After Yale and Harvard Law Schools withdrew from the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings last week, the law schools of Stanford, Columbia, Georgetown and Berkeley announced their departures.
Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez said in a statement that while Stanford has ranked highly for many years, the methodology “distorts incentives in ways that are harmful to legal education as a whole.”
Citing similar sentiment expressed by the law school deans of Yale and Harvard, she added “the US News ranking methodology inappropriately discourages public service by treating students whose schools provide fellowships to support such work much the same as it treats students who are unemployed.”
Similarly, Columbia Law School Dean Gillian Lester said in a statement announcing Columbia’s withdrawal that the “flaws in the U.S. News law school ranking system have been a source of concern for many years” and the methodology “creates incentives that work against schools’ interest in attracting and retaining classes of students with a broadly diverse set of qualities and experiences.”
Citing that he had urged the leadership of U.S. News in the past to recalibrate its law school rankings, Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor said in a statement that the current system “continues to encourage schools to pursue a vision of legal education that is at odds with the compelling educational values that define us as a community.”
Noting that rankings are inevitable and would inevitably feature arbitrary factors, “there are aspects of the US News rankings that are profoundly inconsistent with our values and public mission,” said Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky in a statement. Is there “a benefit to participation … that outweighs the costs? The answer, we feel, is no,” he added.
Separately, the American Bar Association (ABA), which is responsible for accrediting U.S. law schools, voted to eliminate the requirement that law schools use the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or other standardized test when admitting students. The change will not be implemented until the fall of 2025.
Some law school deans warned in a letter to the ABA that doing away with the testing mandate could counteract a push towards diversification because more focus would be placed on grade point averages and “other criteria that are potentially more infused with bias.”