April 20, 2010

Law schools ranked by U.S. News "peer reputation" scores.

Do you like the score that comes from surveys of various lawprofs? My school, Wisconsin, ranks at #23 by this factor alone, but is #28 on the U.S. News list. Even though Wisconsin always comes out higher on the peer reputation ranking than on all the factors taken together as weighted by U.S. News, I'm very skeptical about it. I don't think professors know enough about what's going on at all the other schools, and I think our opinions are massively biased and, ironically, affected by what we've read in U.S. News over the years.

15 comments:

former law student said...

Obviously the existence of this blog affects perception of UW, one way or the other. Perhaps the professor should turn it in a Volokhian direction, with only informed discussion of current legal issues. Or make it completely about photography and art.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

My only interest is the rankings by employers who potentially may hire new attorneys. I went to law school to get a good job as a lawyer, not to sit around congratulating myself about how smart professors think I am.

In my experience, many professors (present company excluded) (current president certainly included) don't know much about becoming a good lawyer.

- Lyssa

Mark O said...

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former law student said...

My only interest is the rankings by employers who potentially may hire new attorneys.

Such employers have experience with the graduates of various schools, and are not going to change their opinion from year to year in step with the US News rating. Ratings might help validate the graduate looking to practice where his law school is unknown.

Balfegor said...

In my experience, many professors (present company excluded) (current president certainly included) don't know much about becoming a good lawyer.

That's true to some extent. But there are often lots of adjuncts on the faculty, including at the elite Ivy schools, and they are often actually practicing lawyers. One of my professors, for example, was a partner at Milbank Tweed. Some of the partners at my current firm also teach courses at local law schools, I think. If you want to get educated by people who are actually out in private practice, or have extensive experience in government practice, those opportunities are available at most law schools.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Balfegor,
You're right, and I think that is the case at my school as well, where the profs constantly harped on "real life" applications ("what would you do if you were clerking for the judge who had this issue?" "what would you say if you had to defend this party?") rather than mental masturbation.

However, the impression I get is that overall, more professors are just looking for mental masturbation, and these ratings would be likely to reflect that. I was, perhaps, overstating my case, out of frustration at the ecomomic circumstances under which I graduated. But I've bitched about that enough.
- Lyssa

David said...

The job of the professor is to teach the students to think--to be analytical with a "cruel neutrality" of what comes before them. If they succeed in that, they have done what they can to teach the students how to lawyer. The rest is up to them.

The surprise to most new lawyers is how fact oriented the profession is. Great lawyers know how to dig out the relevant facts, how to organize and present them, how to use them persuasively. Too many lawyers are slapdash about facts, make dangerous assumptions and pay for the error. (Or their clients do.)

Richard Dolan said...

What is it about academics that makes them love these lists? Prestige, being thought well of, the mandate of heaven being found in the mob's acclamation (provided it's the right mob) -- it seems to be what matters for academics.

In the private sector, in contrast, the listings (e.g., the AmLaw 100) usually focus on things that (at least in theory) matter, like profits per partner. But even there the figures are unaudited (that's code for probably BS), and have no more substance than these rankings.

Bruce Hayden said...

In the private sector, in contrast, the listings (e.g., the AmLaw 100) usually focus on things that (at least in theory) matter, like profits per partner. But even there the figures are unaudited (that's code for probably BS), and have no more substance than these rankings.

I would wonder though why such rankings of law firms would be of interest to anyone except for the partners thereof. I would think that a metric such as profits per partner would scare off clients, at least the savvy ones. Why? The higher the profits per partner, likely the higher the partner/associate leverage, which means an even higher chance of getting an associate doing your work.

Richard Dolan said...

Bruce: Bear in mind that, in a functioning market, prices and profits signal relative value. In theory a highly profitable firm suggests that the market (voluntary transactions by willing clients) has validated the firm's product. Particularly for larger commercial matters, where clients have a wide choice of firms and the ability to inform themselves of the available options, the datum that a firm has been economically very successful may be a strong advertisement for its services.

In academia, there seems to be a desire to substitute 'prestige' or some other highly subjective criterion, but probably for the same reason -- to attact customers and generate future profits (measured differently than the firm would do, but it's still the same idea).

former law student said...

the datum that a firm has been economically very successful may be a strong advertisement for its services

Has anyone analyzed the value received -- the "bang for the buck" -- for the different law firms? I'm not sure that legal talent translates into economic success: Many of the biggest firms have disappeared in the past decade, presumably due to bad financial management.

Keeping PPP up annoys talented associates by prolonging the partnership track. The result is the title-in-lieu-of-promotion of "non-equity" partner.

MadisonMan said...

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dick said...

I thought this website was interesting. Attempt to quantify % passing bar, % employed, avg salary.

http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/2010/04/2009-u-s-news-employment-summary-data/

Don't know how much info they have and what info from the top rated schools on US News list. Seems to me what they are posting would be very valuable to those thinking of attending law school.

Penny said...

"What is it about academics that makes them love these lists?"

Hate to burst your elitist bubble, but this is not an "Academics Only" phenomena.

When was the last time you browsed the net without running into a list of some sort? They have eyeball appeal.

Big Mike said...

Given their (fairly) recent scandal I'm surprised Illinois ranked as high as it did.