When the US News ballot arrived in my mailbox today, I thought about my friends here at money-law. I tried to fill it out according to a coherent plan: I consulted last year's US News data (sorry, Jim, if that's too much reliance on precedent), as well as the citation data to each schools' main law reviews. (I think citation data may be useful for helping us get a sense of third and fourth tier schools. There's a close connection between US News' rankings and law review citations.) I departed upward in cases where I had a particularly positive sense of a school. In most cases that's because I've read a lot of scholarship by people at those schools. But looking back on my thinking, it seems that in at least one case a school that sent out particularly effective promotional material (material that demonstrated a strong scholarly community) changed my thinking for the better.
I know that this is incredibly anecdotal--and therefore may violate the prime directive here at money-law: hard data. But it leads me to think that good promotional material can be effective. (Or perhaps I'm just gullible and susceptible to suggestion.)
Alfred L. Brophy