Law school admissions have seen an unprecedented week as more than 14 of the top law schools have announced they will pull out of the US News & World Report’s annual rankings, Reuters reported. Further, an American Bar Association panel voted to drop a requirement that law school applicants take the LSAT or another standardized admissions test, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Nine of the so-called T-14 elite law schools have pledged to stop submitting internal data for the U.S. News rankings since No. 1-ranked Yale Law School kicked off the exodus last week. The list of those shunning the rankings now includes the law schools at UCLA, UC Irvine, Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, and Stanford universities. Meanwhile, U.S. News said it will continue to rank law schools even without their participation.
The deans of the boycotting law schools have said the rankings punish schools whose graduates pursue public interest jobs or advanced degrees, while rewarding those that spend more on students and drive up tuition. Legal educators have also argued that the rankings overemphasize Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages, prompting schools to offer merit scholarships over need-based assistance. “The rankings rely on flawed survey techniques and opaque and arbitrary formulas, lacking the transparency needed to help applicants make truly informed decisions,” wrote Kerry Abrams, dean of Duke Law. The methodology creates “perverse incentives,” wrote Jenny Martinez, Stanford Law School’s dean.
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. However, despite the obvious criticisms, many law schools - especially those that are ranked below 20 - might not be able to abandon the rankings.
Making admissions tests-optional will also allow more students to access law school applications the New York Times has reported. The ABA’s ruling still has to be voted on and if the change passes, it will only be implemented in 2025. All this happens, as the US Supreme Court is debating whether to strike down affirmative action in admissions.