The Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) continues to oppose the ranking system used by U.S. News and World Reports (USNWR). CLEA exists to advocate for clinical legal education as fundamental to the education of lawyers, and one of our core points of advocacy is to pursue and promote justice and diversity as core values of the legal profession. CLEA has long recognized that the USNWR ranking system is at odds with our central mission, as it rewards schools who rely on high standardized test scores in admissions decisions and punishes schools who offer public interest fellowship programs to their graduates. CLEA’s recent restatement of our opposition to the standardized testing requirement in law school admissions before the ABA Council reiterated our position that the use of standardized tests to assess students and schools negatively impacts legal education and is racially discriminatory.
When our law school was founded in 1973, we looked around at other law schools and decided that we wanted to stop talking about what was wrong with legal education and start transforming it. Since our founding, we have cultivated an innovative spirit with a mission to educate our students to be pioneering, principled, and practice-ready lawyers.
After careful consideration, we are seizing an important opportunity to suspend our participation with the US News & World Report rankings. It is our opinion that the rankings are seriously flawed, have an outsized negative influence on legal education, and are inconsistent with our values.
The Campbell University School of Law will no longer participate in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Schools ranking.
Dean J. Rich Leonard announced the decision to faculty, staff and students on Monday in an email. Leonard’s statement cited concerns with both the ranking’s purpose and methodologies, among others.
The statement follows, “The Campbell Law School faculty has decided not to participate this year in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Schools rankings. We are not opposed to objective rankings, but the reputational aspect of the U.S. News rankings has always undervalued strong regional law schools. Additionally, the rankings do not sufficiently consider factors most critical to prospective students, such as bar passage and employment outcomes. We believe objective evaluations that value factors like these better serve prospective students.
My bet is that if the rankings emphasized standardized test scores less, most law schools would shift even more toward serving students from wealthier backgrounds, and would also increase their net prices and the shadow price of expected donations from students' families. In other words, law schools—like the unreformed, less effective, and corrupt British Navy of old—would sell seats to the highest bidder.
Idiosyncratically defined diversity will likely continue to serve as a rationalization for profit-maximizing practices. Educators, public officials, and media organizations have been arguing for decades that diversity justifies departures from identity-neutral meritocratic standards. Nevertheless, most of the population still considers universities' race, ethnicity, and legacy admissions policies unethical. They prefer test scores, grades and community service.
I am writing to you about recent developments surrounding the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings. Some of you may be closely following the news about which law schools will continue to provide information to U.S. News and which have announced that they will not. Others may have a vague sense that the rankings landscape has shifted. And for still others, this letter may be the first time you hear of it.
Wherever you are in the process of considering your legal education, I want to draw your attention to these developments because they concern you. They concern your plans for law school and your ability to make a well-informed choice about what law school you will choose to attend. A legal education is transformative — it can transform how you think, and it can transform your career prospects and life trajectory. It can also be expensive. Choosing a law school is a decision you should make with as much information as possible about what kind of education you will receive, what kind of community you are joining, and what kind of support for your professional dreams you can expect.
As more law schools boycott participation in U.S. News and World Report’s top schools list, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the role that such rankings play in the legal industry.
There’s no question that the practice of law is, by its nature, competitive and impactful. Graduates of law schools draft and enact legislation, create the case law that alters future litigation, and write the adhesion contracts that govern our relationships to everything we use and experience daily. Lawyers tell CEOs what they can and cannot try to get away with. Lawyers create, and then limit, our rights as humans in this country. It makes sense to set hurdles before granting such power. ...
[The U.S. News] ranking system penalizes schools for accepting students who graduate with debt. Were this not the case, perhaps more people from a broader array of financial backgrounds would earn the type of access more frequently granted to those who attend top-ranked schools.
Perhaps it also matters that that same hallowed ranking system penalizes law schools for having paid public interest fellowships. In other words, to be ranked at the top, a school must make sure to not go too far in encouraging use of this newfound access for the public good. The U.S. News ranking does penalize a law school for employing graduates in this way. ...
In a recent Chronicle essay, President Leon Botstein of Bard College asks: “Can We Finally Topple the Tyranny of Rankings?” In posing this question, Botstein echoes Colin Diver, the former college president and law-school dean who recently asked, “Could this be the beginning of the end for college rankings?” in The New York Times. Like many others commenting on law schools’ withdrawal from submitting data for the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Botstein and Diver are hopeful that this may be an opportunity to ditch rankings once and for all. They are not alone. Wishing “death to college rankings,” as two Financial Times journalists recently put it, has become a widely shared sentiment in academe and beyond. ...
The law schools that have decided to withdraw all seem to agree about one thing: The current U.S. News rankings methodology does not reflect their values and creates perverse incentives that are not in the best interests of law schools, students, or the legal profession. ... In short, the message of the Great Rankings Resistance of 2022 is: We, America’s top-ranked law schools, have no issues with being ranked. We have issues with how we are being ranked. ...
The law schools’ “rebellion against rankings,” to use Botstein’s phrase, isn’t really a rebellion against rankings. It’s a minor sortie, a handful of superwealthy schools simply not wanting to play ball — for now — with U.S. News. I would not be surprised if this turns out to even strengthen the rankers’ grip on higher ed. After all, there’s no shortage of well-resourced organizations out there prepared and possibly eager to challenge the dominant position of U.S. News. They might happily provide more methodological give-and-take to the institutions they rank. What could possibly go wrong? Decades of research into the effects of rankings and other kinds of metrics on higher ed would say: A lot.
What’s getting more shade than Donald Trump in the aftermath of the midterm elections? The U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s law schools.
Since Yale Law School first announced its boycott of that publication’s ranking of law schools a few weeks ago, it seems that any law school with a claim to being a “top” school has noisily withdrawn from cooperating with the yearly lineup.
Question is, does all this hoopla and protest really matter to schools, prospective students, or the legal market? ...
Elite law schools opting out of the U.S. News ranking won’t change a damn thing. If anything, it highlights the big class divide among law schools. Tony schools can afford to turn their noses up at the game because they know their position in the hierarchy is secured.
[I]t's a safe assumption that any school that hasn't announced (or doesn't announce very soon) is also not joining the boycott. Alas, if only 15 or 20 schools boycott, that will not create insurmountable obstacles for USNews.com.
I was at ground zero—visiting Yale Law School—the day the news broke on Nov. 16 with Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken—and seemingly unbeknownst to all of us at the time—she was starting a revolution of sorts.
As with any revolution, there are two sides, so what is a newer angle to all this are the three [now five] law schools who announced they plan to continue to participate in the rankings.
The U.S. News rankings have always been suspect, and in turn they have corrupted America’s universities. Now, several major law schools have begun a boycott. This could end with the collapse of the ranking system if undergraduate schools follow. Let’s hope so. ...
New York University School of Law will suspend its participation in the U.S. News law school rankings.
Prospective law students need accurate information as they consider which school best fits their goals in pursuing a legal education. At one time, U.S. News may have provided information that could not be found elsewhere. That has changed. The disclosures required of law schools by the American Bar Association, together with other sources of information that were not readily available 30 years ago when U.S. News began its law rankings, now give applicants transparent access to far more data about law schools. In fact, the methodology used by U.S. News can give applicants a distorted view of the opportunities for successful professional paths available at law schools.
This chart lists the current U.S. News ranking, as well as the average ranking over the past 5, 10, and 15 years (from Brad Areheart's article), of the 14 law schools boycotting the rankings as well as the 5 schools that have declined to join the boycott. The chart lists the difference between each school's current ranking and their 5, 10, and 15 year average ranking: a green + indicates that a school's current ranking is better than its historic average ranking; a red - indicates that a school's current ranking is worse than its average historic ranking.
Ken Randall, dean of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, which is ranked 30th, said he has no plans to withhold data from U.S. News. He’s sharply critical of their methodology, though, especially the reputational survey, which he compared to an Olympic diver climbing out of the pool, giving herself a “10” and then sitting down at the judging table to rate her competitors.
Randall said the rankings exert a powerful influence in the legal field. “The big bulk of schools,” everyone from about 15 to 100 or so, “really do think about rankings a lot,” Randall said. Applicants scrutinize them when deciding where to enroll. Employers bear them in mind when hiring.
A big law firm, he said, might look at hiring graduates in the top 30 percent of their class at a top-10 law school. But they might not dip so far down into the class to hire graduates from a lower-ranked school. “It’s a lot of weight,” Randall said.
After careful consideration, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School will not submit the U.S. News & World Report institutional survey for this year as part of the ranking process. In the interest of greater transparency, we will make relevant data public so that anyone can see the inputs that make Penn Carey Law a leading law school and how our alumni launch careers in every sector of the legal profession.
