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June 03, 2008


Mark Hikin

I was a transfer student so I hope to shed light on a discussion otherwise completely covered by several very intelligent analysts of this phenomenon.

Per the LSAT webpage: "The LSAT is designed to measure skills that are essential for success in law school." It is believed that the LSAT has a strong correlation to first year success. This is part of what drives the LSAT wars and any LSAT-gaming phenomenon. But there is one thing which correlates even higher to first year law school success than LSAT scores: actual first year law success. Why not poach the best students from other schools? If 1L success is a precursor to future successes, transfer students are likely to succeed and provide the type of long-term alumni support most law schools hope for.

Another possible rationale for the transfer game is operational. The 1L curriculum is fairly constant across all campuses. Some of the best instructors are called upon to teach the staple courses. Most law schools run multiple sections of the same course, each taught by a separate instructor. The more sections are taught, the higher the variability of instruction to different students. Invariably, some students get the C-level teacher while others get A-level or B-level on the same topic. (See the average student experience in a property class taught by a professor with a tangential interest in property law.) This creates an inequality of education without any choice or opportunity for recourse by the students.

Contrast this with upper level legal education where often only one section is taught of every subject, and each topic is taught by someone with unique experience in the field.

How does this relate to the transfer game? A school may limit its 1L enrollment to maximize the value of its 1L educational offerings and prevent dilution of 1L faculty quality. They then can expand their faculty (particularly through the use of adjuncts) to provide a diverse upper level curriculum. Adjuncts also come with a smaller price tag and provide added benefits of providing connections to the local legal markets.

Under these two rationales, the gaming of the US News systems becomes an incidental result of otherwise sound managing and recruiting strategy.


I appreciate the large of amount of data and thoughtful analysis that is done here and in this conversation on the many blogs in general. However, one "invisible hand" must be taken naked from the glove. 1L's transferring are, in no way, "gaming" the USNWR rankings, those rankings are themselves the game. A famous poet once said, "Don't hate the player, hate the game!". Further, I may be just a simple country law student, but "follow the money".

LSAC benefits from their measurement being heavily emphasized in terms of REAL dollars, which in turn affect people's "real" lives. Yet, it seems fairly clear that what the LSAT measures best is how well you take the LSAT. Without randomly assigning 1L's to any school, like human guinea pigs to life-long smoking habits, you are left with correlations and selectivity biases. USNWR benefits from LSAC benefitting (and vice-versa). Schools that can game the USNWR benefit from the USNWR benefiting from the LSAC's benefit. You have a regular old logistical chain of distribution. You have manufactured 1L's. You have USNWR, like auto-manufacturers before them, killing public transport, in favor of the automobile. Beyond the rhetoric here, it is still VERY simple, and it is hard to understand why none of the players who form this discussion have the balls/ova to say "follow the money, it's rigged". What investment do the analysts here have?

If we can accept that corporate media outlets do what is good for the bottom line (granted, a difficult proposition, I'm sure) why can't we see clearly that the game lies with USNWR and LSAC? Like the elephant in the room, it's the black hole in the middle of the galaxy of this debate. If that's true we should see that 1L's attempts to transfer seek to undo the game... to right the unbalance that is created when the "invisible hand" of the 1L market crashes under the weight of its own greed to be the only relevant measurement.

When systems get so interlocked that there is no way out from the inefficient, if not deadly results, there is sometimes only one way out. Imagine there's no USNWR, I wonder if you can? No LSAT to kill or die for, and no gaming too. Imagine all the 1L's learning law in peace. You too! You know how the rest of the song goes.

If this is not your anthem, then you are probably part of the youth (now in law school), that found that the answer was never blowing in the wind, but right in your freaking face.

Gators Hate FSU!!!

From: Robert Jerry
Date: June 6, 2008 7:57:16 AM EDT

Subject: fyi re US News ranking formula and law school "transfer policies"

I thought many of you might find the following information to be of interest, as it pertains to some issues facing legal education which I've discussed with many of you in the past.

Most of you have heard me discuss various problems with the US News rankings formula, including the recent phenomenon involving a sizeable cohort of law schools that have significantly reduced the size of their entering classes in order to increase median GPA & LSAT and then re-filled their student body with second-year transfer students who are not counted in the US News formula. Because we often compete with schools ranked higher than us in US News for matriculants, we increasingly run into the situation where an applicant concludes that a school with a higher US News ranking is better without realizing that this higher ranking has been fueled by first-year class size reduction accompanied by an increase in second-year transfers.

At UF, we do take some transfers, and I believe this to be important. There are students who do not project well with GPA, LSAT, and other factors in an application file, but who do very well in law school (and, by inference, will be excellent lawyers) and we need to have a path for some of those individuals to become UF law graduates. Last year, for example, we took 10 transfer applicants into the roughly 400-student class that will graduate in 2009.

The situation I have described to you in the past receives fuller treatment at the following link: http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2008/06/schools-that-ta.html , which is titled "Schools that Take the Largest Number of Transfers (Relative to the Size of Their 1L Class"). I should mention that a group of law schools with a particular stake in this controversy are those which are "transfer out" institutions. These law schools argue that they lose their best students -- including students who will pass the bar exam at the highest rates -- to other law schools which will not invest nearly as much in training these students in bar exam subjects. At UF, however, we have less "transfer out" than we have "transfer in," so this is not a problem we face.

I have discussed with you in the past why I believe the US News rankings methodology is flawed. In my view, the problem sketched out in the Leiter Blog, by itself, illustrates an extraordinarily significant flaw with the US News rankings methodology.


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