These scores should be thought of as not leading the rankings but being led by the rankings. As Robert L. Jones in his article Academic Reputation Scores for Law Schools Stagnate in 2018 and Rise Modestly in 2019 found, “The higher ranked law schools experienced the greatest gains in the scores while lower ranked law schools tended to suffer declines during the two-year period.” They reflect the overall legal view of a school, which for better or worse, tends to currently be summarized by U.S. News rankings.
In practical terms, improving Assessment Scores (40% of the USNWR weight) is simply not something that can be done easily in the short term. Or, at least, we have never seen a correlated increase with any kind of effort targeting the assessment metric. We won't weigh in on whether they should be focused on by any individual law school or not, but have discussed rankings considerably here and have developed a program where you can rank schools by what matters the most to you here. We have also examined trends in both Peer Assessment and Lawyer/Judge Assessment score under a variety of conditions, including both with dean and faculty hires, and determined that changes in the short to medium term (up to 7 years) happened within bands of schools or within assessment scores as a whole. There may be small fluctuations year to year, which are naturally explainable by different response rates among survey takers, but these also tend to revert to, or close to, old trends.