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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Race To The Top Project Begins

Over the last few weeks, I have been blogging about the possibility of creating a race to the top in legal education by using information on relative educational quality to fill out the U.S. News surveys of law professors, lawyers and judges.  Based on the significant interest expressed by many of you, what started as a thought experiment is now turning to a real one.

So let me announce a new project, Race to the Top, which will provide information to U.S. News voters in the next few months, leading up to the November survey.  Based on the public comments of deans in the past week, we are assuming that the proposed boycott will not materialize, but if it does, we will stay out of the way.

The project will be headed up by me and Mark Osler of Baylor Law School, who is a co-editor of the Law School Innovation blog.  By September, we will have the site up and running at www.racetothetoplaw.com, which will be based in Jim Chen's Moneylaw/Jurisdynamics Network.  I will be posting about the project again in October and November back here at Prawfs, with cross-posting at MoneyLaw, and Mark will be discussing it at Law School Innovation.

We are in the process of forming an Advisory Board of former deans, scholars and others, and I'm pleased to say that Nancy Rapoport, former dean of Houston and Nebraska, now at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Daniel Rodriguez, former dean of San Diego and now at Texas, have agreed to be charter members.

People can sign up in advance to get a Voters’ Guide email when the U.S. News survey comes in, and we will send the info to as many U.S. News voters as we can, including law firm hiring partners.

You don't have to be a U.S. News voter yourself to be a part of this process. Maybe you are at a law firm -- sign up for the Race to the Top e-mail, and forward it to the hiring partner at your firm if you think law school graduates could be better prepared for practice, and that this approach – assessing schools based on relative educational quality -- might help achieve that. Law clerks to judges, and lawyers in state AG's offices (both also U.S. News voters), can do the same.

For this first cycle, we will focus on the super-elite market (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, likely Chicago) along the lines I have already described, as well as highlighting a handful of underrated and overrated law schools -- that is, schools where the quality of the J.D. program was rated lower or higher in last year’s U.S. News survey by law professors and lawyers than it should have been.

How will we determine this? From a few possible data sources: (1) the new Paul Caron/Moneyball chart, which should be out soon after the new Princeton Review guide is released in October, and reflects student survey data on teaching and curriculum. (2) Bar passage rates that are unusually high or low given the incoming credentials of the school's students. And (3) a curriculum that is particularly strong or weak in addressing the deficiencies of legal education identified by last year’s Carnegie Foundation and "Best Practices for Legal Education" reports.

We make no claim that this is any kind of scientific ranking scheme. We aim simply to offer a bit more information to U.S. News survey respondents than they have now, in the hope that it provides a vehicle for schools to move up in the rankings because they do an excellent job in adding real value for their students. We hope this kind of information will prove useful, and welcome your thoughts, either here or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]).

Posted by Jason Solomon on July 30, 2008 at 10:46 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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