January 16, 2007

Does US News promote good or bad innovation?

Thanks to Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog here, I see that the cover story in the January 2007 National Jurist is entitled "The Rankings Race: How Far Will Law Schools Go to Win?"  Here is the teaser:

Misreporting or selectively reporting statistics, firing deans, spending thousands on marketing; the law school rumor mill runs rampant with stories of law schools going to great lengths to boost their U.S. News & World Report ranks.  How much is true, and why are schools willing to put it all on the line just to get a few points higher on the list?

As Paul notes, the story does not break any new ground (though the technology supporting web access to the National Jurist article seemed impressively innovative).  Intriguingly, two high-profile law professor bloggers get their pictures and pull-out quotes in the piece.

Perhaps to provoke some discussion, let me make this somewhat provocative point about the impact of US News rankings on law school programming and activities: though I am sometimes troubled by how US News can impact law school programming and activities, I am far more troubled by how inertia and status quo biases impact law school programming and activities.  As but one example, I suspect US News concerns about reputation scores has helpfully fueled interest in work-related blogging and on-line activities by law professors, while inertia and status quo biases have harmfully retarded these valuable activities.

Posted by DAB.

January 16, 2007 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

Does US News spur or thwart innovation?

This weekend, this fascinating blog post at MoneyLaw reminded me of Dale Whitman's account, when he was AALS president, of some of the sneaky techniques and ugly consequences of undue concern with US News rankings.  In turn, I got to thinking about the relationship between US News rankings on law school innovation (which, arguably, is what MoneyLaw is all about).

My first-cut instinct is that great concern for rankings might spur innovations within schools that are ranked low: the dean and faculty at a school ranked low might conclude that the best way to try to change their fortunes would be though innovative programming that garners (positive) attention to improve the school's reputation (and thus its scores in the reputation criteria than make up 40% of the ranking metric).  As a corollary, highly-ranked schools might resist innovations for fear that anything new risks generating negative attention to move reputation scores in the wrong direction.

I am sure that the relationship between rankings and innovation is much more nuanced than this simple account may suggest.  Thus, I encourage readers (and other contributors to this blog) to chime in on this topic.

Posted by DAB

November 6, 2006 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack