Paul L. Caron

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Law School Deans See Through The U.S. News Rankings Bluster

William M. Treanor (Dean, Georgetown), U.S. News and World Report Has a New, Aggressive Defense of Its Rankings. Law School Deans Like Me See It for What It Is.:

US News (2023)Since 1987, U.S. News & World Report has been ranking law schools. While the law school rankings have been criticized for decades, this year more than 40 law schools have announced they will not participate, and earlier this month, representatives of more than 100 law schools attended a conference to discuss a solution, hosted by Harvard and Yale law schools (the first schools to pull out), and featuring Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

In anticipation of the Harvard-Yale conference, U.S. News, which had been relatively quiet in the face of past criticism, responded ferociously, running a full-page ad in the Boston Globe and a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending the ranking system. In the op-ed, U.S. News’ executive chairman and CEO Eric J. Gertler suggested that law schools were withdrawing from U.S. News because, in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s possible invalidation of affirmative action in admissions, they want to be able to ignore grades and standardized test scores in admitting students, without suffering a drop in their U.S. News ranking.

But the law school deans’ efforts to challenge U.S. News is long-standing, contrary to what Gertler suggests in this latest aggressive salvo, which seems aimed at placing U.S. News and the law schools that have withdrawn on opposite sides of a larger culture war. Indeed, deans have been publicly criticizing U.S. News and pushing for it to change its approach for a long time—more than a generation. ...

The solution to the rankings problems law schools are identifying with U.S. News is not to end rankings but to develop several alternative rankings that people can rely on. Business schools have a number of prominent rankings—not just U.S. News, but Forbes, Financial Times, Fortune, and many others. Some give greater weight to academics, others to the student experience, others to career prospects. Students can look at the various rankings and decide which has the priorities that accord with theirs. ...

[I]t would be much more powerful if, as they do with business schools, prominent U.S.-based publications started their own law school rankings with different approaches. That would give prospective law students the opportunity to think about which approach reflects their goals. And these new rankings systems should be transparent and include experts on their decision-making team.

Prospective law students understandably rely on rankings as they make their decisions. As an educator, I don’t want to end rankings. I want to ensure that they are helpful.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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