The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

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djgoldbe
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby djgoldbe » Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:35 am

rayiner wrote:
djgoldbe wrote:I really don't see why the ranking of law schools should have anything to do with the students themselves. If you want to evaluate the institution and its quality you could just evaluate a hybrid of faculty scholarship (similar to what Leiter does) and post-grad placement (although that would be tricky to quantify - but not impossible). Seems like if you judge a school by its ability to attract top students, your going backwards.


It's not backwards. The rankings serve the purposes of employers as well as students. The top students look at the rankings to see what schools to go to, and employers look at the rankings to see where to find the top students.


I'm surprised you don't see the flaw in this. You are grading a law school. As in, the ability of an institution to produce quality lawyers. LSAT/GPA are determined BEFORE a student enters law school - aka they have no legal training. If employers base hiring on such factors - they are essentially bypassing the law school's proficiency at producing good lawyers entirely. If you want a different index that shows simply where the highest LSAT/GPA students go to law school - that would not be difficult to do. But to say that should have anything to do with judging a law school seems incorrect.

I think you are also ignoring the role of college admissions officers. If admissions were not so heavily influenced by LSAT / GPA (which I think we can agree is a very limited view of student performance) then adcomms could actually base decisions on more holistic factors. (Perhaps a student had an illness for a year which affected GPA and showed a strong GPA trend upwards after. Or the students personal statement showed command of language or unique perspective etc) By ignoring these things you are subtracting value from what COULD make an institution truly unique and better/worse - that is - the ability to IDENTIFY top students and top lawyers.

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PDaddy
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby PDaddy » Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:54 am

redsox wrote:I think you're missing one of the more important points: law school rankings need not reflect how well law schools teach. Look at MBA programs. They hardly teach people anything. The value of an MBA from a top school is that it is evidence that, before getting the MBA, you were impressive enough to be admitted. Thats why UGPA and LSAT are legitimate factors in law school rankings. Who cares who teaches best? If the best professors in the world taught the best curriculum in the world, but they were teaching it to idiots, would that make you want to hire the idiots? The LSAT is just a mechanism for sorting candidates for the law schools, and the law schools are primarily a mechanism for sorting candidates for employment.


I agree with you on the sorting part and make this assertion myself several times per day. I'll take that a step further and surmise that the sorting is done for employers. I also agree that UGPA and LSAT scores (or those from the much better test that will soon be developed) are extremely illuminating to adcoms.

The disconnect is that you are arguing "what is" and I am arguing what "should be". In the end, schools should be ranked according to how productive they are, period. I think everyone agrees on that. For me, it's outcomes over inputs...especially when the inputs appear to be misused/overused, misinterpreted, discriminatory, etc. What I will say is that the b-school admissions model is much more holistic, and aspects of the b-school education model should also be incorporated into legal ed.
Last edited by PDaddy on Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:02 am, edited 2 times in total.

bigben
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby bigben » Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:00 am

PDaddy wrote:I agree with you on the sorting part, and make this assertion myself several times per day. The disconnect is that you are arguing "what is" and I am arguing what "should be". Schools should be ranked according to how productive they are, period. I think everyone agrees on that.


Well there are rankings that attempt to measure educational quality. See Brian Leiter.

But most applicants don't care about that nearly as much as job prospects. And employers don't care about it nearly as much as student quality. And I'm not sure who you think you are to tell other people what they should be caring about. So it looks like you're stuck getting shrill about this in a corner by yourself.

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PDaddy
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby PDaddy » Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:04 am

bigben wrote:
PDaddy wrote:I agree with you on the sorting part, and make this assertion myself several times per day. The disconnect is that you are arguing "what is" and I am arguing what "should be". Schools should be ranked according to how productive they are, period. I think everyone agrees on that.


Well there are rankings that attempt to measure educational quality. See Brian Leiter.

But most applicants don't care about that nearly as much as job prospects. And employers don't care about it nearly as much as student quality. And I'm not sure who you think you are to tell other people what they should be caring about. So it looks like you're stuck getting shrill about this in a corner by yourself.



???WTF???...I have a right to express my opinion...and it's well grounded. From the other posts in this thread, it doesn't look much like I am alone. Besides, where did you read my saying that employment didn't or shouldn't matter? It matters a lot, and should. What I disagree with is schools mechanistically reducing their workload and imposing a societal cost due to their laziness. As gatekeepers to the legal profession, adcoms have a great responsibility (to society) to ensure that responsible, ethical and fair admissions decisions are made. Similarly, employers who fail to do their own work exascerbate the problem.
Last edited by PDaddy on Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:32 am, edited 2 times in total.

djgoldbe
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby djgoldbe » Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:11 am

PDaddy wrote:
redsox wrote:If we can get into law school data w/LSGPA, how about the LSAC developing (and the ABA instituting) a "1LSAT", where 1L's are tested at the end of their first year to see what they learned. That would be a useful way of grading the law schools not only on their ability to predict which students will learn the most during their 1L years, but their abilities to teach the core concepts. This would make schools directly accountable for students' learning and "standardize" the measurements. And it could help test, once and-for-all, whether or not any pre-law standardized test has predictive value.

