A Sarbanes-Oxley of Law Review Rankings, Part II

Some years ago, I proposed (here) the idea of a random audit to reduce the chances of sketchy reporting to US News & World Report. It would seem based on commentary last week, (especially the retake of the SAT!), that these practices are alive and well.

Note, these are not (directly) reporting fraud. Rather, they would seem to be artful interpretations of the rules. Perhaps next year the magazine will fix various loopholes. Or, perhaps, there are other negative consequences to engaging in these types of legerdemain. One would think that if a law school did ask students to retake the LSAT, that would become publicized and then everyone would know that the law school’s scores were inflated. The end result might be that a school engaging in such practices might end up taking a hit on their reputation score. It’s one thing to raise your U.S. News ranking by raising the bar passage rate, decreasing student-faculty ratio, increasing scholarly reputation, etc. because these criteria are consistent with a law school’s mission of providing a quality legal education. These measures benefit students. It’s quite another when these are artificial dodges.

But until we see an overhaul (unlikely), I see the opportunity for someone to make a good deal of money. Someone, (let’s call this consultant Andy Fastow, just for kicks), could build a niche practice in this area. Andy would travel around the country and give law schools specific advice on how to inflate their numbers for U.S. News without improving educational quality or technically violating the rules. Some of Andy’s initiatives would have clever names too, say, “Chewbacca,” “Jedi,” or “Death Star.” Andy would pick up on the idea of auctioning off U.S. News reputation ballots on Ebay, in fact, he’d have a detailed pricing model monetizing your vote. (He’d also let you trade derivatives off of it). If interested in this description of Andy’s job, send me a resume. It’s nice over here on the dark side, Luke.

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