By now everyone has probably heard of thedubious law school rankings the National Jurist put together. See here Rankings. Perhaps the most dubious and comical aspect of these rankings is the inclusion of numbers from RateMyProfessor.com. Brian Leiter has thoroughly covered the problems with this aspect of the NJ rankings, see Biggest Joke and Backpedal and others.
A couple of other aspects of this ranking that interest me: (1) Did the NJ intend to try to challenge and maybe even displace US News and thus capture a lucrative market - one that is apparently ever so much more lucrative than actual news since now US News does not publish anything but rankings. Maybe.
And if they did, maybe all this publicity about the rankings and how terrible they are will actually serve to keep the issue in the news and get repeated coverage for them and actually lend some legitimacy to this effort if they correct only this one, fairly egregious aspect; especially since it purports to have created this to offer a ranking more geared to what students care about. Mark me as skeptical. (Bar pass rates only worth 5%? Really? Seem like students might care a lot about that.) If so, this might go into the category of there is no such thing as bad publicity.
But considering that theory, a colleague asked me, "Who is the National Jurist published by? Is it owned by the same company as US News?" I thought it was an interesting question. Apparently, it is owned by a fairly small company located in San Diego which publishes 2 other magazines. One, "Golf, Inc." is aimed at the owners of golf courses. (The connections between this and its other magazines see tenuous unless you think a lot of gold courses are owned by lawyers, or maybe lawyers play a lot of golf?) The other is "PreLaw Students," which is the most recent publication established in 1997. Their link is here Cypress. The direction they seem to be going is talking to law and pre-law students. Perhaps they sense a market here.
A second interesting aspect of these rankings: reputation is not part of the calculation. That may be an admirable attempt to not reinforce the pernicious way in which the US News reputation score can operate. See the post from Dean Yellen on this blog US News and costs and Michelle Meyer on this blog and her observations about letterhead and credentials bias and the claim by others that it substitutes for peer review L'affair Scholastica. See also some of the comments here National Jurist rankings which again express sympathy for trying to break out of the assumption that reputation invariably = quality.
Or it may reflect something else less laudable. And it may be they were trying to capture the reputation of the graduates, not the faculty or student body, with the inclusion of some of the other categories that are almost (but not quite) as dubious as the Rate my Professors -- The number of Super Lawyers, a category which itself has some rather trenchant critics (mostly anonymous) Super Lawyers, and the number of lawyers in top 200 firms. The latter is a number that is likely to skew toward east coast schools and those in major metropolitan areas.
Interestingly, Super Lawyers is itself apparently owned by Thomson Reuters A Thomson Reuters Service and is itself in the rankings biz.
The American appetite for rankings seems inexhaustible. It seems to me though an open question whether these types of rankings actually provide a consumer service or whether they mainly drive advertising revenue and ought to be included with miracle fat dissolving pills, creams to cure baldness and other perennials in the category of snake oil salesmanship. Rankings may always partake of a somewhat dubious proposition - that you can compare very different institutions across some baseline metrics. Some say you can't do this and it is like comparing apples and oranges. I wouldn't go that far. But if you can't demonstrate that the components are valid then it seems like the product is fairly dubious.