The sexiest part is that schools could be directly compared with each other on material related to the study of law in core subjects (Con Law, Torts, Contracts, Civ Pro, etc), which would theoretically put all students and schools on a level playing field. And if that were the case, schools that admitted students with lower LSAT's would gain points for getting them up-to-speed. In that same vein, schools that admitted strong LSAT performers would be rewarded for admitting students who performed as predicted during 1L.


I think you're missing one of the more important points: law school rankings need not reflect how well law schools teach. Look at MBA programs. They hardly teach people anything. The value of an MBA from a top school is that it is evidence that, before getting the MBA, you were impressive enough to be admitted. Thats why UGPA and LSAT are legitimate factors in law school rankings. Who cares who teaches best? If the best professors in the world taught the best curriculum in the world, but they were teaching it to idiots, would that make you want to hire the idiots? The LSAT is just a mechanism for sorting candidates for the law schools, and the law schools are primarily a mechanism for sorting candidates for employment.



So basically your saying that a basic LSAT/GPA number is a better way of gauging student quality than what (could be) done by admissions officers? Which is strange because you already say in your post that if you are accepted - you were impressive enough to be admitted. If you already incorporate all of that work done by admissions officers you are adding a lot more value to employers than by forcing admissions officers to be bound to LSAT/GPA. So why restrict admission officers by tying them down to strict LSAT/GPA limitations via rankings?

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creamedcats
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby creamedcats » Wed Apr 07, 2010 4:32 am

To the extent that the rankings are self-reinforcing absent data relating to performance/pay of graduates in their careers, or actively prevent diverse student bodies from being recruited, they are bad. That is a very, very limited extent. Are there a lot of Yale grads failing the bar exam? Hordes of (involuntarily) unemployed Berkeley grads wandering the streets causing trouble? Are thousands of reasonably qualified URM candidates lacking admissions offers? No, there aren't, and there are data to support that - the OCI data, plus famous alums and alumni associations as additional backing. There are, on the other hand, a lot of unemployed T3/T4 students who have unquestionably overpaid for their educations, which may not have been up to standard in every respect. In that regard, the rankings are good, and useful, and NECESSARY.

If TLS can really come to any conclusion about anything, I'd say a safe one is that 'most people should not pay sticker price for a non-T14 law education'. IMO, the ranking data actually create more chances for decently qualified (LSAT/GPA/URM status as metrics) students to get a good education without breaking the bank, as the numerous Non-T14 and T2 schools struggle to attract elite students looking for exactly that. Just as students who didn't do as well on the LSAT as they would have liked must double down on LORs and PS work to set themselves apart, schools who can't necessarily win by the USNWR metric are forced to go out and set themselves apart in other ways. This is good! It encourages schools to develop new capabilities so they have something concrete to brag about. I do not think it encourages aping of higher-ranked schools, mainly because that's not an option - nobody is deposing the king anytime soon. It encourages specialization and reform. Sometimes these are hare-brained marketing tactics targeting students who might do better in other fields ("The Tom Cruise Center for Lunar Property Management, Located in our new $3.5 billion dollar gold-plated student center, is the ONLY center specializing in (whatever)...") and sometimes they are actually quite good.

One thing I don't like about the rankings is the disproportionate focus on private sector placements. The specialty program rankings help a little. Still, what suits one student may not suit another, and if you ask me, I learned a lot more about schools by reading their NALP data than I did by reading the entire history of USNWR rankings. I'd like to see more regional rankings and 5-year averages of portability rankings and international placement rankings. I'd like to see more trends analyzed. If Dean Bob comes in and decides the University of Medicine Hat is going to be THE destination for Patent Law outside the T14, and builds a crazy-expensive new building, hires two hotshot profs and sends three times as many graduates to patent law jobs as in past years, I want to see that mentioned in a quantitative way, not just a blurb, because blurbs mean fuck all. If I see the blurb but not the numbers, I may come to a very different conclusion, which is that Dean Bob is probably blowing the endowment on a pet project and I should stay away. In this regard, the rankings could do a better job. What does it mean to be the number one specialty school for health law as opposed to the number five? How many schools in xxxx region place well in yyyy region? Etc.

Finally, we know and mostly understand the current rankings system, and nobody is stopping anyone from developing an alternative, there are plenty of them, and plenty of "bargain schools" lists and etc. If HYS announced that they were no longer providing data to USNWR, a few might follow, but it would still be part of the same marketing game - some schools would see an opportunity to bandwagon with the elites, while others would see an opportunity to dominate the vacant spots on the rankings. Same shit, different day. Opportunities for competitive advantage exist everywhere. The more data students have, the better decisions they can make.

TL;DR: The rankings are not perfect, but they are not so flawed that we should ignore them completely. They can be improved more easily than they can be replaced.

