This sounds both fun and useful: TaxProf Blog: Indiana To Host April 15 Symposium on The Next Generation of Law School Rankings
One of the many things that bugs me about US News's highly arbitrary law school rankings is the weight they put on graduates' starting salaries. One could well ask whether salaries are even relevant to rankings as the jobs that are hardest to get — public interest jobs — tend to pay the least. But even if one accepts the idea that money is relevant to ranking, it's weird to look only at nominal salary without any adjustment for cost of living. This is an enormous boost to the ranking of New York schools and a real downer for Miami's rankings. A very large fraction of our graduates fall in love with South Florida (or came here because they already love South Florida) and decide to stay. The large supply of entry-level lawyers — many Harvard grads seem to want to work here too — only worsens the historically low entry-level salaries in this town at all but the largest national firms. Yet, overall, with the exception of housing the cost of living isn't dire here, and there's no state income tax. None of that gets reflected in USN&WR's survey.
Actually, US News dropped starting salaries as a factor in the rankings about 6 or 7 years ago, partly (I would like to believe) as a consequence of rather extensive discussions I had with the editors on this issue in which I made one of your points: namely, that the figures are meaningless unless adjusted for cost-of-living, since almost all job placement is regional. As you know, I think there is still much that is patently ridiculous about the US News rankings, but this factor, happily, is no longer part of the problem.
Brian’s right. Here’s USN&WR’s description of the current system:
I guess I don’t obsess enough about rankings.