Thats the opening line of my colleague and Green Bag Editor Ross Davies’ announcementÂ (posted here)Â that The Green Bag is ready to enter the law school rankings game.Â The Deadwood Report (see also Inside Higher Ed) has law school puffery and false advertising in its sights.Â The basic idea is that the available information on the relative quality of law schools and faculties is poor and generally not improving (withÂ at least oneÂ notable exception).Â The methodology is as follows:Â
First, download the law school’s web pages containing all pertinent information about the law school’s “faculty,” course schedules and catologs, and individual faculty member pages with vitas and publications.
Second, compile and analyze the data by assigning weights to various types of scholarship or teaching.Â For example, Davies notes that publications in the home school’s journal and op-eds will not be weighted.Â Also, the weights will favor “well-rounded” faculty members that are active as both scholars and teachers.Â This seems to be a bit of a tax on specialization, but that doesn’t bother too much.Â The rankings should be easy to reconfigure with alternative weights.Â I, for one, would be interested in something like a crude concentration index for publications, e.g. what percentage of scholarship is produced by the top 4, top 8?Â
Third, send the preliminary results to the school’s dean, ask for corrections, and provide an opportunity to fix any errors in the school’s website before re-visiting the websites and incorporating modifications.
Leiter is quoted in the Inside Higher Ed piece as warning that â€œthe editors are setting themselves up for a world of grief from the faculties deemed to have lots of â€˜deadwoodâ€™ and the individual faculty so classified.”Â No doubt the grief is coming.Â There will obviously be some expected grumbling about The Deadwood Report, its methodology, how different forms of scholarship and teaching are weighted, and even the name!Â But like Leiter’s rankings, The Deadwood Report should be a valuable service to consumers of legal education (and law professors).Â The Deadwood Report promises to source all data so that those who are not pleased with the way that they weight certain activities or classify faculty members can offer an alternative set of rankings.
Law schools may not like to be held accountable for what is on their websites and in their law porn, but it strikes me as a bit disingenuine to complain too loudly when they are.Â If a law school would like to specialize by having some faculty who do research and others who bear the brunt of the teaching load, or have a team of all-stars who can do it all, either of these strategies is fine.Â But it strikes me as perfectly reasonable for the law school to communicate truthfully about what it is doing or else be held accountable for its public statements to consumers.Â Time to update those websites …