U.S News & World Report Professional Ratings Explained

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The United States News and World Report’s abbreviation is “USNWR.” For many, it remains a trusted and well-respected resource. For example, you can find attorney, doctor and college rankings. Since the late 1980s, there have been all types of ranking lists released by this media outlet.

There seems to be virtually no way to determine just how persuasive these rankings are. No GOOGLE results exist online when searching the below quotations.

  • “United States News and World report ranking impact.”
  • “United States news and world report impact.”
  • “Who reads United States news and world report.”
  • “United States News ranking impact.”

If you fail to use quotations in the search, it will only result in USNWR news that relates to colleges that have lost or jumped rankings in USNWR. By itself, this is an indication of the amount of influence the business has on Google. Also, when researching the ranking impact of USNWR, the specific venture of ranking becomes your focus.

College Rankings

The USNWR college rankings show up when someone is trying to locate potential colleges online. But the criterion used by USNWR to decide its rankings is questionable. USNWR claims that objective data was used to populate their rankings. But was flawed and subjective information used?

The so called investigators seem to look at the college rankings most often. In 2008 a Journal was released by the American Board Association Journal which reveals flaws in some of the USNWR criteria used to determine ranks of colleges.

The results of the student’s potential from law schools then gets reviewed. So this is what the selectivity becomes based upon. Undergraduate GPAs, students’ median LSAT scores, and the acceptance rate of law schools is the basis for 20% of USNWR ranking. And the Association of American Law Schools found that many law schools advised students to submit their applications. And this happened even though the schools knew these apllicants were unqualied to begin with.

This process was instigated by law schools to bump up their acceptance rates, which would, in turn, bump up their rank in USNWR as well. This seems to be another hint of the influence USNWR holds on people. In addition to this, though the GPA of undergraduates appears to be objective, they are subjective.

When it comes to the difficulty level, grading scale, and required materials, there is a difference. In fact, the difficulty level and the classes remain different. And this remains true even though requirements for course criteria are identical. So the ranking process of USNWR becoming based upon the student’s GPA is the obvious effect.


Criteria Examination

So the question arises, when it comes to ranking lawyers, how does it work? In September of 2010, USNWR and Best Attorneys presented to the media with their selections for the best lawyers. According to Best Lawyers’ website, the most respected and oldest publication of the legal profession’s peer-reviews is “Best Lawyers.”

Many people think being listed on Best Lawyers is a big deal. But ‘The Best Lawyers in America,’ ‘Best Lawyers,’ or ‘The Best Lawyers in Canada,’ don’t want you to call yourself the ‘best lawyers.’ And listed lawyers can’t even suggest that a non-listed lawyer is not as good as one listed on their site.

USNWR Ranking Attorneys

Just like USNWR colleges, a similar process exists to rank attorneys on Best Lawyers. The rankings methodology behind the joint venture involved surveying clients of numerous law firms. They also look at marketing, associates, and recruiting officers. And they also study the managers and attorneys of leading law firms. Each person was asked what they thought was vital for clients. Plus, they researched the actual attorneys looking for employment at law firms. Next, they looked at selecting an appropriate firm to refer work to.

According to USNWR, questions on the survey covered reputation information. Allegedly there were six studies to determine the criteria.

Below are the six different surveys. And related questions EXIST under the ‘methodology’ section.

  • 52,480 clients received client surveys.
  • What process was used in client selection?
  • Were any of these so-called, selected clients practicing law?
  • Forty-three thousand nine hundred attorneys received attorney surveys, which included all the lawyers listed in Best Lawyers located in the United States.
  • What was the process of selecting attorneys not listed on the site Best Lawyers?
  • Who benefits from being on the Best Lawyers site? How does this not pose a conflict of interest?
  • Two thousand three hundred fourteen marketing officers and 2,322 recruiting officers received a survey.
  • Are the listed attorneys really related to board members, recruiting, or marketing officers (nepotism?)
  • So we know law firms hire each of these officers. How does this not pose a conflict of interest?
  • Why werent these surveys categorized?
  • Eight thousand five hundred ninety-seven firms that had no contact with recruiting or marketing offices received surveys.
  • Were paid advertisers used to assist in the so called study?
  • Why werent these surveys categorized?
  • One thousand seven hundred seventy-five summer associates and 2,322 firm associates received surveys.
  • Again, how does this not pose a contact of interest?

They Posted Five survey types on their site. It brings to question if there was a 6th survey. If so, what kind was it, who received it, and what information did it hold?

In Summary

The process for deciding the rank of law firms’ was:
  • Ask “prominent” (whoever this might suggest) citizens located in the law community what they believe the criteria of a good lawyer should be.
  • Based on the responses received, generate, and send surveys that are specific to certain groups in the law community. Not reported is the apparent conflict of interest the surveyed people could have. There is also no proof that the people surveyed didn’t help create the survey itself.

So use a combination of the following to rank attorneys:

a. Data from completed surveys.
b. Information that Best Lawyers provided
iii. As stated by USNWR website Best Law Firms, on top of data gathered from the studies, evaluates around 39,372 well-known attorneys. Most of all, subjective and quantitative factors are the basis for USNWRs rankings.

For example, a factor some people consider might be ethics.

What is disputable?

  • The process USNWR uses to decide who will get a preliminary and secondary survey.
  • Also, the opinion of these people. What makes it more relevant than people not surveyed?
  • Why are raters with a conflicting interest possibly better than those receiving a survey?
  • How does using advertizers and those with a financial interest in USNWR to rate fellow attorneys not pose a conflict of interest?

Michael Ehline - PI Law Tutorials

Michael Ehline is a highly trained personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, CA. He writes educational articles to help injured consumers.


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