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U.S. News Will Rank Law Firms; But Not Before the ABA Asks Questions - (

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  • U.S. News Will Rank Law Firms; But Not Before the ABA Asks Questions - (

    Last summer, we reacted with elation when we learned that U.S. News & World Report would soon be ranking the law firms. It seems to us that it’s going to be one huge nightmare for the firms themselves — especially those poor marketing folks who will invariably be besieged with calls from clueless partners demanding to know why their firms weren’t ranked higher.

    But for us journo types, such rankings are manna from heaven.

    In any event, the intrigue over the rankings is building. The ABA on Monday announced that it was going to take a good hard look at the magazine’s methods. According to this story in the National Law Journal, the resolution was prompted by U.S. News’s plan, but that the inquiry will look at a range of lawyer and law-firm rankings.

    “[The U.S. News] rankings have a profound impact on the law schools. The deans hate it,” said past New York bar President Vincent Buzard to the NLJ. “It seemed to us that the ABA should look into the methodology of these rankings and ensure that they are reliable and aren’t based on inadequate data.”

    The sitting New York bar President Michael Getnicks told the NLJ that the magazine’s plan to numerically rank firms could prove problematic and misleading.

    That said, representatives of U.S. News and Best Lawyers, which will help assemble the survey, both welcomed the opportunity to discuss their methodology with the ABA.

    “I think the resolution is extremely reasonable. At Best Lawyers, we have long felt that transparency is extremely important,” said Best Lawyers President Steve Naifeh. “We don’t think we have anything to hide.

    Bob Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, said the magazine has approached the ABA in the past about setting up a system for communicating about the law firm and attorney rankings, but that the organization never acted on the idea.

    But to University of Chicago Law School professor and legal blogger Brian Leiter, the ABA’s investigation comes too late. The ABA, according to Leiter, should have taken a critical look at the U.S. News rankings long before the magazine turned its attention to law firms.

    “Unfortunately, a mere investigation won’t do much,” Leiter said. “Everyone with any knowledge of education or statistics or survey methods who has examined the U.S. News rankings has come to the same conclusion: They are irresponsible, misleading and provide consumer misinformation. This has had little or no impact on the irresponsible practices of U.S. News.”

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