After Law School Boycott, US News & World Report Changes Ranking System

Under pressure from a boycott of top law schools, US News & World Report told law school deans on Monday it would make several changes in the next edition of its influential rankings.

In a letter to US law school deans posted on its site, US News said its upcoming list would give more credit to schools whose graduates go on to graduate school or school-funded scholarships to work in jobs. civil servants who pay lower salaries. . The magazine, which has published the rankings for decades, responds to criticism that its ranking overstates high-paying jobs in the private sector.

The 2023-2024 rankings, which are expected to be released this spring, will also rely less on school reputation surveys submitted by academics, lawyers and judges, the magazine said.

A spokeswoman for US News said the list would no longer take into account indicators of student debt or school spending per student. Critics said the magazine’s previous metric for measuring student debt encouraged schools to favor wealthy students over those in financial need, and that its use of spending per student favored wealthier institutions.

“We realize that legal education is neither monolithic nor static and that rankings, in becoming so widely accepted, may not capture the individual nuances of each school,” Robert Morse, chief data strategist at US News, and Stephanie Salmon, senior vice president. president of data and information strategy, wrote in the letter.

US News will continue to rank schools that declined to participate, using publicly available data. But it will publish more detailed profiles of responding schools, a possible incentive for lower-ranked institutions keen to grab students’ attention.

The US News list, published annually since 1987, is as influential as it is ossified. Roughly the same 14 law schools have held the top spots for 30 years, alternating only slightly and grabbing headlines when they do. Its ranking criteria are watched almost as closely.

In recent months, however, the majority of these top 14 schools have announced that they will no longer participate. Among those dropping out are Yale, which has topped the list for decades, and Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, Georgetown, Columbia and Berkeley.

A Yale University spokeswoman, Karen Peart, said in a statement that the law school’s decision to withdraw was made “based on what is best for the institution.” She declined to say whether the changes announced today would affect the school’s future participation in the rankings process. A Harvard Law School spokesperson declined to comment.

The measures announced today could mean the power of top law schools to plummet ratings – their reputation cemented by top firms and prospective students. Other law schools, however, depend more on grades to attract students.

The growing backlash against the rankings reflects concerns of school leaders about the ethics, fairness and purpose of a legal education, as well as the institutions that provide it. Rankings that emphasize test scores and salaries deter students from pursuing careers in public service, school officials said. The ranking criteria also discourage schools from serving working-class students who need need-based assistance to attend, critics say.

The magazine’s rankings are “deeply flawed,” Yale Law Dean Heather K. Gerken wrote in a letter announcing the school’s withdrawal from participation in November. “We have reached a point where the filing process undermines fundamental commitments of the legal profession,” Ms. Gerken added.

The US News process “does not advance the best ideals of legal education or the profession we serve, and it contradicts the deeply held commitments of Harvard Law School,” wrote John Manning, the dean of Harvard Law School, in a letter the same day.

Top law schools and others have been criticizing the list for years, and the changes announced Monday do not address all the concerns they have raised in the past. The magazine said in its letter that it would need “more time and collaboration” to address the role of loan forgiveness, need-based aid, diversity and other issues in his ranking, and that he would “continue to work with academic and industry leaders”. to develop metrics with agreed definitions.


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