Critics say law schools are engaged in an LSAT and G.P.A. arms race in which they exploit technicalities in U.S. News's methodology. Admissions people know, for example, that the rankings are calculated using grades and scores of only full-time students.
Rutgers School of Law, Camden, for example, has been shrinking its full-time program and increasing its part-time division for the last seven years. About 60 first-year students - many with less competitive LSAT's or grades - take one course in the summer to ease their load in the fall. By taking a three-quarters schedule, the students are considered part time. The school has moved up from No. 78 in 2003 to 65 this year.
It's not so much gaming the rankings as pressure to play the game, say many deans. "You distort your policies to preserve your ranking, that's the problem," says Mr. Kramer of Stanford. "These rankings are corrosive to the actual education mean because this poll takes the following 12 criteria and now you have to fetishize them."
So is SWLAW playing the game poorly, not playing the game at all, or playing the game well but way overmatched?