The futility of the ranking quest.

The U.S. News law school rankings are a lot like big law firms: the higher you get, the less room you have for advancement.

This is probably the trickiest problem for law school deans, who have to determine how much effort they should put into making improvements that their school needs vs. improvements that might improve the ranking. Much the same way porn sites try to game their way up the Google rankings in the search results pages. (Aside: what do you get if you search for “law school porn”? P.S. don’t get your hopes up)

Google keeps its ranking system a secret to deter gamesmanship. U.S. News describes its ranking system, but not completely. One problem for deans is that U.S. News relies a lot (40%) on external impressions of the school, which can’t be manipulated directly.

Schools often talk about improving rankings like it’s an achievable goal. For schools outside the top 20, it may be—these rankings tend to be more fluid year to year, and there’s more “room” to move in the lower tiers.

That’s not true in the top 20. Since 1990, there has been extremely little movement among the schools. Look at these two charts:

Rankings 1987-99

Rankings 2000-06

As the notes to the second chart point out, the top 14 schools have been the same since 1993. The same!

UCLA has spent those years ranked in the 15-17 range. For us to move up, somebody has to move down—it’s a zero-sum game. Recently, we’ve moved up to #15, sending U.Texas down to #16.

But where do we go from here? While I imagine our dean dreams of a top 14 ranking, in between visions of gumdrops and teddy bears, it’s hard to see how that’s likely, given that there hasn’t been an opening in 14 years.

06 Feb 07

Comments

O ye of little faith.

Posted by: at February 11, 2007 09:14 PM

O ye of little faith.

Posted by: at February 11, 2007 09:14 PM

signed, Dean Schill.

Posted by: at February 12, 2007 01:59 PM

emyksq jckwalgi asrkzitc zueqmivf psmhart uxjtywn hkxqndlyw

Posted by: nsuh erbtdkyas at March 9, 2007 07:02 AM

matthewb @ ucla
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