Paul L. Caron

Saturday, November 19, 2022

With Stanford, Columbia And Georgetown, 6 Of The T14 Refuse To Participate In The U.S. News Law School Rankings

Jenny S. Martinez (Dean, Stanford), Stanford Law School Will Not Participate in US News Law School Ranking:

Stanford Law (2022)Stanford Law School has made the decision to withdraw from the US News law school ranking. US News and other rankings have long been a topic of conversation and internal study by our faculty at SLS. We know that well-formulated rankings, along with other publicly available data, can provide a valuable service to prospective students. In the spirit of providing useful information to prospective students and improving the ability of law schools to do their best for students, we have been one of a number of law schools who have approached US News over time with concrete suggestions to improve its ranking methodology, to no avail.

Stanford Law has stood near the very top of the rankings for many years, and we are lucky to be in a position where the rankings do not significantly affect our decisions.  However, we agree with many of the points that other schools have presented about how the rankings methodology distorts incentives in ways that are harmful to legal education as a whole. For example, the US News ranking methodology inappropriately discourages public service by treating students whose schools provide fellowships to support such work much the same as it treats students who are unemployed. In a world where interdisciplinary expertise is increasingly important, it also treats students pursuing another advanced degree, such as an MBA or PhD, as unemployed. The ways in which it weights per-student expenditures and measures debt, including excluding schools’ public service loan repayment programs, further distorts incentives in ways that act against students’ interests. Stanford Law School is proud to be one of the few law schools that offers exclusively need-based financial aid, and believes more schools across all tiers of legal education would be able to emphasize need-based financial aid, admit students from all walks of life, and keep expenditures down if the rankings methodology were different.

By joining with the other schools that have chosen to withdraw from participation in the US News rankings this year, we hope to increase the chances that the methodology is seriously overhauled, not only to reduce perverse incentives but to provide clearer and more relevant information that prospective students would find genuinely useful in making decisions about which law schools best match their interests and needs. In the meantime, we will be compiling data that we hope will be considerably more transparent and usable than the information that US News provides and will better help applicants determine whether SLS meets their educational and career aspirations. 

Gillian Lester (Dean. Columbia), Columbia Law Will Not Participate in U.S. News Rankings:

Columbia (2017)Since its founding, Columbia Law School has been a leader in legal scholarship, education, and practice—an engine of inquiry and knowledge creation, a catalyst for pedagogical innovation and experiential learning, a launching pad for careers at the pinnacle of the profession. The values that guide our approach make us distinctive, and the vibrancy and diversity of our community set us apart.

This was as true more than 30 years ago, when U.S. News & World Report began to rank law schools, as it is today. It will be as true tomorrow as it will be generations from now. The excellence that has characterized a Columbia Law education—and the impact our graduates have around the world—has never depended on validation from U.S. News or any other media outlet.

The flaws in the U.S. News law school ranking system have been a source of concern for many years throughout the legal academy. Overall, the methodology creates incentives that work against schools’ interest in attracting and retaining classes of students with a broadly diverse set of qualities and experiences, and in supporting the widest possible array of career choices for their graduates—whether in the private sector, in public interest and government organizations, or in academia.

After careful consideration, it is clear that the case in favor of Columbia’s continued involvement has become increasingly weak. The potential benefits to be gained from continuing to share data with U.S. News are far outweighed by the constraints the rankings place on our ability to freely pursue our core scholarly, pedagogical, and programmatic objectives.

We have decided, therefore, not to participate in the U.S. News rankings.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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