US News To Reform Law School Rankings

03 JAN 2023

Law school rankings in the United States are set to be changed. Following the move by top law schools to not submit data to US News & World Report for its annual rankings issue, the publication has said it will change some of its parameters to reform the way it ranks institutions.

The magazine published a letter - one addressed to law school deans and another to prospective law students - outlining some of the changes it will implement in its methodologies. In the letter, the publication said that its next list would give more credit to schools whose graduates go on to pursue advanced degrees, or school-funded fellowships to work in public-service jobs that pay lower wages, the New York Times reported.

“For the rankings portion, there will be some changes in how we weight certain data points, including a reduced emphasis on the peer assessment surveys of academics, lawyers and judges, and an increased weight on outcome measures,” Robert Morse, the chief data strategist at U.S. News, and Stephanie Salmon, senior vice president of data and information strategy, wrote in the letter.

At least 21 law schools have now said they will not submit internal data for the rankings — following the lead of Yale Law School, which started the boycott in November. “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,” Dean Gerken said in her statement. John Manning echoed those sentiments in his statement, saying the way U.S. News chooses to do its rankings “undermines the efforts of many law schools to support public interest careers for their graduates.”

US News will continue to rank the institutions that will not provide data, focusing on publicly available information instead. However, it will published more detailed profiles of those institutions that respond, providing some incentive for lower-ranked schools looking to attract more students.

Forbes outlined the changes that the publication indicated it would make following “conversations with more than 100 deans and representatives of law schools”:

  • it will reduce the emphasis placed on peer assessment surveys that are completed by academics, lawyers and judges (how much the weighting would be reduced was not specified in the letter);
  • it will increase the weight it gives to various outcome measures (amount also unspecified);
  • it will no longer consider schools’ per-student expenditures, which favor wealthier institutions;
  • it will credit employment outcomes it had previously not included such as public-interest legal fellowships and graduate school attendance;
  • it will continue to “work with academic and industry leaders to develop metrics with agreed upon definitions” concerning areas such as financial aid, diversity and socioeconomic indicators.

College rankings have always been a topic of criticism by many experts, saying they put too much emphasis on standardized test scores and do not take into account a lot of other factors. The methodology has also come under fire, with Columbia University dropping from No. 2 to No. 18 after it was revealed that some of the data, including undergraduate class size and the percentage of faculty with the highest degree in their field, had been inaccurate.

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