Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rating Law Schools

As some of you know from reading classbias, I have had a wonderful experience teaching in Rio for the past month. Today I was chatting with some Brazilian law professors who know about the ratings madness in the U.S. What one told me was particularly interesting since I have always felt that the best law school is the one that takes a group of students and moves them along in terms of knowledge, skill and analytical ability more than other schools. Thus, the best law school may be USN&WR number 125.

In Brazil, as in most other countries I know about, law school is a five year program starting after law school. There is a process here where students are tested in the areas of general knowledge and law when they enter law school. Students in the fifth year are also tested in those areas. The process is designed to determine if the school makes a difference and how much relative to others. This is not done every year for every school nor do I know if there is a national ranking that results but it does occur to me that this is a measure of performance unknown to those who rank US law schools. Maybe the distinction is this. You can rank a law school on the basis of LSAT, GPA, etc but that does not tell much about actual performance. Or you can rank schools on the basis what actually happens during the three years. If performance counts, the before and after approach makes sense.

As a side note, the School at which I have taught is a private school. Admission is based on an entrance exam. Numbers only. (This has changed some as the public colleges have quotas for those from public schools or who are of African-Brazilian descent and there are incentives for private schools to open up admissions more. More on this over on classbias.) The top 180 are accepted. I asked what would happen if that meant all while men. The answer was that it would not matter. I asked what the reality was. Over 50% of the admissions are women.


Blogger Stephen said...

What would be interesting is to rank law schools on the Multistate Bar exam scores of their graduates. Might tell one more about the multistate than the schools, but it would be interesting to correlate grades in the relevant classes with scores on the exam.

You might get somewhere interesting with that.

7/05/2008 7:43 PM  
Blogger Michael Shaffer said...

I concur. US News ranks student bodies, not law schools. That seems to suit employers just fine, but it pleases many students rather less once many find out the true "value" of the education that their tuition buys. Measures like scholarly impact at least touch something that schools rather than students do. But it's still nothing much related to preparing lawyers for practice.

A while ago I played around with what public data we have to see if I could come up with rankings that approach the "value add" in legal education. There are lots of obvious problems with this, given that the data on outcomes (bar passage and employment) have many well known holes.

If we ever get comprehensive reports of MBE scores by school or placement data that bears some resemblance to reality, then we might have something to work with. Until then, I used what we get from the ABA and LSAC to produce these:

Legal Education Value Added Rankings

Legal Placement Value Added Rankings

7/07/2008 7:38 PM  

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