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25 January 2007

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Nancy Rapoport

I agree with both Andy and Bill, but here's the rub: if the ABA hardly ever yanks accreditation from an already accredited school (can anyone remember the last school to lose accreditation???), then why should we assume that the ABA will be able to enforce cheating (or "puffing," which is how many schools might characterize the massaging of rankings).

As early as March 1, 2006, I posted a piece on the JURIST Forum about Enron, "managing the numbers," and how that kind of truth-shading applies to law schools and the rankings (see http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forumy/2006/03/enron-and-managing-numbers.php). Christine Hurt made the same point even earlier (2/16/06) in a post on the Concurring Opinions blog (see http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2006/02/the_aba_affirma.html). And, of course, the great work that you both have done on the manipulation of the rankings makes this point yet again. (Irony of ironies, all four of us made this point long before the UH Law Center faculty meeting that was mentioned in the first paragraph of the story in The National Jurist.)

What can we do, if we can't rely on the ABA to enforce the USNWR reporting? (I'm not convinced that it's the ABA's role to enforce truthful reporting of the info given to USNWR, although it certainly is within the ABA's purview to enforce truthful reporting of the info given to the ABA itself.)

Well, we could back up those deans who refuse to play to the rankings with provosts who reward actual good work (teaching well, publishing important scholarship, serving the various communities). We could focus on what matters to us, rather than what matters to a for-profit news magazine that doesn't have to deal with the repercussions of its most-profitable issue. And we could use faculty peers to discourage all sorts of passive-aggressive, unproductive, bullying behavior. (See Jeff Harrison's wonderful MoneyLaw post on why silence in the face of bullying behavior is so damaging, http://money-law.blogspot.com/2006/11/making-nice-knowing-better-doing.html.)

We could, of course, just continue to blame the rankings, but they're just the symptom of a much larger problem: we've lost our moorings by continuing to let others define what constitutes a great legal education.

William Henderson

John,

I completely agree. I worry about that. The ABA needs to step in. Appeals to "just do what is right" are not enough. The situation is an utter train wreck. bh.

John Steele

Bill,

Good post, as always. But what about this additional problem: if actions speak louder than words, then think about what those schools are teaching their students about what conduct is expected in the legal profession.

Imagine that one of those law schools finds itself in the news a few years from now because one of its alums is indicted in an Enronesque scandal about SEC disclosures. Will the dean and profs be able to say, as I'm sure they'd love to say, "we don't have the slightest idea how alum got the idea that fudging and faking numbers is legitimate for members of the legal profession"?

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