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vanwinkle
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:30 am

djgoldbe wrote:I'm surprised you don't see the flaw in this. You are grading a law school. As in, the ability of an institution to produce quality lawyers. LSAT/GPA are determined BEFORE a student enters law school - aka they have no legal training. If employers base hiring on such factors - they are essentially bypassing the law school's proficiency at producing good lawyers entirely. If you want a different index that shows simply where the highest LSAT/GPA students go to law school - that would not be difficult to do. But to say that should have anything to do with judging a law school seems incorrect.

Re: the bold part... no they're not.

Employers base hiring on obtaining the best law students. If employers know that 1) a law school takes the highest GPA/LSAT people it can find, and 2) the applicant they're looking at has good grades in a school full of those high GPA/LSAT kids, then they can easily infer that 3) they're getting a pretty damn competent employee. In order to arrive at this conclusion they do need to know something about the student body. Saying someone is "Top 10% at Penn" is meaningless unless you know that Penn is full of smart kids that it would take a lot to earn good grades against.

It's been said before by different people that the teaching at different law schools really isn't that different, and it isn't. There are some amazing teachers at top law schools, but honestly there are so many capable teachers out there that you can fill a hundred law schools with capable teachers. What separates schools is the quality of the lawyers they create, and a big component of that is what they start with. If you start with better students, even if you only give them the same opportunities, you'll still make better lawyers.

You're not bypassing anything, you're acknowledging one of the most important components of a top law school--that the students attending those schools are the best students available. That's something employers want to know if they're going to hire someone straight out of that school.

djgoldbe wrote:I think you are also ignoring the role of college admissions officers. If admissions were not so heavily influenced by LSAT / GPA (which I think we can agree is a very limited view of student performance) then adcomms could actually base decisions on more holistic factors. (Perhaps a student had an illness for a year which affected GPA and showed a strong GPA trend upwards after. Or the students personal statement showed command of language or unique perspective etc) By ignoring these things you are subtracting value from what COULD make an institution truly unique and better/worse - that is - the ability to IDENTIFY top students and top lawyers.

By making statements like this, you're ignoring the role of law school admissions officers. LSAT and GPA are not a very limited view of student performance, they're the two most reliable and correlative data points that adcomms have regarding student ability and as such the best thing that adcomms have to go on. GPA provides a history of prior academic achievement and LSAT is predictive of bar passage rate. Both of these are objective and remove any risk of bias by the adcomms in evaluating these factors. It's actually more fair to a lot of people that admissions are based on objective rather than subjective criteria as it helps minimize unfair prejudices or discrimination and focus on actual measurable abilities that relate to potential future legal success. This is an important concern.

Not only that, but there are so many students out there with high GPAs and/or high LSAT scores that schools can still seek out student bodies full of diverse and unique individuals while maintaining classes of students with high medians. The implication of what you're arguing is that schools don't end up with diverse classes if there is a focus on GPA/LSAT, and that's simply not true. I'm attending a top-ten law school, and there's an amazingly diverse range of students here in terms of undergrad majors, work and life experiences, economic and religious backgrounds, etc. About the only thing they all have in common is high intellectual ability which is typically reflected in their GPA and/or LSAT score.

I can say that schools do employ some "holistic" methods as you mentioned. I had a very low UG GPA, but I explained the valid medical reasons for it, and I was told that it was my life experiences as well as my writing ability in expressing those experiences that convinced them to go ahead and accept me. However, they still fairly needed some objective sign that I was capable of success here--and I provided that by doing well on the LSAT. The LSAT provided a way for me to sell myself to schools, and since it's an objective and transparent test, I'm happy that it existed for that purpose. Other people should be just as happy about it too, and if they can't do well on it, they shouldn't blame the test.

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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby forza » Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:21 am

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rayiner
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby rayiner » Wed Apr 07, 2010 10:18 am

djgoldbe wrote:
rayiner wrote:
djgoldbe wrote:I really don't see why the ranking of law schools should have anything to do with the students themselves. If you want to evaluate the institution and its quality you could just evaluate a hybrid of faculty scholarship (similar to what Leiter does) and post-grad placement (although that would be tricky to quantify - but not impossible). Seems like if you judge a school by its ability to attract top students, your going backwards.


It's not backwards. The rankings serve the purposes of employers as well as students. The top students look at the rankings to see what schools to go to, and employers look at the rankings to see where to find the top students.


I'm surprised you don't see the flaw in this. You are grading a law school. As in, the ability of an institution to produce quality lawyers. LSAT/GPA are determined BEFORE a student enters law school - aka they have no legal training. If employers base hiring on such factors - they are essentially bypassing the law school's proficiency at producing good lawyers entirely. If you want a different index that shows simply where the highest LSAT/GPA students go to law school - that would not be difficult to do. But to say that should have anything to do with judging a law school seems incorrect.


Employers want to know where to get the best hires. Thus, employers want to find not just which schools do the best job of working with what they have, but which schools start out with the best students to begin with. Ostensibly, the USNWR methodology takes both of these into account.

