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September 27, 2009


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confused recent jd

I'm frankly a little baffled by the law professoriate's obsession with rankings, and useless rankings at that. What is someone supposed to do with an ordered list of the best Con Law faculties?

Why not rank the friendliest law faculties, or the best looking?

A life

How many different ways do we need to be "reminded" that Yale/Harvard/Stanford and Chicago are the "top" U.S. law schools??? We get it Leiter...enough. This incesant ordering and re-ordering is disturbing.


If you're not interested in this sort of stuff, it's easy enough to ignore. If it makes you unhappy, I especially recommend ignoring it.


I find these specialty rankings neither particularly interesting nor upsetting (though I am skeptical that they reflect anything meaningful). I am puzzled by them, though--what is helpful about this information? Should an applicant interested in con law but unsure whether to attend Harvard or Yale use this information to opt for Harvard? Does the list exist for any reason other than to gratify the egos of the professors who work at the favored schools?

As to the point that this information is easily ignored (or should be), I'm not convinced. Leiter is one of the most prominent internet in the law blogosphere, and posts such as this are ubiquitous, and remind us of his constant push to order academic programs by strict rank hierarchy. If one thinks that this constant push toward rankings is problematic (which it may or may not be--I've no strong opinion on that), then it seems well worth critiquing, as would any trend that one finds problematic within one's profession.


Dave- I suspect that the difference between Yale and Harvard in con law is small enough that a smart student, even one interested in Con Law in particular, will choose based on other factors- funding options, size, etc. But, it's useful to have a general idea of the pecking order for sub-areas if one is interested in them. (I think the sub-areas are somewhat less important for law students then they are for grad students in regular grad programs, since law students don't really specialize or have advisers who get them jobs and supervise them in the way grad students do, but they can still be of use.) So, they seem to have a perfectly straight-forward use to me.

As for whether you can avoid this stuff or not, I guess I can't say anything about particular people, but I find that I have no trouble avoiding blogs or posts by people I'm not interested in, even ones who are well known. I just don't read them. If you don't like to read about the rankings, just say, "hmm, something about rankings. I guess I'll skip that." If you have substantive criticism of the rankings it would be good to present it. No one here has, though.


I don't have anything to add to Matt's apt comments about the pissing and moaning. I will note that one surprise of these results is that, contra "A life", the results do not show that "Yale/Harvard/Stanford and Chicago" are the top schools. Maybe it's worth looking at the data first.

Jeff Yates

I generally agree with Brian. I don't want to speak for him, but I think he just wants to bring alternatives to the standard US News option on rankings. I really like top 10 type lists of all sorts - from the American Film Institute's rankings of movies (by category) to the Best Damned Sports Show's rankings of the best catches, plays, etc. of all time - but I don't take them too seriously. I never imagined that this seemingly innocuous post would generate this many comments.


"it's useful to have a general idea of the pecking order for sub-areas if one is interested in them"

This seems conclusory. Why is it helpful to have a general idea of the pecking order? I'm also skeptical that these lists create a meaningful sense of any "pecking order" given their methodology (they measure the preferences of the group that chooses to vote, and we have little sense of the composition of that group). Especially if they don't provide useful information for applicants seeking to attend different schools, I remain puzzled as to the usefulness of these lists apart from the aesthetic (?) satisfaction they bring some readers.

If folks have an intrinsic fascination for top-ten lists, then by all means indulge it. I like rank-order lists in some settings where they're ordering things that are intrinsically competitive (e.g., best baseball teams of the 90s or best boxers of the twentieth century). The reason rank-order lists strike me as jarringly inapposite in the context of academia is that I have a (possibly naive) idea that academia is not intrinsically competitive (though not all participants would agree, I'm sure). The goal of the academy, in my view, is not to figure out who's better than whom (as it is in sports) but to try to create novel answers to difficult, important questions. That strikes me as more of a collaborative than a competitive endeavor, and the idea of rank order lists seems ill-fitting. (Sort of like asking "Who was the most persuasive pitcher of the 1960s?")

But as the kids say, YMMV. I don't think these lists are noxious, they simply puzzle me.


I think it is important to list these schools like this then check the grads and see what they really contributed to adhering to the constitution and see who-if any-are using their knowledge to dismantle the constitutions.

In my opinion they should rank all the Constitutional law schools so we can know just how many there really are and see for ourselves exactly what the school and its graduates have actually contributed then rank them each ourselves according to the sum of the information we find.

Like if you personally were to pick one of these Constitutional Law Schools to go to you would probably pick the one that does the most to support the Constitution if you were an idealist, no matter what the ranking.

I wonder if this list is ranking in order of the teaching of the Constitution or the influence and power the school creates for itself, would one lead to the other?

Ranking is a good start for someone who might have to make a decision on where they would want to receive their education or someone who would like to know how a certain Constitutional Lawyer or Judge would stand predetermining by educational perimeters.

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