U.S. News & World Report may expand law school rankings

U.S. News & World Report may expand their numerical rankings of law schools to include third tier schools, U.S. News research director Robert Morse announced during the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting.

“It's something that we're looking into,” Morse said. “ We do have ranking scores for all law schools but, editorially, we didn't want to say, ' This is the 188th law school.'” 

If the publication goes through with the plan, the extended numerical rankings would be published in the next edition, which comes out on March 15. 

While some third tier schools are pleased with the idea, others feel that the rankings are misleading and are actually calling for a reduction in the number of schools ranked, rather than an expansion. 

“How they do the ranking right now doesn't make sense,” New York law School Dean Richard Matasar said. “The difference between No. 6 and No. 9 or 100 and 101 is minimal. You're really taking things that are essentially identical and treating them as tough there is a difference.”

Despite some negative feedback, Morse noted that the public understands numerical rankings more easily, which is why they would like to include their third tier schools. In the new format, 142 schools would be ranked, while the bottom 25 percent would still be listed alphabetically. 

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Comments

Rankings are misleading. The bottom 25% listed alphabetically? Why are they at the bottom?

“How they do the ranking right now doesn't make sense,” New York law School Dean Richard Matasar said. “The difference between No. 6 and No. 9 or 100 and 101 is minimal. You're really taking things that are essentially identical and treating them as tough there is a difference.”

One man's opinion:

PLEASE extend the rankings. There is far too much dis-information being peddled by law schools, and extending the rankings would help fix the problem. I say this as someone who taught in a law school for over ten years, and has been teaching eager undergrads for the last five terms.

Here are some of the problems with the current T3 'blackout,' as I see them. First, the job market for new lawyers is pretty bad, especially at the T3 level. Students who are about to accumulate $100K in debt deserve as much information as they can get about the reputation, etc, of schools in T3, especially when there is more than one T3 school in a geographic area (as there often is in populous states). The admissions staff of each contender is strongly motivated to tell inquiring students that its school is more highly regarded by the bench and bar. Students need some objective measure to sort out these competing claims.

Related to my previous point: there's a big difference between a school ranked 103 (poised to break into the top 100) and one ranked 135 (mired in T3 forever, in all likelihood). But under the current T3 'cloak,' these schools look identical to inquiring students, and each admissions staff can assert with impunity that its school is 'about to break through.' Students who are investing $30,000 to $40,000 a year deserve to know the difference.

I agree w/ NY Law Dean Matasar that "The difference between No. 6 and No. 9 or 100 and 101 is minimal." But the difference between 103 and 135 is not. If the point of the US News ranking is to help undergrads make informed decisions about whether and where to go to law school, then this information should be disclosed.

Thanks for listening, and good luck.

I hope US News follows through with this suggestion. Prospective students deserve better information about the large investment they are making.

It is not unusual for students to be choosing between T3 schools, especially in large metropolitan areas. Each school's admissions staff will tell students that its school has a better reputation than its competitors. Undergrad students have told me that they've been told by admissions staffs that "we're about to break into the second tier" when in fact the school isn't close. At $40,000 a year, students deserve some objective metric to judge these claims. It is true that the difference between 100 and 101 is minimal, but the difference between 104 and 140 is not. Schools are already fudging their employment numbers, as this magazine has noted in any number of articles. An accurate ranking of T3 schools would give students a better picture of how well competing schools are regarded in the local legal community, and students deserve that information.