Revamped US News law school rankings yield major shifts

  • Large number of schools saw their rankings change by double digits
  • US News changed its rankings methodology in response to a widespread boycott among law schools

(Reuters) – US News & World Report on Thursday released its new law school rankings, capping off the unprecedented tumult over the annual list that included a boycott by nearly a third of law schools and a more than three-week delay caused by data problems.

The final version of this year’s law school rankings brought several notable shifts among elite law schools and significant movement among many schools further down on the list. Those changes primarily were the result of the publication’s overhauled methodology that increased the weight of employment outcomes and bar passage rates and reduced the weight of Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages. US News implemented those changes following criticism that its rankings methodology hurt student diversity and affordability.

This year’s results are also slightly different from a preview of the top 14 law schools that US News released on April 11 then removed from its website days later after it decided to postpone the law and medical school rankings release amid a flood of questions from schools.

The culmination of the boycott, delays and revisions may have hurt the long-term credibility of the US News law school rankings, said Mike Spivey, a law school admissions consultant.

“They leaked their own top 14, which was wrong because they did their own data wrong,” he said. “It looks incredibly likely that they brought in an outside auditor who fixed their data for them, hence the delay.”

US News has defended its rankings as vital sources of information for prospective students.

“By focusing on metrics that measure outcomes, our rankings and resources can provide a roadmap for the first step in those students’ journeys – their education,” US News CEO Eric Gertler said in a statement on Wednesday.

The final rankings show Stanford Law School and Yale Law School tied at the No. 1 spot, as they were in the preview, with the University of Chicago School of Law holding steady at No. 3. But Harvard Law School, which was No. 4 in the preview, slipped to No. 5 in the final ranking — it’s lowest since 1990 when it was also in the No. 5 spots. A Harvard Law spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that change.

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School stayed at No. 4 as it was in the preview, which represents a two-spot jump from last year’s ranking.

Duke Law School and New York University School of Law are tied at No. 5 — both up from their No. 6 spots on the preview. Duke’s gain was the largest among the 14 top-ranked schools, moving up five spots from No. 11 on last year’s list.

As it did in the preview, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law took the No. 14 spot, pushing Georgetown University Law Center into No. 15 and out of the so-called T-14.

The year’s shakeup rankings were most apparent outside the elite schools, however. Sixty-two law schools saw their ranks increase or decrease by double digits this year, compared with 27 schools last year. And 27 schools saw their ranks change by 20 spots or more this year — up from four schools the previous year.

Duquesne University Thomas R. Kline School of Law saw the single largest increase, moving up 40 spots to No. 89. Florida International University College of Law was next with an increase of 38 spots to land No. 60.

(Update: This story has been updated to reflect that a Harvard Law School spokesman did not immediately provide comment.)

Read more:

US News & World Report indefinitely postpones law and medical school rankings amid backlash

Overhauled US News & World Report rankings leave top law schools largely unchanged

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Karen Sloan

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at [email protected]

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