As has been expressed and discussed elsewhere, the current U.S. News ranking methodology is unnecessarily secretive and contrary to important parts of the Law School’s mission, including Penn Carey Law’s increasing investment in need-based financial aid and public interest lawyering. We have directly and frankly shared these concerns with U.S. News and hope they will consider significant and meaningful changes in how data are calculated and published.
Bob Morse, who heads the U.S. News rankings, has been calling law school deans to discuss their participation, and some schools are likely waiting to see if he changes the rankings methodology to address the concerns raised by the boycotting schools, said law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey. U.S. News said in a statement Friday that its data team is having "conversations with law schools on these important topics."
Matthew Diller (Dean, Fordham): [T]he law schools in the T14 are excellent, but there is no magic to the number 14, and the U.S. News algorithm includes as much “noise” as “signal.” ... Prospective students miss out when they substitute reliance on U.S. News rankings for their own research into which law schools are a good fit for them, given their academic records, interests, career goals and financial situations.
Susan Pace Hamill (Alabama): As a law professor for more than 25 years, I applaud the recent boycott of the U.S. News & World Report rankings. The rankings serve only the periodical itself and deans adept at prioritizing favored metrics, especially test scores. More insidiously, the rankings harm students. In addition to motivating deans to award scholarships to students with the highest test scores instead of students with true financial need, and discouraging public interest work, at best the rankings provide students a one-dimensional picture.
Finally! As a sometime law school dean, I can attest that the USNWR rankings have for too long been the principal metrics driving law school and university administrations in making decisions relating to admissions, expenditures and, above all, financial aid that have been detrimental to increasing access to law school and the legal profession for first generation students, advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, and supporting those students committed to public interest and public service. Congratulations to Dean Martinez of SLS and the other deans who have taken the lead in ending this travesty of looking to nonsensical and harmful magazine rankings as the principles driving strategic planning and budgetary allocations. I certainly recognize it will be harder for many lesser ranked law schools to follow. But follow they must! It would have given me such pleasure and satisfaction to have been one of the first among them. Go SLS.
Over the past few decades, several comprehensive ranking systems, including the influential U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Schools rankings, have emerged to provide useful information to prospective law students seeking to enroll in law school. These ranking systems have defined what is measured as “quality” and what outcomes law schools focus on to gain a better position in the ranking. These rankings fail to measure what many law schools claim to be one of their longstanding goals— diversity, access, and equity.
One of the problematic and shocking reasons U.S. News cites for not including diversity measures in the ranking is that law schools themselves have no consensus on diversity. I counter this argument, asserting that while there may not be widespread consensus—for certain people—on diversity, there is substantial academic scholarship and agreement on the tenets of diversity that ranking enthusiasts can use to design an effective diversity measure. I maintain that any ranking that does not include diversity, access, and equity measures often leave communities of color and their interests in the margins. Therefore, this Article seeks to center the needs of Black and Latinx prospective law students through a new ranking system
Given that public law schools aim to increase racial/ethnic diversity—that is, the number of racial/ethnic minoritized students—because of their institutional missions, the Article provides the first ranking of public law schools on “Access and Equity” measures. It describes ranking law schools based on measurable outcomes related to diversity, access, and equity. This ranking uses twelve access and equity measures that are significant to Black and Latinx law school fit. This “Access and Equity Ranking” is the only ranking to date that will help Black and Latinx students identify which public law schools centers their needs.
Russell K. Osgood, dean and professor of law at the law school, sent a statement to Law.com expressing his intentions to not withdraw from the rankings.
“Prospective law students should have multiple robust sources of information about law schools, and I am generally in favor of making information available,” Osgood said. “School websites can be incomplete, misleading or simply hard to compare.”
For many years my academic colleagues have tolerated the rankings while acknowledging their profound methodological flaws and describing their insidious effects. There is a mountainous record of critical commentary and analysis on the subject. Less substantively and perhaps too bluntly, I once said that "the rankings may be good for lining a parakeet cage, but as a roadmap for students they're not useful."
Beginning today (Nov. 28), UC Davis School of Law will no longer provide data to U.S. News & World Report for use in compiling its law school rankings. This decision has been made after receiving guidance from the law faculty, campus leadership, students, alumni and others.
Major flaws with the U.S. News rankings are well-documented. Although law schools have in good faith worked with the magazine on improvements, U.S. News has failed to meaningfully change the rankings methodology. The survey techniques, accuracy and fairness of the rankings remain problematic, which produces a misleading ranking of law schools. Even small changes in one variable can lead to a dramatic shake-up of the rankings. The regular “corrections” of the rankings by U.S. News show their volatility and undermine their legitimacy.