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SaintClarence27
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby SaintClarence27 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 10:21 am

rayiner wrote:
djgoldbe wrote:
rayiner wrote:
djgoldbe wrote:I really don't see why the ranking of law schools should have anything to do with the students themselves. If you want to evaluate the institution and its quality you could just evaluate a hybrid of faculty scholarship (similar to what Leiter does) and post-grad placement (although that would be tricky to quantify - but not impossible). Seems like if you judge a school by its ability to attract top students, your going backwards.


It's not backwards. The rankings serve the purposes of employers as well as students. The top students look at the rankings to see what schools to go to, and employers look at the rankings to see where to find the top students.


I'm surprised you don't see the flaw in this. You are grading a law school. As in, the ability of an institution to produce quality lawyers. LSAT/GPA are determined BEFORE a student enters law school - aka they have no legal training. If employers base hiring on such factors - they are essentially bypassing the law school's proficiency at producing good lawyers entirely. If you want a different index that shows simply where the highest LSAT/GPA students go to law school - that would not be difficult to do. But to say that should have anything to do with judging a law school seems incorrect.


Employers want to know where to get the best hires. Thus, employers want to find not just which schools do the best job of working with what they have, but which schools start out with the best students to begin with. Ostensibly, the USNWR methodology takes both of these into account.


If this is true (and I'm not saying it's not), wouldn't it be better to not have law schools at all? Just train lawyers at actual law firms, who get their positions by the numbers?

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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby holydonkey » Wed Apr 07, 2010 10:35 am

SaintClarence27 wrote:
rayiner wrote:Employers want to know where to get the best hires. Thus, employers want to find not just which schools do the best job of working with what they have, but which schools start out with the best students to begin with. Ostensibly, the USNWR methodology takes both of these into account.

If this is true (and I'm not saying it's not), wouldn't it be better to not have law schools at all? Just train lawyers at actual law firms, who get their positions by the numbers?
Better for whom? Law firms want you to shell out for your basic training at law school and take unpaid/low paying gigs over the summer to get experience. What's their incentive to pay you to get trained?

Law firms struggle enough with crappy 1st year associates now, why would they choose to hire and train someone with even less experience?

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rayiner
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby rayiner » Wed Apr 07, 2010 10:37 am

SaintClarence27 wrote:If this is true (and I'm not saying it's not), wouldn't it be better to not have law schools at all? Just train lawyers at actual law firms, who get their positions by the numbers?


1) The law firms want the additional sorting mechanism of 1L grades, which tests things LSAT/GPA don't. But really the current big firm hiring system isn't too far from hiring by the numbers. After all, OCI happens after just a year of law school (a year which bears no resemblance to legal practice).

2) Obviously firms have an incentive for the whole learning/sorting process to happen on the student's dime, not theirs.

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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby Panther7 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 10:38 am

SaintClarence27 wrote:If this is true (and I'm not saying it's not), wouldn't it be better to not have law schools at all? Just train lawyers at actual law firms, who get their positions by the numbers?


why would a firm pay to train you when they can get people to pay to train themselves?

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SaintClarence27
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby SaintClarence27 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 10:54 am

In theory, if we didn't have to shell out $100K+ (sometimes much more) in student loans for our education, couldn't the firms pay significantly less? I understand the point about additional sorting via the 1L grades before OCI and the low paid summer training, but they really could do a trial training regardless. Have a 30-40k per year training for two years at a firm, followed by the bar. That kind of thing. If you NEED the law school sorting mechanism, have it be one year, prior to the training.

Of course, this is all ridiculous and would never happen, but wouldn't the above be much more efficient for all involved?

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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby Panther7 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:04 am

SaintClarence27 wrote:In theory, if we didn't have to shell out $100K+ (sometimes much more) in student loans for our education, couldn't the firms pay significantly less? I understand the point about additional sorting via the 1L grades before OCI and the low paid summer training, but they really could do a trial training regardless. Have a 30-40k per year training for two years at a firm, followed by the bar. That kind of thing. If you NEED the law school sorting mechanism, have it be one year, prior to the training.

Of course, this is all ridiculous and would never happen, but wouldn't the above be much more efficient for all involved?


not for the law firm. paying zero is always better than paying money.

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SaintClarence27
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby SaintClarence27 » Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:36 am

Panther7 wrote:
SaintClarence27 wrote:In theory, if we didn't have to shell out $100K+ (sometimes much more) in student loans for our education, couldn't the firms pay significantly less? I understand the point about additional sorting via the 1L grades before OCI and the low paid summer training, but they really could do a trial training regardless. Have a 30-40k per year training for two years at a firm, followed by the bar. That kind of thing. If you NEED the law school sorting mechanism, have it be one year, prior to the training.

Of course, this is all ridiculous and would never happen, but wouldn't the above be much more efficient for all involved?


not for the law firm. paying zero is always better than paying money.


Well, part of my point was that they wouldn't need to shell out 160k/year if the person didn't owe 150k in student loans.

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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby rayiner » Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:37 am

SaintClarence27 wrote:
Panther7 wrote:
SaintClarence27 wrote:In theory, if we didn't have to shell out $100K+ (sometimes much more) in student loans for our education, couldn't the firms pay significantly less? I understand the point about additional sorting via the 1L grades before OCI and the low paid summer training, but they really could do a trial training regardless. Have a 30-40k per year training for two years at a firm, followed by the bar. That kind of thing. If you NEED the law school sorting mechanism, have it be one year, prior to the training.

