Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Michael Conklin (Angelo State; Google Scholar), Howard Law School, Race, and Peer Rankings: The Increasing Correlation Between Racial Salience and Preferential Rankings, 59 Willamette L. Rev. 189 (2023):
In 2020, novel research was conducted to measure disparities between the U.S. News & World Report overall rankings and the peer rankings of law schools. The research uncovered a stark outlier in Howard University School of Law, whose peer rank was consistently twenty to forty spots higher than its overall rank. This Article updates the research, adding the most recent 2022 and 2023 rankings data. The updated results show that this disparity has not only persisted but has increased in severity. This pronounced result strengthens one of the potential explanations posited in the original research regarding the role of race in the peer rankings, namely, as racial salience increases in society, so does the unique treatment of Howard, the only ranked HBCU law school. This Article analyzes other potential explanations such as an exceptional law review, effective use of promotional materials, law school location, political ideology preference, notable alumni, professor quality, and unwillingness to game the system, which may contribute to the disparity but fall far short of being able to explain its magnitude.
The 2020 study sparked widespread debate in legal academia regarding race, legal education, and the purpose of law school rankings. This updated research will hopefully serve as a further catalyst for a deeper understanding in these areas. This analysis is extremely timely, as it provides a valuable framework for the recent decisions of Yale and Harvard to leave the rankings and of the ABA to end the LSAT requirement. Future research on this topic will have the added benefit of not only additional data but also evolving racial salience in society.