Despite the chidings of critics that comes like clockwork, people still give plenty of shits about this methodologically loose turd, so I find it necessary to post some sort of update here on the OTLSS site.
So here are the highlights from this years list:
- The T-14 remains the same. Stop arguing over one-spot shifts. Your little club is still intact.
- UC-Irvine debuts at number 30; I'd argue this was a controversial move to generate page views and discussion, except that it was totally predictable.
- By my calculations, among the biggest losers this year were Seattle, Lewis & Clark, Louisiana State, Rutgers-Camden, Penn State, Wayne State, Wake Forest, Indiana-Indianapolis, and Arkansas.
- By my calculations, among the biggest winners this year were St. Johns, Syracuse, Tennessee, Oregon, Hawaii, UNLV, SUNY-Buffalo, and Loyola-Marymount.
- If you can find any rational explanation for the identified winners and losers, there's a law school on line two wanting to hire you as assistant dean.
- Texas A&M makes the list in a tie for 149th, proving again that a new, more prestigious name can vault a school niceley. Hamline and WM both dropped, but are poling their resources for a speed burst up the rankings next year.
- By my calculations, among schools in the top 100 last year, the average school dropped down about 1.3 spots. I'll let you figure out how or why that happened.
U.S. News surely knows UC-Irvine was such a project. And yet it gobbled up the bait anyway like the laziest fish in the ocean. It ranked UC-Irvine higher than either UC-Davis or UC-Hastings, schools that ostensibly have been serving the same basic function for considerably longer. It ranked UC-Irvine above the state flagship universities of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Utah, Maryland, Florida, and a host of others. Were it to move, it would instantly be the 2nd-highest ranked school in Texas.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is overall student outcomes. For the class of 2013, UC-Irvine's employment scores were around 50th and on par with Oklahoma and Wyoming, and UC-Irvine costs twice as much as either of those schools. Their LST "Underemployment Score" puts it in company with Pepperdine, Cleveland-Marshall, Case Western, and Lewis & Clark.
So basically you have a school that's tailor-made to rank well and have a good reputation among academics, but with no proven track record of landing students well in debt-paying employment or producing alumni that contribute great things to the legal world. While I obviously believe 30 to be way too high (doesn't this piss off the remainder of the 2nd tier?), it's also obvious the school is already on better footing than many of the lower-ranked established schools.
The difficulty of trying to place a school like UC-Irvine on a ranked list (even one with a generous use of six-way ties) basically undercuts the idea of a ranking entirely, if said idea wasn't undercut entirely already. The criteria of an objective ranking normally cannot address a well-crafted plan to explicitly game that criteria.
Law School Transparency partially addresses these problems with its various metrics. It seems obvious that U.S. News has no interest in addressing these issues seriously, instead annually rolling out its old standbys with just enough alteration to cause consternation among the industry, before it retreats back under the bridge of law school relevance.
While it's said more than enough this time of year, it's truly sad that law schools continue to pay any heed to this thing while there are much better metrics of a law school's success out there.
One can only hope that the dwindling pool of aspiring law students will make it to places like LST instead of using the U.S. News rankings as simple bias reinforcement. Unfortunately, history suggests that law schools will continue to view this publication as more noteworthy than its own students' employment scores or default rates, and that a school like UC-Irvine will be comfortably ranked in the 25-35 range for some time to come.