Of course, this is all ridiculous and would never happen, but wouldn't the above be much more efficient for all involved?


not for the law firm. paying zero is always better than paying money.


Well, part of my point was that they wouldn't need to shell out 160k/year if the person didn't owe 150k in student loans.


The $160k/year salary doesn't come from how much loans people have. It comes from competition for top graduates.

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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby djgoldbe » Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:18 pm

vanwinkle wrote:
djgoldbe wrote:I'm surprised you don't see the flaw in this. You are grading a law school. As in, the ability of an institution to produce quality lawyers. LSAT/GPA are determined BEFORE a student enters law school - aka they have no legal training. If employers base hiring on such factors - they are essentially bypassing the law school's proficiency at producing good lawyers entirely. If you want a different index that shows simply where the highest LSAT/GPA students go to law school - that would not be difficult to do. But to say that should have anything to do with judging a law school seems incorrect.

Re: the bold part... no they're not.

Employers base hiring on obtaining the best law students. If employers know that 1) a law school takes the highest GPA/LSAT people it can find, and 2) the applicant they're looking at has good grades in a school full of those high GPA/LSAT kids, then they can easily infer that 3) they're getting a pretty damn competent employee. In order to arrive at this conclusion they do need to know something about the student body. Saying someone is "Top 10% at Penn" is meaningless unless you know that Penn is full of smart kids that it would take a lot to earn good grades against.

It's been said before by different people that the teaching at different law schools really isn't that different, and it isn't. There are some amazing teachers at top law schools, but honestly there are so many capable teachers out there that you can fill a hundred law schools with capable teachers. What separates schools is the quality of the lawyers they create, and a big component of that is what they start with. If you start with better students, even if you only give them the same opportunities, you'll still make better lawyers.

You're not bypassing anything, you're acknowledging one of the most important components of a top law school--that the students attending those schools are the best students available. That's something employers want to know if they're going to hire someone straight out of that school.

djgoldbe wrote:I think you are also ignoring the role of college admissions officers. If admissions were not so heavily influenced by LSAT / GPA (which I think we can agree is a very limited view of student performance) then adcomms could actually base decisions on more holistic factors. (Perhaps a student had an illness for a year which affected GPA and showed a strong GPA trend upwards after. Or the students personal statement showed command of language or unique perspective etc) By ignoring these things you are subtracting value from what COULD make an institution truly unique and better/worse - that is - the ability to IDENTIFY top students and top lawyers.

By making statements like this, you're ignoring the role of law school admissions officers. LSAT and GPA are not a very limited view of student performance, they're the two most reliable and correlative data points that adcomms have regarding student ability and as such the best thing that adcomms have to go on. GPA provides a history of prior academic achievement and LSAT is predictive of bar passage rate. Both of these are objective and remove any risk of bias by the adcomms in evaluating these factors. It's actually more fair to a lot of people that admissions are based on objective rather than subjective criteria as it helps minimize unfair prejudices or discrimination and focus on actual measurable abilities that relate to potential future legal success. This is an important concern.

Not only that, but there are so many students out there with high GPAs and/or high LSAT scores that schools can still seek out student bodies full of diverse and unique individuals while maintaining classes of students with high medians. The implication of what you're arguing is that schools don't end up with diverse classes if there is a focus on GPA/LSAT, and that's simply not true. I'm attending a top-ten law school, and there's an amazingly diverse range of students here in terms of undergrad majors, work and life experiences, economic and religious backgrounds, etc. About the only thing they all have in common is high intellectual ability which is typically reflected in their GPA and/or LSAT score.

I can say that schools do employ some "holistic" methods as you mentioned. I had a very low UG GPA, but I explained the valid medical reasons for it, and I was told that it was my life experiences as well as my writing ability in expressing those experiences that convinced them to go ahead and accept me. However, they still fairly needed some objective sign that I was capable of success here--and I provided that by doing well on the LSAT. The LSAT provided a way for me to sell myself to schools, and since it's an objective and transparent test, I'm happy that it existed for that purpose. Other people should be just as happy about it too, and if they can't do well on it, they shouldn't blame the test.


I just disagree with you here. I think an admissions officer can tell more about a person and their capacity to be a lawyer (as in, not just the capacity to get good grades) by reading their personal statement and an in person interview than I can by seeing two numbers. Perhaps the disagreement stems from what it means to be a 'top' student versus a 'top' lawyer, but I think your assertion that those with top grades will make the best lawyers is very myopic, especially when considered in the larger context of the ideal societal role of a lawyer. LSAT/GPA are useful, agreed, but I think having people whose JOB it is to discern an applicant's commitment and capacity for being a good lawyer should be able to be unconcerned by considerations such as how it will affect the school's ranking.

