Stay? Go? Law schools diverge in US News rankings revolt

Picture taken on September 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake
  • U.S. News is reaching out to law school deans to stop them from leaving
  • Three more law schools said this week they won't participate in the rankings, while two others affirmed they would

(Reuters) - The exodus of law schools from the U.S. News & World Report rankings slowed this week, as clearer divisions emerged in how the schools would proceed.

As of Friday afternoon, the No. 6-ranked University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, No. 37-ranked University of California, Davis School of Law, and No. 49-ranked University of Washington School of Law each said during the past week that they would not participate in the rankings this year.

Over that same period, No. 16-ranked Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and No. 29-ranked University of Georgia School of Law both said publicly that they will not join the boycott, following similar moves by the law schools at Chicago and Cornell, ranked Nos. 3 and 12, respectively.

In total, 14 schools have now said they will not give U.S. News their internal data for use in the rankings—outnumbering the four that have affirmed so far that they will.

But the pace of law schools parting ways with U.S. News has slowed compared to two weeks ago, when nine of the top 14-ranked law schools left in quick succession. Those schools cited the pressure the rankings create to bring in students with high grades and scores on the Law School Admission Test and their discounting of students who pursue certain public interest or academic jobs.

Bob Morse, who heads the U.S. News rankings, has been calling law school deans to discuss their participation, and some schools are likely waiting to see if he changes the rankings methodology to address the concerns raised by the boycotting schools, said law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey. U.S. News said in a statement Friday that its data team is having "conversations with law schools on these important topics."

Some law schools lack the autonomy to leave the rankings without the approval of central university administrators, which can create delays, Spivey said.

Yale Law School began the exodus on Nov. 16 and it quickly gained steam with the law schools at Harvard, Columbia and Michigan among the joiners.

U.S. News has previously said it will continue to rank all law schools, even if they do not to provide internal data. Georgia law dean Peter “Bo” Rutledge called the rankings one of many information sources that help law school applicants make decisions.

“Amid a squabble about a magazine, let’s not lose sight of the big picture: Tuition, cost, debt, jobs and bar passage are the topics that students and their families discuss around the kitchen table when deciding whether and where to pursue a professional degree,” he said.

Read more:

Why rankings-'obsessed' law students may stick with U.S. News

Law schools face 'biggest jolt' in decades with LSAT rule change, U.S. News exodus

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com