April 10, 2004

The right way to think about US News rankings? Gordon Smith discusses this forthcoming article, "What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics," from two Cincinnati lawprofs, Paul L. Caron and Rafeal Gely. Caron and Gely pick up on Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler picking up on Michael Lewis ("Moneyball"):
In many ways, legal education is teeming with more inefficiencies than Beane uncovered in baseball. We argue that changes in the economic conditions of higher education and the legal profession, combined with increasing demands for accountability and transparency, created the market demand for measuring organizational success which U.S. News & World Report met with its annual law school rankings.

As Gordon notes, baseball teams have a pretty specific goal, winning games, and certainty in the knowledge of whether they've reached the goal: they either win or lose. But what is the goal of a law school? Yet claims that our goals are too subtle and amorphous to quantify seem less attractive than usual if we think in terms of accountability and transparency. But who is US News to set the terms of the account? Ah, thanks to Caron and Gely if they can advance the ball (sorry for the wrong sports metaphor ... and for a sports metaphor, period), but I can already hear all the old protestations being raised again. It does seem to me, though, that if there is a game to be played using the rankings, there is something to be said in favor of the upstart schools that find ways to challenge the old established institutions that were hoping to rest on the stability of longstanding reputation.

UPDATE: Paul Caron has a new blog, Tax Prof Blog.

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