Also, regarding your personal situation, I think that is great but not indicative of most admissions decisions. In fact, I think if anything it shows how overly weighted the LSAT is. High LSAT splitters are taken in droves over people with higher GPA's (and, as the article says this is largely discriminating against those without resources or time to take a course/study). And I do not think anyone 'blames' the LSAT - I think they blame the fact that it is taken as such a large factor (a relatively new development...).
Last edited by djgoldbe on Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

djgoldbe
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby djgoldbe » Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:31 pm

Nightrunner wrote:
djgoldbe wrote:I just disagree with you here. I can tell more about a person and their capacity to be a lawyer (as in, not just the capacity to get good grades) by reading their personal statement and an in person interview than I can by seeing two numbers.

ITT: 0Ls know what it means to be a good lawyer, let alone how to assess it in others


Sorry I was speaking in a more theoretical sense of what an adcomm would know... edited my post for clarity of that thank you.

bigben
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby bigben » Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:09 pm

SaintClarence27 wrote:If this is true (and I'm not saying it's not), wouldn't it be better to not have law schools at all? Just train lawyers at actual law firms, who get their positions by the numbers?


Actually this would be better economically speaking. Or just 1-2 years of law school. It just doesn't add much value.

bigben
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby bigben » Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:15 pm

SaintClarence27 wrote:In theory, if we didn't have to shell out $100K+ (sometimes much more) in student loans for our education, couldn't the firms pay significantly less? I understand the point about additional sorting via the 1L grades before OCI and the low paid summer training, but they really could do a trial training regardless. Have a 30-40k per year training for two years at a firm, followed by the bar. That kind of thing. If you NEED the law school sorting mechanism, have it be one year, prior to the training.

Of course, this is all ridiculous and would never happen, but wouldn't the above be much more efficient for all involved?


Again, yes. Higher education sucks up an astonishing amount of wealth in this country. Law school is no exception. There are a number of factors contributing...barriers to entry, massive gov't subsidization, etc. Basically, academia is a very powerful special interest.

One aspect of this is that it is politically taboo to be very up front about sorting mechanisms.

sumus romani
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby sumus romani » Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:38 pm

I can't believe that I have read this entire thread. I should have stopped a long, long time ago when people were arguing for LGPA to be a factor in rankings. I want that 20 minutes of my life back. :(

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vanwinkle
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Apr 07, 2010 6:42 pm

djgoldbe wrote:I just disagree with you here. I think an admissions officer can tell more about a person and their capacity to be a lawyer (as in, not just the capacity to get good grades) by reading their personal statement and an in person interview than I can by seeing two numbers.

I love how you try to minimize GPAs and LSAT scores by referring to them as just "two numbers". Those numbers actually do a lot of work. A high undergrad GPA indicates some combination of intellectual ability and dedication/responsibility; a high LSAT score indicates strong logical and analytical reasoning skills, as well as to some extent even more commitment and dedication (due to the fact that highly achieving on the LSAT requires some preparation on top of raw skills). Providing objective ways to measure these things helps create a more fair application process.

Also, personal statements and interviews are relatively easy places to lie, distort, embellish, or otherwise mislead, which is why they're not trusted too much outside of legal admissions either. To get top jobs in the real world, you aren't hired on the basis of your interview. You're offered an interview because of your stats in the first place. If you don't like being reduced to numbers, the legal profession is especially not for you; whether or not an employer even offers you an interview at all will (except for blind OCIs) depend largely on tangible factors like the relative ranking of your law school and your GPA, as well as things like work experience. By the time you get to the interview, you've already been screened by all the hard factors they can use to identify you.

djgoldbe wrote:Perhaps the disagreement stems from what it means to be a 'top' student versus a 'top' lawyer, but I think your assertion that those with top grades will make the best lawyers is very myopic, especially when considered in the larger context of the ideal societal role of a lawyer. LSAT/GPA are useful, agreed, but I think having people whose JOB it is to discern an applicant's commitment and capacity for being a good lawyer should be able to be unconcerned by considerations such as how it will affect the school's ranking.

Individually, no, it's not my assertion that those with the best UG grades or LSAT will necessarily make the best lawyers. However, in the aggregate this is largely true. You can't predict how things will go completely accurately in every single case, because you can't see the future, but knowing that there is a correlation between these things reinforces that they make sense as primary factors to consider.

And what the hell is the "ideal societal role of a lawyer"? People on here will tell you I can be a real idealist, I'm big on public service and idealized roles, but let's be practical for a moment. The ideal societal role of a lawyer is, in general, to be someone who grasps the law well, who is able to reason through it effectively, and who can predict future legal outcomes based on past precedent and court policy concerns. Those who can do this best will make the best lawyers in whatever field they pursue, and those who have the greatest commitment to their work and legal reasoning skills will be those who can do this best.

