October 29, 2009
Stray Thoughts on Law School Rankings
Posted by Gordon Smith

This week, for the first time, I have been working on the ABA Annual Questionnaire, which is the source of much of the information used by U.S. News to create the controversial law school rankings. The process reminds me a bit of drafting a prospectus for a public offering. Many people are providing inputs, and the disclosure frequently calls for difficult rule interpretations. One frustrating part of the process is realizing that our unique advantages as a law school are not captured by the numbers we are reporting.

Last year Jason Solomon highlighted BYU Law School on Prawfsblawg, asking "Just How Good is BYU Law?" Jason's post was motivated by the wide gap between our ranking by U.S. News and our ranking by Princeton Review. Over the past few years, BYU has been ranked between the low-30s and mid-40s by U.S. News, but in Paul Caron's mashup rankings from Princeton Review, we have ranked as follows:

At Jason's invitation, I responded to his post last year, but my own brush with rankings this week has prompted me to offer a few more thoughts, starting with the profile of BYU Law School that one might derive from the more specific rankings that constitute Paul's overall rankings.

In five of the six specific rankings -- Academic Experience, Admissions Selectivity, Professors: Accessible, Professors: Interesting, and Study Hours -- BYU resides among the Top 25 law schools. The rankings are based on student surveys, so they don't measure faculty peer review, our biggest weakness in the U.S. New rankings. Also, as Paul notes, "the Princeton Review did not release the response rate per school, so it is impossible to determine how the rankings are affected by each school's representation among the respondents."

Nonetheless, the surveys confirm my own observations about aspects of BYU that are not captured in the numbers that we report in the ABA questionnaire. Both faculty and students here take the study of law seriously, and we interact with each other in meaningful ways, creating a vibrant intellectual and social community. We have great ambitions for the school with regard to scholarship, but we remain committed to retaining the active and supportive culture that is reflected in the Princeton Review's survey results.

What's more, we are really cheap. I mean, really cheap. Many of us were shocked by the news that Hastings' non-resident tuition and fees had hit $50,000, with many other schools close behind. At BYU most of our students pay tuition and fees this year of $9,980. That is not a typo.

So how good is BYU Law? I don't know how to answer that question simply. I have taught at six law schools and attended another as a student. They are wildly different from each other, and the notion that they can be rated using the same measures seems fanciful, even in an era when schools are busy homogenizing in pursuit of rankings.

Law Schools/Lawyering | Bookmark

TrackBacks (0)

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Links to weblogs that reference Stray Thoughts on Law School Rankings:

Recent Comments
Popular Threads
Search The Glom
The Glom on Twitter
Archives by Topic
Archives by Date
January 2019
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
Miscellaneous Links