Law Quadrangle (formerly Law Quad Notes)


The latest ranking of law schools, this one by U.S. News & World Report, is out,* and the University of Michigan Law School is ranked 7th. At most schools such a ranking would be a cause for joy, but since Michigan has been ranked between 2nd and 5th in similar rankings over the past 15 years, seventh place might give the impression that we are slipping.

For those who are so worried, there is good news, and there is bad news. The good news is that the U.S. News poll should not be taken seriously; it is fundamentally flawed and in its very construction biased against the Univ~rsity of Michigan and similar schools. (Harvard Law School is ranked 5th; the University of California at Berkeley 13th.) The bad news is that the polls that ranked Michigan between 2nd and 5th aren't worth very much either, and the U.S. News ranking is published in a widely distributed guide and so may influence the choices of some students trying to decide which of several law schools to attend.

The U.S. News rankings are flawed both in the measures that are combined into an overall ranking and in the fact that widely disparate measures are combined. Combining measures such as prestige among judges, placement success and tuition is akin to combining measures of the quality of apples, lamb and soda straws and using them to rate the overall quality of grocery stores; one might be able to carry out the exercise, but unless there is a high correlation among measures, the final rankings are arbitrary and relatively meaningless