With Law Schools Dropping Like Flies From Its Ranking, U.S. News Revamps Its Formula – Above the Law

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US-News-Rankings-Logo-no-yearOne of the biggest stories in legal academia in 2022 was law schools dropping out of the U.S. News and World Report rankings. It all started when perennial number 1 law school Yale took its ball and went home (i.e., said it would no longer participate in the rankings). The move was quickly followed by Harvard, Berkeley, and eventually 12 of the T14 law schools. And it spread beyond the top of the rankings — a full 10 percent of law schools bowed out of the rankings.
The law schools that wanted out of the rankings all had similar complaints, specifically that the rankings devalue public interest jobs, discounting school-funded jobs entirely and don’t reward scholarships given for financial need. As Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken said, “Its approach not only fails to advance the legal profession, but stands squarely in the way of progress.”
But in a letter sent yesterday to all 188 law school deans, U.S. News announced some pretty major changes to the ranking, as reported by the Wall Street Journal:
In a letter sent Monday to deans of the 188 law schools it currently ranks, U.S. News said it would give less weight in its next release to reputational surveys completed by deans, faculty, lawyers and judges and won’t take into account per-student expenditures that favor the wealthiest schools. The new ranking also will count graduates with school-funded public-interest legal fellowships or who go on to additional graduate programs the same as they would other employed graduates.
Since the rankings exodus, Robert Morse, U.S. News’ chief data strategist, and Stephanie Salmon, senior vice president for data and information strategy, met with the deans over their concerns and that led to a compromise on the methodology.
They wrote, “Based on those discussions, our own research and our iterative rankings review process, we are making a series of modifications in this year’s rankings that reflect those inputs and allow us to publish the best available data.” But also because, you know, they *have* to. Because while U.S. News gets some of its information from the American Bar Association, it depends on law school participation for things like spending numbers and the reputation survey.
While these are the only changes announced at the moment, U.S. News also appears open to additional ones in the future:
Mr. Morse and Ms. Salmon said they also heard concerns in their meetings about how U.S. News considers diversity and loan forgiveness and potentially encourages awarding scholarships based on LSAT scores rather than on financial need. They wrote in the Monday letter that those issues “will require additional time and collaboration to address” so won’t be overhauled now.
So the upheaval in legal education ranking may not be over. But in the meantime, we’d encourage everyone to check out the Above the Law Top 50 Law School Rankings for a better methodology.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.
Heather Gerken, Law Schools, U.S. News rankings, US News, Yale Law School
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