In the last week of August, a little-noticed study has been published by Larry Cunningham at St. John’s University School of Law. The study, named “The Effect of Law School Marketing Materials on U.S. News and World Report Rankings” researches the subject matter and finds that marketing material sent by law schools to other schools in an effort to boost their U.S. News Rankings is largely ineffective.
Ad verbatim, the introduction of the study observes succinctly:
“Each year, law schools dutifully write, prepare, publish, and mail various forms of marketing materials extolling the virtues of their respective institutions. They send these materials not just to prospective students or donors … but to law professors at other schools as well. They do so with the hope that their reputation among other academics will increase. More specifically, these materials are sent in the early Fall, when the dean and three faculty members at each school are asked by U.S. News and World Report to rank the academic reputation of other law schools. The resulting score accounts for 25% of a law school’s overall U.S. News score and, thus, plays an important role in a school’s overall rank.
As a result of this process, each Fall the mailboxes of full-time faculty members are filled with postcards, glossy brochures, and magazines from other law schools. Most wind up in the trash.”
The 35-page pdf of the study, which can be downloaded here http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2133395 mentions that in their desperate need to influence ranks, some schools have taken to sending … “even t-shirts in order to woo potential U.S. News voters.” The study mentions that it has been done in response to Jeffrey Harrison’s comments on law school marketing materials made in 2007.
It mentions “Jeffrey Harrison reminded his readers that law school marketing materials are produced and mailed with the “money of others” and that greater care should be taken so as not to waste tuition dollars, alumni donations, or, for public schools, taxpayer resources. He challenged deans to prove that they have conducted a return-on-investment analysis.”
The conclusion of the study mentions “Covariates aside, the results suggest that law schools are not seeing much in the way of impact from their marketing efforts towards one another. Most of the observed correlations were in a school’s current rank, tier, overall score, or peer assessment score—very few aspects of a school’s marketing efforts impacted, to any significant degree, a change in U.S. News data from year to year. The one exception appears to be magazines. Schools that send them have higher U.S. News results than those that do not. However, they come at a significant expense and, from year-to-year, may yield only a small increase in a school’s overall score, if there is a cause-and-effect relationship at all.”