Given that GPA and LSAT can be ways of objectively demonstrating commitment and legal reasoning aptitude, they make perfect sense for measuring who will potentially make the best lawyers. Those people whose job it is to make hiring decisions are wise to consider these things. I'll give you that the rankings creates a stronger emphasis on GPA and LSAT than might exist otherwise, but since the rankings come out, has this appeared to negatively affect the quality of graduates that top law schools produce? Hardly.

djgoldbe wrote:Also, regarding your personal situation, I think that is great but not indicative of most admissions decisions. In fact, I think if anything it shows how overly weighted the LSAT is. High LSAT splitters are taken in droves over people with higher GPA's (and, as the article says this is largely discriminating against those without resources or time to take a course/study). And I do not think anyone 'blames' the LSAT - I think they blame the fact that it is taken as such a large factor (a relatively new development...).

I don't understand this. You say my personal situation is "not indicative of most admissions decisions" and then two sentences later say "High LSAT splitters are taken in droves". My personal situation was one of being a high LSAT splitter; does not compute?

People blame the use of their LSAT scores to differentiate them, which is essentially blaming the LSAT, since that is its entire purpose. The problem is that you and many others fail to realize that the LSAT being taken as a large factor is a good thing. Do you know how top law schools differentiated applicants before the LSAT came into being? Ivy league law schools would just take applicants from Ivy league undergrads. They knew they were getting "top" caliber students that way, and so that's what they did. Wanted to go to Yale, but graduated from East Bumfuck U? Guess what, you're SOL! They don't care about your 4.0 or your touching life story. Is that the system you really want to live under?

The LSAT came into existence because of a post-WWII flood of people wanting to seek higher education and a need to sort and differentiate them. The LSAT does so objectively, based on logical reasoning and analytical skills that are truly at the heart of what makes someone a competent practicing lawyer. All things considered, it's a transparent system that does actually measure useful skills in the real legal world, and until someone proposes an actually better alternative, that makes it a good thing.

djgoldbe
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby djgoldbe » Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:59 pm

I love how you try to minimize GPAs and LSAT scores by referring to them as just "two numbers". Those numbers actually do a lot of work. A high undergrad GPA indicates some combination of intellectual ability and dedication/responsibility; a high LSAT score indicates strong logical and analytical reasoning skills, as well as to some extent even more commitment and dedication (due to the fact that highly achieving on the LSAT requires some preparation on top of raw skills). Providing objective ways to measure these things helps create a more fair application process.


Maybe they took a lot of work for you - but they don't take a lot of work for many. Especially considering how little weight is given to the UG institution, class rigor (thus why you see people taking BS classes to raise their GPA) and grade inflation. And for the LSAT - I really don't think it tests the skills you think it tests all that well. You allude to the fact that it is a largely learn-able test - which I agree with - but you didn't address the fact that many many people do not have the time or resources to spend learning it (or the fact that it's being learn-able makes it a limited test of intellectual ability).

And I don't really think the 'fairness' of the admissions process is the concern here. A school (especially a private one) can admit whoever it wants - that is the schools prerogative. The issue is the ability of the school to admit who it wants without undue pressure, such as the many situations where a school would like to admit an applicant but cannot because he/she's numbers would bring down the median. If a school would otherwise like to admit an applicant, I do not think that student should be penalized because of ranking concerns.

The ideal societal role of a lawyer is, in general, to be someone who grasps the law well, who is able to reason through it effectively, and who can predict future legal outcomes based on past precedent and court policy concerns. Those who can do this best will make the best lawyers in whatever field they pursue, and those who have the greatest commitment to their work and legal reasoning skills will be those who can do this best.


That has nothing to do with the societal role of lawyers. That may be an accurate delineation of what makes an effective lawyer, but it surely doesn't speak at all to the larger role of lawyers in society. Again, there is a big difference between 'best' and 'effective'. I am quite sure John Yoo is an effective lawyer, and possesses all of the traits you espouse, but I am also quite sure he is not the best lawyer.

I don't understand this. You say my personal situation is "not indicative of most admissions decisions" and then two sentences later say "High LSAT splitters are taken in droves". My personal situation was one of being a high LSAT splitter; does not compute?


Sorry if that was unclear. Having below median numbers and being accepted on 'holistic' concerns is not indicative of most applicant's results. Because of the way the ratings are done, it sounds like your high LSAT splitter scenario would have still made you a net-positive for the school. So, perhaps your cycle was indicative of normal admissions and the 'holistic' concerns you talk about were not really relevant. Hard to tell without specific information.

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vanwinkle
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Re: The most cogent anti-rankings article ever!

Postby vanwinkle » Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:27 pm

djgoldbe wrote:Maybe they took a lot of work for you - but they don't take a lot of work for many. Especially considering how little weight is given to the UG institution, class rigor (thus why you see people taking BS classes to raise their GPA) and grade inflation.

This is pretty belittling to people who spend four years trying to get a 4.0 or close to it. However, I do acknowledge the difficulty does vary by institution and program, which is probably one reason why adcomms are biased more toward the LSAT than GPA.

Of course, if it doesn't take a lot of work for many as you say, what's the problem with using it as a differentiating factor? In that case everyone who's worth letting into a law school ought to have a high GPA because it's so easy to get one.

djgoldbe wrote:And for the LSAT - I really don't think it tests the skills you think it tests all that well. You allude to the fact that it is a largely learn-able test - which I agree with - but you didn't address the fact that many many people do not have the time or resources to spend learning it (or the fact that it's being learn-able makes it a limited test of intellectual ability).

