Law school deans attack `arbitrary’ U.S. News ratings

GW Law School Dean Jack Friedenthal was among 164 deans across the country who signed a letter to law school applicants denouncing the graduate school rankings released last week by U.S. News & World Report.

The letter – distributed to 93,000 law school applicants – is part of an attack by the Association of American Law Schools on rankings like the ones in U.S. News. Last week, the AALS released a study challenging the validity of law school ratings, questioning the magazine’s methodology and suggesting U.S. News fails to assess important aspects of law schools.

“These rankings leave many important variables out of account, arbitrarily weight others and are generally unreliable as a guide to those qualities of different schools that a candidate should consider,” the letter said.

Friedenthal said he puts little stock in the ratings despite the fact that GW gained ground in the U.S. News poll this year.

“I’m always put in the position of saying the rankings are stupid, arbitrary and meaningless, but if you’re going to have stupid, arbitrary and meaningless rankings, it’s better to be up in them than down,” Friedenthal said.

Deans of 92 percent of American Bar Association-approved law schools – including some of the magazine’s highest-ranked law schools like the University of Pennsylvania and New York University – signed the letter.

“A ranking system assumes that every applicant has identical needs and desires, an assumption I am certain that the U.S. News editors would not make about magazines,” said John Sexton, NYU dean and former AALS president.

“(The rankings) are driven by a reputation survey of people who have little or no knowledge of what they are ranking,” Sexton said.

Friedenthal said law schools cannot protest the rankings by refusing to submit vital statistics because the numbers are available through AALS.

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