Paul L. Caron

Friday, January 13, 2023

U.S. News Provides Additional Information On Forthcoming Law School Rankings

UpdateSummary Of Changes To The Forthcoming U.S. News Law School Rankings

Following up on his January 2 letter to law school deans, U.S. News Chief Data Strategist Bob Morse sent a follow-up letter this morning to law school deans (reprinted below with permission). In addition, a U.S. News spokesperson gave an interview this morning to (excerpted below). Among the highlights:

  • US News (2023)Six of the 14 metrics in last year's methodology will not be included in this year's rankings
  • The six excluded categories were weighted 20% in last year's rankings
  • U.S. News would not say whether it will shift from 1-year bar passage data to ultimate 2-year bar passage data 
  • U.S. News claimed that the dramatic changes to the methodology were not a "direct result of law schools withdrawing from the process" but rather “reflect the direction that we were moving toward”
  • U.S. News encouraged law schools to complete its informational survey even though only publicly available data will be used in the rankings
  • U.S. News has not decided whether it will include peer evaluations (which are a major component of the overall rankings and are the sole basis for the 13 specialty rankings) submitted from law schools that do not supply data to U.S. News 

Dear Law School Deans,

We are pleased to have met so many of you in person at the 2023 AALS Annual Meeting and appreciated the opportunity to continue the dialogue after Zooming with scores of you just a few weeks ago. We left with a few observations that we would like to share, along with further details on our plans for the 2023-2024 rankings that will be published this spring.

First, many of you came up to us individually and expressed your appreciation for our work as journalists as well as your commitment to the free and fair exchange of ideas represented by the First Amendment. This does not surprise us, because we know you are committed to academic freedom and spirited debate, both on and off your varied campuses. Our role as journalists means that we take and consider the law school community’s input very seriously.

Second, we are extending the deadline to respond to the survey to January 27, 2023.

Third, a number of you asked why your institution should complete the informational survey. We continue to maintain that more data is better for all. Students rely on the data that we provide to make the important decision of where to attend law school. By providing the survey data, you will have an opportunity to reach the students who use the U.S. News website to research your schools. We expect that even more future law students will be accessing the rankings, data and advice on the U.S. News website this year.

Moreover, we can share that our business and product team is working on developing a free tool that will allow prospective law students to create a list of schools that best suit their individual needs based on both ranking and non-ranking factors. This will include inputs for location, employment type, joint degree programs, salaries and other individual characteristics that are not captured in the overall rankings. Information you provide will be published on your school’s profile; if you leave the field(s) blank and the information is not publicly available, we will not publish it on or include it in the tool and note it as N/A.

Finally, we want to confirm that the following data points will not be used as ranking factors in the 2023 - 2024 rankings, though we will, as stated, be publishing them for those schools that provide the information:

  • Employment rates at graduation (Question 80, 81, 82) [4% in the current rankings]
  • Average debt incurred obtaining a J.D. at graduation (Question 53) [3%]
  • Percent of law school graduates incurring J.D. law school debt (Question 51, 52) [2%]
  • Average spending on instruction; library; and supporting services (Question 59) [9%]
  • Average spending on all other items, including financial aid (Question 59) [1%]
  • Library resources and operations (Question 61) [1%]

We look forward to continuing our collegial approach to working together this year and in the future., US News Sheds More Light on Methodology Changes to Law School Rankings:

In interviews with, a number of law school leaders have expressed their dismay since U.S. News sent a letter to law deans Jan. 2 regarding methodology changes and subsequently held a closed meeting on the topic Jan. 4 during the Association of American Law Schools conference in San Diego. ...

Kate O’ Donnell, who became vice president of communications at U.S. News & World Report—a newly created role—in December 2021, told on Friday, “We never release weights of methodology changes ahead of the embargo and that’s purely for assurance and transparency in that we want to make sure they’re not going to [game] the rankings.” ...

The American Bar Association’s 509 reports will be used as a source to compile the rankings, but O’Donnell declined to reveal what other public sources might be used to calculate the rankings, adding that the information will be released when the full methodology is disclosed after the rankings are published.

Law schools have been confused about whether U.S. News will begin using ultimate bar passage figures rather than data on passage one year after graduation. O’Donnell declined to answer that question.

For schools who do continue to participate in the rankings process, the submitted data won’t be used to calculate their ranking, but those schools will get an “enhanced profile,” according to O’Donnell, so the agency is encouraging schools to still submit data, the deadline for which has been extended to Jan. 27.

When asked whether the enhanced profile will only be available to paid subscribers, O’Donnell said, “At this time we are looking at opening up more of our data insuring that all law students have access to that.” But O’Donnell couldn’t say whether the data law schools submit will be made public without an additional cost, adding that “we are currently evaluating how to eliminate any paywalls behind it.” Currently, U.S. News college rankings have search options that require users to purchase annual subscriptions, which cost $24.95 (Money College Planner) or $29.95 (College Compass), according to its website. ...

O’Donnell said that the methodology changes are not a direct result of law schools withdrawing from the process, but rather “reflect the direction that we were moving toward.” ...

During the Jan. 4 meeting, law schools were told that U.S. News had not yet made a decision about whether to include peer evaluations, which might be submitted for schools who have pulled out of the rankings. Asked about that Friday, O’Donnell declined to comment, adding that she doesn’t have the full information from the data team yet. ...

When asked Friday whether the rankings may be delayed this year due to the changes, O’Donnell said, “We are saying they will released in the spring.”

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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