Law professors, and particularly law school deans, love to complain about the law school rankings done every year by U.S. News & World Report. (Unless their school rises in the rankings, in which case they are an objective measure of merit.) It’s been pretty well demonstrated that, more than a decade into the rankings project, the primary thing the U.S. News rankings measure is how well the school did on previous years’ rankings. In other words, there’s a massive feedback loop going on that is difficult for any one school to break out of. Nevertheless, schools try, because students and even professors, despite their complaints, rely on the rankings to evaluate the worth of various schools.
People have been wondering how to change this dynamic for a long time. Some, like Brian Leiter, have set up their own rankings, although Leiter’s system only measures the top 40 schools or so, where rankings are arguably less important. But what if U.S. News folded? The company seems to be in deep trouble. It’s recently given up on competing with Time and Newsweek in the weekly magazine market, becoming biweekly instead. Today’s New York Times reports that it’s giving up on that plan, too, even before it went into effect: now USN&WR will become a monthly magazine instead. A monthly news magazine? I think the likely next step will be for USN&WR to announce that it’s becoming a magazine with an infinitely long publication cycle, i.e., folding up shop.
If that happens, who will law professors have to kick around anymore?