Yale University has the most elite law school in America, an institution so central to the production of future Supreme Court clerks and legal bigwigs that, in the space of a few months last year, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker all published lengthy features about whether one of its professors served drinks to students at a dinner party. So it made the news last week when Yale Law School Dean Heather K. Gerken issued a public statement declaring that the school would no longer willingly participate in the influential U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, setting off a mini-cascade of righteous quitting as Harvard, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, Georgetown, and Columbia quickly followed suit.
But there was something strange about the spectacle of Dean Gerken denouncing as “profoundly flawed” a rankings system that identifies Yale itself as the #1 law school in the country—an evaluation with which, one would assume, she wholeheartedly agrees. The other quitters share rarefied air as well: All are in the U.S. News top 14 [except for UCLA and UC-Irvine].
Top law school[s] ... may be dropping out of the rankings ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action because they plan to deemphasize standardized tests in the admissions process and preserve diversity, but do not want to fall in the rankings process, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“If affirmative action falls, we can expect to see a lot of educational institutions drop objective standards from their admissions practices,” John Sailer, fellow at the National Association of Scholars, told the DCNF. “This allows them to continue race-conscious admissions by other means. Already, we see schools embracing this workaround. These top law schools probably have that in mind as they back out of the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Ranking requires clear, objective standards, and if law schools hope to go test-optional, the ranking system presents an obvious problem.” ...
The American Bar Association’s move to discard objective tests won’t enhance diversity.
The flight from merit continues across America, and it’s spreading fast in the legal profession. An arm of the American Bar Association (ABA), which accredits law schools, voted on Nov. 18 to end the requirement that prospective law students take the Law School Admission Test. ...
The vote is pending approval from the ABA House of Delegates in February. If adopted, it would make standardized testing optional in preparation for a career that demands a lot of standardized knowledge.
The LSAT has long been a target of diversity advocates who argue that the use of the test has limited minority enrollment in law schools because the test questions are allegedly biased in favor of white test takers. Detractors also object to the LSAT because affluent students often pay thousands of dollars to prepare for the test that is supposed to predict their first-year law school performance.
The ABA decision is best understood as an attempt to get ahead of a possible Supreme Court decision against the use of racial preferences in school admissions. By making the LSAT optional, schools will be able to admit the students they want without lowering the average LSAT score that is one measure of elite status. But the schools need the ABA to move first.
The irony is that giving up the LSAT is likely to harm students from less privileged backgrounds. In September, 60 law school deans—including Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Loyola University Chicago Dean Michèle Alexandre and Boston University’s Angela Onwuachi-Willig—wrote the ABA to oppose making the admissions test optional on grounds that it would damage diversity. ...
Without an LSAT, untested law students will arrive at law school less prepared for the material, as well as less experienced with a rigorous testing format when they have to pass the bar exam in a few years. That is, if critics don’t next target the bar exam for elimination.
Spokesperson Meredith Rovine wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian that Penn Carey Law “applauds Yale Law and Harvard Law for their leadership in raising key questions for all law schools,” and agrees that the rankings are not holistic. ...
“Penn Carey Law has substantially increased financial aid and support for students seeking public interest careers to meet these important needs. We are evaluating this issue and assessing a process for our own decision-making,” Penn Carey Law's statement said.
“The U.S. News algorithm severely undercounts money spent on financial aid for students, while fully rewarding schools for every dollar spent on faculty and administrator salaries,” Penn Carey Law’s statement read.
Less than one week after the dean of Yale Law School announced she would no longer cooperate with U.S. News & World Report on its annual rankings, several of her peers have followed suit. As of Tuesday, deans at 10 of the 15 top-ranked law schools had said they would stop sending their data to U.S. News.
The collective revolt came quickly — and with barbs. In their announcements, the deans criticized the algorithm that U.S. News analysts use to produce the rankings. “The rankings rely on flawed survey techniques and opaque and arbitrary formulas, lacking the transparency needed to help applicants make truly informed decisions,” wrote Kerry Abrams, dean of Duke Law. The methodology creates “perverse incentives,” wrote Jenny Martinez, Stanford Law School’s dean. ...
If the law deans’ criticism sounds familiar, it’s because it echoes the complaints that have been leveled for decades against an even bigger project: the magazine’s ranking of undergraduate colleges and universities. There, too, critics have said the magazine’s metrics are flawed, opaque, and harm equity efforts.
