Yesterday, I had a terrific conversation with Charles Kelso, professor at McGeorge, former head of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Bar Admissions, and former editor of Learning & the Law. As noted in my earlier post, The First Ranking of All U.S. Law Schools, in 1975 Professor Kelso assembled the Resource Index, which was widely perceived to be a rating of all U.S. law schools. Professor Kelso has kindly written the following postscript, which adds some additional details to this story:
I would like to thank Professor William Henderson for the accurate and thorough replay in his October 13, 2006 memorandum of the debate that occurred in Learning & the Law during 1975 with regard to using an index of resources to rank law schools. However, two minor corrections should be made. First, I am not emeritus. I continue to teach a full load and hope to continue for some years. Second, the story on the Resource Index actually began back in 1972 with publication of the AALS Study of Part-Time Legal Education.
The second point warrants some elaboration. As Director of the Part-Time Study, I visited some 120 law schools and there attended classes and interviewed deans, faculty members, and students. I gradually concluded that the differences I observed in full-time day and part-time evening programs were more associated with the resource level of the school than with the time at which a program was offered. In order to support that conclusion with something more than my research notes, I decided to buttress my observations through social science research methodology–i.e., the more relevant items you can accumulate with respect to an ultimate characterization, the more reliable that characterization. At it turned out, the Resource Index I constructed from published information about the law schools did rank law schools in ways that tended to support my observational conclusions.
I don’t know the extent to which publication of the Study affected thinking about part-time legal education. However, the Study had been initiated in 1963 by AALS President Walter Gellhorn in response to a proposal that the AALS disinvite law schools with an evening program. Since the Study’s publication in 1972, I have not been aware that any such proposals continue to be advanced in the AALS. So perhaps the Study had some influence.
Of course, my purpose with respect to the Resources Index was limited as I have described, and I had no idea in1972 of the ultimate use of the methodology. Perhaps I should have recognized a harbinger when in 1978 there was published Barron’s Guide to the Law Schools. It contained an index designed to be relevant to the selection of law schools by applicants, and Barron’s credited the methodology to me. [Here is the 1978 Barron's Index, culled from the Indiana Law Library. wdh.] I am not aware that U.S. News has indicated the source of its methodology.
Even though some law schools may today be spending too many resources on distributing favorably publicity or in other ways basing decisions at least in part on index factors rather than purely educational reasoning, I continue to think that it is not necessarily a bad thing for law schools to favor an increase in resources dedicated to improving legal education in both day programs and in evening or other part-time programs which preserve opportunities for capable students that are otherwise unavailable.
Charles D. Kelso
Professor of Law
University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
October 18, 2006