It's not a test of "intellectual ability", it's a test of analytical and reasoning skills. Those skills are important in the legal world. "Intellectual ability" is a broad thing, and one of the reasons that the LSAT is the most reliable predictor of bar passage out of any pre-law-school factor is that it focuses specifically on the subsets of abilities that lawyers have to call on most. The fact that you can learn what answers are expected doesn't really change its predictive ability all that much, because what you're demonstrating is that you can learn logical reasoning skills, which are what are necessary for success in law.

I don't address the fact that some people don't have the time or resources to spend learning the LSAT, because if they don't have the time or resources to spend taking a single test, how does that make them at all qualified to spend three years learning the law? If you want to succeed, you make time to succeed. I prepped for the LSAT while working a full-time job.

djgoldbe wrote:And I don't really think the 'fairness' of the admissions process is the concern here. A school (especially a private one) can admit whoever it wants - that is the schools prerogative. The issue is the ability of the school to admit who it wants without undue pressure, such as the many situations where a school would like to admit an applicant but cannot because he/she's numbers would bring down the median. If a school would otherwise like to admit an applicant, I do not think that student should be penalized because of ranking concerns.

Wait, you're saying fairness shouldn't be a concern? You don't care about fairness in law admissions? Your argument is entirely about fairness; you think it's unfair for schools to "like" these applicants but be "unable" to admit them.

There's a huge problem there, and that's that schools "like" many applicants they have to turn away. UVA gets over 7,000 applications, and in one conversation with an adcomm here, I was told that the adcomms end up seeing about 3,000 applications they like and would want to admit, but they don't have room for them. It doesn't matter how you change the way adcomms rank students, there are always going to be plenty of likeable candidates applying who can't get in. At least the current system is objective, transparent, and relatively straightforward. That makes it more fair... and because the rankings only worry about a median, that leaves a lot of leeway for schools to admit a number of students who are below median but really strike them as desirable in other ways.

djgoldbe wrote:
The ideal societal role of a lawyer is, in general, to be someone who grasps the law well, who is able to reason through it effectively, and who can predict future legal outcomes based on past precedent and court policy concerns. Those who can do this best will make the best lawyers in whatever field they pursue, and those who have the greatest commitment to their work and legal reasoning skills will be those who can do this best.

That has nothing to do with the societal role of lawyers. That may be an accurate delineation of what makes an effective lawyer, but it surely doesn't speak at all to the larger role of lawyers in society. Again, there is a big difference between 'best' and 'effective'. I am quite sure John Yoo is an effective lawyer, and possesses all of the traits you espouse, but I am also quite sure he is not the best lawyer.

The most effective lawyers are the best lawyers, from an educational standpoint. It's not the job of law schools to play politics and choose students based on their political beliefs. We teach a diverse array of people with differing beliefs, and I'm offended by any notion that law schools should be pre-screening students based on political values. While you may think this is a good idea because a school that's in line with your values will keep out the people who you think are in the moral wrong, but the problem is that you're assuming that line will be fairly drawn. That goes back to the fairness argument I brought up, and which you seem incapable of understanding.

I don't like John Yoo either, but he is someone who will tell you he has deep moral convictions and believed he was doing the right thing for his country. How would you pre-screen against him? There's no way to do it, not without putting into place a terrifyingly discriminatory system that would be far more harmful to America than any single memo John Yoo could ever write.

djgoldbe wrote:Sorry if that was unclear. Having below median numbers and being accepted on 'holistic' concerns is not indicative of most applicant's results. Because of the way the ratings are done, it sounds like your high LSAT splitter scenario would have still made you a net-positive for the school. So, perhaps your cycle was indicative of normal admissions and the 'holistic' concerns you talk about were not really relevant. Hard to tell without specific information.

This is your problem, you're too black and white. You assume that things are either holistic-based or numbers-based. The truth is that it's actually both. I got in because I had a high LSAT score and because they liked the rest of my application. I actually asked, and was told, that it was my personal statement and work experience that sold them on me. While I did have a high LSAT score, there were many high-LSAT splitters on TLS that applied to UVA last year and got WL purgatory instead.

Schools that accept people based on GPA and LSAT do look at the full applications and make decisions based on more than just the numbers. The problem, and what you're not realizing, is that people with high GPAs and high LSATs are typically rather capable people who are going to also look good in the PS and LORs anyway. It's not like someone gets a 170/3.8 and then gets three LORs that say he never paid attention in class and writes a PS about how he wants to become the first Emperor of the United States and make everyone ride horses to work and school because they're more environmentally friendly than cars.

It's not like schools are typically faced with a choice between a 156/3.2 with a great PS/LORs and a 170/3.8 with a poor PS and LORs. No, top schools are often faced with hundreds and hundreds of 170/3.8s and then forced to choose between them. If one of them has a poor PS/LOR, they can reject him and still find enough kids with great well-rounded applications and high numbers to fill their seats.




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