But seldom have institutions acted on their concerns, as Yale and its peers have recently. And if elite colleges are willing to withdraw their support from one U.S. News ranking in the name of equity, why not another? In other words, is the undergraduate ranking the next venue for this kind of protest?
Many of you are aware that in the past week some law schools have announced that they will no longer participate in the U.S. News rankings. After conferring with University leaders and with some members of our faculty, our administrative team, and our alumni community, I have decided that we will continue to furnish information to U.S. News.
I write to share our decision to withdraw from participating in the U.S. News & World Report annual law school rankings — a decision that we have not reached lightly. Over the last several days, faculty have met to discuss as a group, and I have had conversations and meetings with staff, student leaders, alumni, and others. With thoughtful feedback and strong encouragement within our community, we will not be submitting proprietary data this year to U.S. News for use in its law school rankings.
Yale Law School’s $1.2 billion share of the Yale University endowment provides approximately $63 million in operating funds, which translates into $106,000 per student. ... To be clear, these are the funds available before Yale Law collects its first dollar of tuition. Nonetheless, as the top-ranked law school in the US News rankings for more than 30 years, Yale has a superabundance of highly credentialed students who would be willing to pay or borrow the current cost of attendance. For the 2021-22 admission cycle, Yale admitted only 5.6% of applicants; of those admitted, 81% enrolled, making Yale the most selective and elite law school in the nation.
Among elite law schools, Yale clearly has the strongest balance sheet. Its closest competitors are Stanford Law ($76,000 in endowment funding per student) and Harvard ($56,000), which typically rank #2 or #3 in any given year. Among the rest of the T-14, endowment funding generates approximately $20,000 per student, with a high of $33,000 and a low of $4,000, albeit these figures, similar to Yale, may go up due to improved endowment performances, as pandemic-related fiscal and monetary policies tended to make the rich richer.
The big news, of course, is that Yale recently announced its withdrawal from the US News rankings, at least as an active participant. This decision, and its likely second-order effects for other law schools, are nearly impossible to accurately grasp without also understanding (1) the technical intricacies of how the US News rankings work, as this creates the underlying incentive structure; and (2) the significant risk that Yale was running by continuing to play the US News game, making it a poor data point for generalizing to other law schools. ...
The battle against the US News Law School Rankings has finally begun. After decades of groaning and grumbling about how bad the rankings are, many top law schools have said they are withdrawing from the rankings, including 7 out of the top 10. I applaud this move, but I fear that law schools might break out the champagne too early. The battle might be won, but the war might ultimately be lost unless law schools do more than just withdraw.
Law schools aren’t really dropping out of the rankings; they are just pledging to refuse to submit certain data that US News wants. US News issued a statement declaring that it will continue ranking whether law schools cooperate or not. The dragon hasn’t been slain; it’s just not going to get some of the food it wants. ...
Reductive as rankings are, people crave rankings, and there is money in ranking for US News. Thus, don’t expect US News to fold. Rankers gonna rank. US News will just use whatever data it can get their hands on. ...
As many of you know, a number of our peer schools have announced that they will not submit proprietary data this year to U.S. News and World Report for use in its annual law school rankings. After substantial and deliberate consultation with a variety of stakeholders, I write to tell you that, in the absence of significant and meaningful changes to the methodology employed in these rankings, we will also decline to participate this year.
Faced with the choice of where to attend law school, one of the most significant decisions of their lives, students reasonably search for some method of comparing the overall quality of law schools. Third-party rankings can provide a useful service in this regard if their methodology is transparent, if they value features of the schools’ programs that are reasonable proxies for educational quality, and if they provide incentives for schools to compete in ways that improve educational quality and ultimately benefit the legal profession.
Although no rankings can provide a perfect measure of quality, the U.S. News rankings are particularly problematic for a number of reasons:
Yale’s law school made the stunning announcement last week that it would no longer participate in the influential rankings published annually by U.S. News & World Report. Given the outsize importance attributed to the rankings by prospective applicants and alumni, Yale’s decision sent shock waves through the legal profession, and indeed all of higher education. Yet the law schools at Harvard, Berkeley, Georgetown, Columbia, Stanford and Michigan [and Duke and Northwestern] quickly followed suit. Will the universities of which they are a part join the boycott? Will other colleges and professional schools do the same? Could this be the beginning of the end for college rankings?
I sure hope so.
Since their emergence in 1983, the U.S. News college rankings have grown into a huge juggernaut. They have withstood decades of withering criticism — from journalists, university presidents and the U.S. secretary of education — that the methodology ignores the distinctive character of individual schools and drives institutions to abandon priorities and principles in favor of whatever tweaks will bump them up a notch or two.
For more than 30 years, Duke Law School has participated in the annual ranking of law schools published by U.S. News. Although Duke Law has been among the top cohort of institutions in every edition, we have long had serious concerns that the design and influence of these rankings create incentives that are not aligned with our mission and our values. At a time of critical focus on access to legal education and the legal profession, we think it’s important to recognize this unfortunate impact and push for change. Therefore, Duke Law will no longer participate in the U.S. News rankings.
My view on the merits is that the USNWR rankings scheme is bad for legal education, for many of the reasons articulated by Deans Gerken, Manning, and Chemerinksy. It’s not that rankings are necessarily bad—giving students, employers, and others information on law schools is important. The problem is that USNWR places weight on arbitrary and manipulable factors, which in turn pressure schools to allocate resources in ways that are detrimental to legal education, equity, and ultimately society at large. So sign me up for the project of breaking USNWR’s spell.
Ever since yesterday’s announcements, folks have been asking me whether there is a potential antitrust problem with any of this. ...
After talking with students, faculty, alumni, and staff, I have decided that it no longer makes sense for Michigan Law to participate in the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings process. As a public institution, serving the public interest has always been central to our mission. Over time, I increasingly have come to believe that the U.S. News law school rankings no longer serve the public interest. Although we have had sustained discussion for years within the Quad about parting ways with the rankings, it would have been difficult for us to take this step alone. I applaud Yale Law School (and Dean Heather Gerken, Michigan Law, ’94) for being first mover and share the concerns expressed by Yale and other schools that have withdrawn.
In the world beyond YLS and HLS, some have criticized the schools’ withdrawal as threatening the rankings system, which these critics argue has utility for schools beyond the super-elite. The top-14, top-6, and top-3 schools barely change, so one could argue that the U.S. News rankings offered little informational value as to those schools. The entire so-called “T14” could secede, and not much would change; the old advice of “if you get into a T14 school, go” would still apply.
But beyond the T14, some schools have made dramatic jumps over the years, as reflected in their U.S. News rank—e.g., George Mason/Scalia Law or Pepperdine Law, former fourth-tier schools that are now #30 and #52, respectively. If YLS and HLS end up killing the law-school rankings, with U.S. News either leaving the space or making the ranks much more imprecise, how can these other schools demonstrate their progress? And how can law-school applicants make informed decisions when choosing between non-T14 schools?
Yale and Harvard law schools said this week they will no longer participate in the annual law-school rankings published by U.S. News & World Report. Readers may see no one to root for in a showdown between elite schools and the higher-ed ratings complex, but there’s a point to be made about what appears to be a flight from merit and transparency at these schools. ...
Dean Gerken gave away the game when she wrote: “Today, 20% of a law school’s overall ranking is median LSAT/GRE scores and GPAs. While academic scores are an important tool, they don’t always capture the full measure of an applicant. This heavily weighted metric imposes tremendous pressure on schools to overlook promising students, especially those who cannot afford expensive test preparation courses.”
This sounds like cover for a desire by Yale to be free to admit students with lower test scores in service to diversity, but without taking a hit to its exclusive reputation. Yale has long been No. 1 in the U.S. News rankings.
The LSAT isn’t perfect, but it is a good predictor of success in law school, particularly as grade inflation has rendered GPAs far less meaningful. The LSAT’s influence is also an equalizer. For the price of a prep book, a low- or middle-income applicant can use an excellent score to compete with thousands of affluent applicants with polished resumes or connections. Yet progressives have long hoped to kill the LSAT along with high-school standardized testing.
The timing here is notable given the Supreme Court may soon strike down the use of racial preferences in college admissions. The Yale and Harvard announcements look like attempts to adapt in advance. This is a reminder to the Justices that college administrators will find a way to skirt any three-pronged diversity test they might devise, or some other putative judicial compromise.
U.S. News & World Report will continue to rank all fully accredited law schools, regardless of whether schools agree to submit their data.
A few law schools recently announced that they will no longer participate in the data collection process for the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings. We respect each institution’s decision to choose whether or not to submit their data to U.S. News.
However, U.S. News has a responsibility to prospective students to provide comparative information that allows them to assess these institutions. U.S. News will therefore continue to rank the nearly 200 accredited law schools in the United States.
The U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings are designed for students seeking to make the best decision for their legal education. We will continue to pursue our journalistic mission of ensuring that students can rely on the best and most accurate information, using the rankings as one factor in their law school search.
“We believe that that’s a vote against accountability, it’s a vote against transparency, it’s a vote against equity, it’s a vote against students,” Eric Gertler, executive chairman and CEO of U.S. News & World Report, said of schools pulling out of the rankings.
In an interview Friday, shortly before Columbia announced its plan to withdraw, he said U.S. News will continue to compile its rankings with or without the schools’ cooperation. Much of the information it uses comes from publicly available sources; a share of the score is also based on peer reviews by lawyers and school administrators.
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.
After careful consideration, Berkeley Law has decided not to continue to participate in the US News ranking of law schools. Although rankings are inevitable and inevitably have some arbitrary features, there are aspects of the US News rankings that are profoundly inconsistent with our values and public mission.
Berkeley Law is a public school, with a deep commitment to increasing access to justice, training attorneys who will work to improve society in a variety of ways, and to empowering the next generation of leaders and thinkers, many of whom will come from communities who historically were not part of the legal profession. We are also committed to excellence: in our programs, scholarship, financial support, research, and certainly among our students. We take pride in producing attorneys who are highly skilled, highly sought after, and dedicated to public service and pro bono. This is who we are.
Rankings have the meaning that we give them as a community. I do not want to pretend they do not. And rankings will exist with or without our participation. The question becomes, then, do we think that there is a benefit to participation in the US News process that outweighs the costs? The answer, we feel, is no.
We want to be specific about the basis for this assertion. It is not about railing against rankings or complaining that they “hurt” us in some way. However, there are specific issues that we have struggled with for years, and raised with leadership at US News to no avail. These are:
I write today to share with you that Harvard Law School will no longer participate in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, effective this year. (Yale Law School announced a similar decision earlier today). We at HLS have made this decision because it has become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the U.S. News rankings reflect. This decision was not made lightly and only after considerable deliberation over the past several months.
Done well, such rankings could convey accurate, relevant information about universities, colleges, and graduate and professional schools that may help students and families make informed choices about which schools best meet their needs. However, rankings can also emphasize characteristics that potentially mislead those who rely on them and can create perverse incentives that influence schools’ decisions in ways that undercut student choice and harm the interests of potential students.
Over several years now, a number of schools — including Harvard Law School — have brought to the attention of U.S. News, either directly or through the U.S. News Law Deans Advisory Board, the concerns that have motivated us to end our participation in the U.S. News process. In particular, we have raised concerns about aspects of the U.S. News ranking methodology (also highlighted by our colleagues at Yale) that work against law schools’ commitments to enhancing the socioeconomic diversity of our classes; to allocating financial aid to students based on need; and, through loan repayment and public interest fellowships, to supporting graduates interested in careers serving the public interest.
For three decades, U.S. News & World Report, a for-profit magazine, has ranked the educational quality of law schools across the country. Since the very beginning, Yale Law School has taken the top spot every year. Yet, that distinction is not one that we advertise or use as a lodestar to chart our course. In fact, in recent years, we have invested significant energy and capital in important initiatives that make our law school a better place but perversely work to lower our scores. That’s because the U.S. News rankings are profoundly flawed — they disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession. We have reached a point where the rankings process is undermining the core commitments of the legal profession. As a result, we will no longer participate.
It’s entirely understandable that many schools feel compelled to adhere to a commercial magazine’s preferences, as the rankings are taken seriously by applicants, employers, and alumni. But rankings are useful only when they follow sound methodology and confine their metrics to what the data can reasonably capture — factors I’ve described in my own research on election administration. Over the years, however, U.S. News has refused to meet those conditions despite repeated calls from law school deans to change. Instead, the magazine continues to take data — much of it supplied by the law schools solely to U.S. News — and applies a misguided formula that discourages law schools from doing what is best for legal education. While I sincerely believe that U.S. News operates with the best of intentions, it faces a nearly impossible task, ranking 192 law schools with a small set of one-size-fits-all metrics that cannot provide an accurate picture of such varied institutions. Its approach not only fails to advance the legal profession, but stands squarely in the way of progress.
It seems like the writing is on the wall. ... If [U.S. News] decide[s] to just increase the weight on GPA, then expect a boom in communications and education majors among prospective law students seeking the highest possible GPA!
