More top law schools boycott US News rankings, but some lower-ranked institutions are reluctant to withdraw
Updated: More law schools have announced that they are pulling out of rankings by U.S. News & World Report because of concerns that they discourage programs to support public-interest careers.
Yale Law School, which has been ranked No. 1 since the inception of the rankings, was first to make the announcement with a Nov. 16 statement.
Since then, law schools that have followed include Harvard Law School, the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Stanford Law School, the Georgetown University Law Center, Columbia Law School, the University of Michigan Law School, the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, the Duke University School of Law and the University of California at Irvine School of Law. All but one of the schools are currently ranked in the top 14, or the T14, as it is called.
U.S. News & World Report plans to rank all accredited law schools—using publicly available data when schools don’t participate in the process. Robert Morse, the chief data strategist for U.S. News & World Report, said in a Nov. 17 statement the publication “has a responsibility to prospective students to provide comparative information that allows them to assess these institutions.”
Some law schools, especially those just below the T14, told the New York Times that they are hesitant to abandon the process because the rankings provide valuable information to students and employers. It can also be valuable free marketing for schools.
“Most students don’t go to the top 10, and there are about 200 law schools,” said Ken Randall, dean of the George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School, who spoke with the New York Times.
Students still look to U.S. News & World Report for guidance on lower-ranked schools, he said. His law school was one of several tied for No. 30 in the most recent rankings.
The University of California at Los Angeles School of Law was ranked No. 15 in March. Russell Korobkin, interim dean of the law school, said he is concerned that his school could be harmed in the rankings if it withdraws because of the way that the publication will use public data.
“Before I delved into this, I was definitely thinking we would be on this bandwagon,” Korobkin told the New York Times.
The issue, Korobkin said, is whether withdrawing would create changes more consistent with the school’s values.
Among the issues cited by the schools withdrawing from the rankings:
• U.S. News & World Report bases 20% of a law school’s ranking on median LSAT and GRE scores, as well as grade-point averages. That incentivizes schools to use financial aid to recruit high-scoring students, rather than to base aid on need.
• U.S. News & World Report does not consider school loan-forgiveness programs when calculating student-debt loads, discouraging schools that offer them. Publicizing student debt also incentivizes schools to admit students who don’t need loans.
• U.S. News & World Report does not classify graduates on school-funded public-interest fellowships as employed, harming employment numbers for schools that offer them.
Updated Nov. 22 at 8:34 a.m. to add the University of Michigan Law School to the boycott list. Updated on Nov. 23 at 8:20 a.m. to add the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and the Duke University School of Law to the boycott list. Updated on Nov. 23 at 1:37 p.m. to add the University of California at Irvine School of Law to the boycott list.