US News Law School Rankings

I wanted to make an observation about the rankings that were released yesterday.  Duke Law School achieved something truly remarkable.  All of their 2008 graduates (100%) were employed in the six months following graduation.  No other school — not even Harvard or Yale — managed this.  And to have that result as the stock market was imploding is even more amazing.

Or Duke’s claim is just . . . er . . . false.  But I would never accuse a Top 11 school of misrepresenting the facts.

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11 Responses

  1. ” I would never accuse a Top 11 school of misrepresenting the facts.”

    Why not? It’s Duke!

  2. Ani says:

    I think this is uncharitable. Isn’t the more natural conclusion that students can be “employed” in a way that technically satisfies USNWR, but that fails to provide any meaningful data relative to other schools? Put another way, that Duke and other schools have figured out how to compete on a measure in such a way as to exploit its meaninglessness?

  3. anony says:

    I don’t think it’s uncharitable to call out an utterly ridiculous and obviously-fabricated statistic. Duke, what have you to say for yourself?

  4. Ani says:

    Why is it “utterly ridiculous and obviously-fabricated” relative to a claim by the school with which it is tied, Northwestern, that managed 98.2%? Meaning, in effect, that if Northwestern had found some kind of job for its last (approximately) five 2008 grads, it would be in the same boat? Particularly given that Duke has a smaller student body?

    Consider, in other words, the idea that Duke simply played the game that everyone else plays before calling something fabricated.

  5. Insider-type says:

    According to a statement by Duke on its website, they have achieved this result 4 out of the last 5 years. While they talk about the hard work of their career services staff, the real magic bullet is their so-called Bridge to Practice program (“Bridge to Nowhere”?), which pays employers to hire alums for an internship/fellowship period. Now, there is nothing wrong with that despite how unseemly it sounds for people focused on “pure” rankings. You can call it an employment guarantee if it feels more ethical. Regardless, it is a pretty good deal for students as compared with the other ways you can spend money to game the rankings system. Virtually every top 20 school has such a program nowadays. The oddity, though, is not that they could have a 100% rate, but that they do and others with the same program and resources do not. The answer is that at virtually every school, not all students take the school up on its offer of a paid internship. Some are dealing with medical, mental, or dependency issues, some don’t want to take the bird in the hand because they think Cravath or the Justice Dept will call and they won’t be available, and some have failed the bar exam and are exclusively studying for the Feb. bar when the 9 month period hits. That is where Duke is likely fudging the numbers. They are probably taking everyone who didn’t respond to their paid post-graduation internship offer or refused it and reclassifying them in some other non-seeking category. By contrast, every other school is acknowledging that some of the students who would like to be in a job (even someone who failed the bar exam) decided to keep looking rather than take the paid internship.

    The problem with the whole system is that prospective students interpret the % to be about employment in one of those $160K+ jobs and the question NALP asks of law schools is about all employment, even at Starbucks and even if part-time. NALP’s question is not illogical since there are a lot of jobs for which a JD is not required that are legitimate places for a grad to go (e.g., an investment banking position or a consulting position). NALP didn’t think it made sense to draw a bright line that way when individual circumstances matter, but that’s because they report the data as an array in different salary and job categories. USNWR takes that data and only reports the bottom line, which accounts for the frustration.

  6. Occam’s Razor: think the worst, it’s Duke.

  7. Ani says:

    Maryland Conservatarian: Whatever its relevance here, I trust “think the worst, it’s Duke” settles the matter of Richard Nixon. To quote, “I always remember that whatever I have done in the past or may do in the future, Duke University is responsible in one way or another.”

  8. Paul Lawson says:

    When it comes to school bashing or sports-team bashing, Duke is a popular target. That’s fine by me. (Keep grinding that axe, Maryland). But its counterproductive to resort to seemingly default cynicism about a law school that reports it has succeeded in finding every graduate (all-be-it in a class smaller than classes at many schools) a job. Why automatically assume the worst (even if you hate the basketball team)? Do you have evidence suggesting some contrary statistic is more accurate? Instead, we should commend Duke’s efforts–and the efforts of all schools who have employment statistics anywhere near 100%. The job market continues to circle the drain and helping students find jobs is harder than ever. And jobs really matter–to all of us. Of course, the rankings system has its flaws and many (including me) would argue that it exerts too much control over the law school/job market. But if that system is giving law school’s even the smallest modicum of motivation to help their graduates find jobs–whether through a “bridge to practice” program or otherwise–the system is making a positive contribution.

  9. Northwestern only graduates 220 or so students per class, it’s not exactly a behemoth like Harvard with its 800+ students per year. Just because 98% of the class had jobs doesn’t mean they were all at biglaw — you have the public interest folks, the people that clerk for 2-4 years, the ones who go directly to the PD, the AG, the DOJ, the DA, and then the whole group of people who ended up scrambling and got “some” kind of law-related job to start paying their loans. Plus the people that couldn’t find a job and went on the get an LLM in tax or into academia. Nearly full placement doesn’t seem that remarkable to me.

    That said, it’s not exactly rocket science to figure out that the US News results and categories are massaged like big firm PPPs or the national unemployment figures (“Oh, you’ve been out of a job more than 18 weeks, so we’re taking you off the unemployed list and putting you in the category of people that are no longer looking [i.e., the unemployable]).”

  10. anony-nony-mous says:

    So . . . even if Duke is gaming the U.S. News rankings, how does that distinguish it from other top law schools?

    At least Duke’s gaming tangibly benefits students.

  11. Ani says:

    Put aside whether what Duke is doing for these students is good or bad. (Though I am convinced that it’s good, and that this matters more than fairness to other schools or students relying on rankings, given how debased that competition is anyway.) I think Insider Type pretty much explained why it isn’t so amazing as to be incredible — Duke helps students get jobs when the economy wouldn’t do the work by itself. And we simply have no defense of the alternative claim/insinuation: “Or Duke’s claim is just . . . er . . . false” or “misrepresenting the facts.”

    Some may think that any *technique* by which it achieves 100% is somehow out of bounds, but the burden then becomes explaining how it is we know that Duke is doing something categorically different than others — as opposed to having more money to do it with, or being better at it.