Bill Henderson (Indiana) notes that Jae Um, in her bracketing exercise for The American Lawyer, arrays the 2022 AmLaw 100 based on the structure of the English football league system: the Top 22 firms in the Premier League (Wachtell to Goodwin) and the next 23 firms in the Championship League (Sidley to Shearman), all hoping to be promoted to Premier League. So of course I thought of which law schools would be in the Premier League and which would be in the Championship League, according to U.S. News:
Law School Premier League:
1. Yale 2. Stanford 3. Chicago 4. Columbia 4. Harvard 6. Penn 7. NYU 8. Virginia 9. UC-Berkeley 10. Michigan 11. Duke 12. Cornell 13. Northwestern 14. Georgetown 15. UCLA 16. Washington University 17. Boston University 17. Texas 17. Vanderbilt 20. USC 21. Florida 21. Minnesota
The Supreme Court of Ohio has released results from the July 2022 Ohio Bar Examination. Among the 847 first-time test takers, 80% earned passing scores. A total of 970 aspiring lawyers sat for the exam, and 703 – or 72% – passed.
I know this question will make readers of this blog laugh ... No one outside Palo Alto (and maybe not even there), for example, thinks Stanford is the #2 law school in the country, better than Harvard [#4], Chicago [#3], or NYU [#7] (all ranked behind it in USNews.com). Penn is now #6 in USNews.com, but it is clearly not as strong as NYU and Berkeley [#9], ranked behind it. Arizona State's law school [#30] is ranked ahead of the University of Arizona [#45], but it does not have a stronger faculty. The same could be said about the University of Florida [#21] and Florida State [#47]. Many law schools outside the USNews.com top 50 are better (by many metrics) than those inside the top 50. ...
One of the perverse incentives in the U.S. News law school rankings involves "splitters." In a non-U.S. News world, a hypothetical law school with an admissions goal of 164 LSAT|3.85 UGPA medians (which has a 227 index score (based on a hypothetical 60% LSAT|40% UGPA weighting)) would jump at the chance to admit and scholarship an applicant from MIT with a 163|3.84 (226 index) over a "splitter" applicant from a far less selective college with a 164|3.25 (220 index) or a "reverse splitter" applicant from a far less selective college with a 158|3.85 (220 index).
The ABA does not collect this data, but a Reddit user posted an interesting chart on the use of splitters by some top law schools, based on applicant data from LSD.Law for the Fall 2022 admissions season:
U.S. News & World Report ranked Columbia University No. 18 among national universities for 2023, after having pulled the Ivy League institution’s numerical rank in July because of alleged data-accuracy problems. Before it was unranked, Columbia was No. 2. ...
The university has not ranked as low as No. 18 since 1988, according an analysis posted online by Michael Thaddeus, a math professor at Columbia. It was Thaddeus’s analysis, which he published in February and which questioned the accuracy of Columbia’s ranking, that set in motion the decisions that led to Columbia’s diminished rank today. ...
I was able to retrieve data through the Twitter API v2 to provide insight into the social media presence of law professors across the United States. The Twitter API serves as a set of programmatic endpoints that allow users with granted developer permissions to access public metadata associated with accounts and their tweets. In essence, it serves as an intermediary tool to retrieve tweet and user-level data. I chose to observe the variation in user engagement among approximately 55,000 tweets posted between January 2021 and July 2022 from a sample of 191 prominent law professors across the United States. ...
While many of the conventional institutional heavyweights litter the top of the ranking (e.g., Harvard, Yale, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, UCLA, NYU, Georgetown, and Berkeley), there are some notable exceptions. Apart from Professor Alene (representing the second-place finisher in the 2022 College Football Playoffs), professors representing George Mason, Georgia State, Minnesota, George Washington (GW), Pepperdine, Yeshiva, and Michigan State (among others) round off the top of the list.
The best proxy for how other law professors react and respond to publishing in main, or flagship, law reviews is the US News and World Report (USNWR) rankings. This paper utilizes historical USNWR data to rank the top 100 law reviews. The USNWR rankings are important in shaping many – if not most – law professors’ perceptions about the relative strength of a law school (and derivatively, the home law review). This document contains a chart that is sorted by the 10-year rolling average for each school, but it also contains the 5-year and 15-year rolling averages. This paper also describes my methodology and responds to a series of frequently asked questions. The document was last updated in August 2022.
Here are the Top 75 law schools based on their 5-year rolling average overall U.S. News ranking: