other thoughts): I have a couple of papers on the relationship between citations to schools' law reviews and their US News rankings. The most recent one looks to schools' main law reviews; it's available here. A shorter paper that looks to the relationship between citations to secondary law journals and law schools' ranking is here.
Update 3: Rumors are flying fast and thick now about the rankings--here's a link (now deleted--see update 4 below) to what's purported to be the new rankings. We'll all know soon whether it's correct or ... an elaborate hoax!
Update 4: Ok, ok--very funny. The link that I wrote about in update 3 now goes to a picture of Kermit the Frog (sort of confusing, I know). Here is a link to another website that purports to have the top schools. Anyway, we'll see the real US News ranking soon.
Morse's countdown clock looks like this: