Professors Morgan Cloud and George Shepherd of the Emory University School of Law have released a ground-breaking study showing that law school deans all over the country have been lying in order to obtain better rankings from U.S. News & World Report.
A most unlikely collection of suspects – law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees – may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part ofU.S. News’ ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents’ crimes. Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools’ expenditures and their students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates’ employment rates and students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. U.S. Newsitself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data’s accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.
This should not shock anybody. As I wrote back in my first book, Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth, the U.S. News rankings are supremely flawed. They rely on how much money each school spends per student – a terrible measure of efficacy – and other professors’ rankings of the schools, which tends to benefit long-established institutions. Even seemingly sure measures, like employment rate of graduates, are problematic; as the authors of the report write, “Schools have been able to count as employed graduates with part-time, minimum wage jobs, even those not requiring legal training or a law degree.”
In any case, the schools providing the information often provide faulty or skewed information. The authors suggest that there is criminal liability for such lies and manipulations. Most commonly, law schools are:
(1) submitting false or misleading data about the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of their J.D. students; (2) using “part-time programs” to create misleading data about the grades and LSAT scores of a school’s students; and (3) publishing false or deceptive information about their graduates’ employment rates.
Law schools do this for a simple reason – they want to boost their applicant pool, boost their prices, and make more money.
But what does this mean for prospective law students? It means that they shouldn’t expect as much from their schools. They should expect their schools to lie, in fact. Everyone knows that law school should only be one year rather than three; the last two years are purely attempts to make cash off the student body, putting them in debt so they have to work at major law firms to pay it off. But everyone also believes that if you go to law school, you’re guaranteed a job. As OWS protesters are finding out, that simply isn’t the case. America doesn’t need more lawyers. With this report, that fact should become even more clear.
But don’t look for the Department of Justice to come down hard on the law schools. The law schools are feeder systems for the trial lawyers who back Democrats, and who produce people like Eric Holder. So the scam will continue. But we now know enough not to buy into it.