US News to Law Deans: Please Don’t Fudge Your Numbers
Posted Mar 11, 2011 10:40 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Updated: U.S. News & World Report has sent a letter to law deans asking them to please be truthful when reporting data to the magazine for its law school rankings.
The entreaty comes about a month after the new law dean of Villanova University admitted the school had reported inaccurate admissions data to the ABA. The letter cites a perception that law deans are less than candid and talks about the need for better data.
The Morse Code blog of U.S. News published the text, signed by U.S. News editor Brian Kelly.
“I think we can all agree that it is not in anyone's interest—especially that of prospective students—to have less than accurate data being put out by law schools,” Kelly wrote. “It's creating a crisis of confidence in the law school sector that is unnecessary and we think could be easily fixed.”
Many graduate business schools are meticulous about collecting data, even having it audited, the letter says, but law schools don’t follow the same procedures. “The entire law school sector is perceived to be less than candid because it does not pursue a similar, disciplined approach to data collection and reporting.”
The letter says U.S. News will be publishing more career data and is changing the way it computes employment rates. The change is apparently a response to schools that tried to game the system by withholding at-graduation statistics and benefiting from an automatic calculation.
“We would urge you to make sure that the information your school is reporting is as accurate as possible, and to consider going beyond the current industry standards,” Kelly writes. “Perhaps we need metrics besides total employment rates to evaluate a successful law program. More data—on employment or other topics—is a positive factor for our readers and your students. We stand ready to work with you to find ways of publishing it.”
ABA consultant on legal education Hulett “Bucky” Askew tells the ABA Journal that the blogosphere is reading the letter to say that U.S. News will begin using employment-at-graduation data instead of—or possibly in addition to—statistics on employment nine months after graduation. That’s “a huge change” that would hurt schools sending a lot of graduates to jobs in the public sector or small law firms because they don’t hire until after graduates pass the bar exam, Askew says.
Use of at-graduation figures could be problematic because some schools do not provide them to U.S. News. The ABA does not collect that statistic.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions” about the letter, Askew says.
Updated at 5:38 p.m. to include information from Askew.