Live by the ranking …

There’s long been a love-hate relationship between law schools and the U.S. News rankings.

“I wish I knew how to quit you” is the movie line that comes to mind.

Take the University of St. Thomas Law School. A few years ago, Dean Thomas Mengler, along with more than 100 other law deans, slammed the U.S. News rankings as “inherently flawed” and “unworthy of being an important influence” on how students decide which law school to attend.

A year later, the St. Thomas Law School made its first appearance in the U.S. News rankings and leaders couldn’t hide their pleasure.

Recently, things soured again after the school acknowledged it sent incorrect employment-at-graduation data to U.S. News, which would have put St. Thomas higher than it deserved in the closely watched rankings.

U.S. News rewarded the school for its honesty by stripping away any ranking for the law school this year, a move that left Mengler completely vexed. “I should now be a strong believer in the adage no good deed goes unpunished,” he wrote.

The school’s predicament is getting noticed. Brian Leiter, a well respected law blogger, today scolded U.S. News for its “remarkable arrogance” in the St. Thomas case.

It’s worth noting that in the past when U.S. News has made the errors, they’ve never adjusted the rankings to correct for them. And U.S. News, of course, continues to report the fictional job placement numbers that most schools are self-reporting, as though they were consumer information.

There’s a movement now to try and make the job placement reporting more transparent.

But, really, where’s this relationship going? Law school deans hate the rankings until they fall their way, and then they embrace them. It’s a troubled marriage that better data won’t change.

— Paul Tosto