Law School Innovation Rankings Pulled Out of Thin Michigan Air

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 09, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Michigan State University has launched an initiative to index and track (a.k.a. rank) law schools based on innovation. And if you're thinking that MSU is just trying to find a way to rank highly among prospective law students on some meaningless list that they can use for advertising purposes, then you're probably right.

The 2017 Law School Innovation Index only indexed 38 law schools. It used specific metrics to explore whether law schools were teaching real world, practical lawyering and law business operations skills, alongside the traditional law school courses. Basically, the index is geared at looking at whether law schools have adapted to the new legal market where new lawyers are opening up solo shops more than ever before, and are expected to know how to practice right out of school.

Innovation, the MSU Way?

When university researchers do qualitative research, it's not uncommon for their own institutions to be under the microscope. However, when that qualitative research extends beyond the one campus, the data points can become questionable if the home institution of the researches appears to outscore the others.

For those of you Sparty sympathizers, before you get all high and mighty on your green Trojan horses, the Law School Innovation Index was created by MSU and did not seek outside input. As such, it's no surprise that MSU and only one other pretty much unheard-of law school teach courses that hit all ten of the evaluation criteria spelled out in the innovation index. Research bias can be systemic, and so long as the researchers recognize and disclose their bias, all is good.

Thankfully, the currently released data is appropriately labeled as a "prototype" and reading through the website, it is made clear that the researchers acknowledge the weakness of the currently "available" (compiled) data. Basically, the researchers are hoping schools will jump at the opportunity to be included in the index and will want to participate.

The mission of the index is to drive innovation when it comes to the delivery of legal services, as well as the utilization of technology in the legal sector. By creating the index, it is hoped that schools will begin to recognize the need for innovation in the legal sector, and work harder to churn out innovative, technologically adept lawyers in order to meet that need.

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