New U.S. News Law School Rankings: The More Things Change…

U.S. News released its annual rankings of law schools, and the news is, generally, no news at all.  While there were some dramatic jumps and declines (Villanova, which embroiled itself in a data falsification scandal, dropped 17 slots, to a crowded tie for number 84, but was not the school boasting the sharpest decline), the top 10 contained the same law schools, and none of the schools in the top 5 changed position.

The press has mostly reported on Texas’ entry into the magic circle top 14 schools and U.S. News’ elimination of the long-standing Tier 3 and Tier 4 alphabetical listings.  Instead of numerically ranking the top 100 law schools, the rankings are now numerical for the top 145 law schools, and the rest are listed alphabetically, as in the old tier system.  The difference that makes is unclear, at best.  For entering law students, is there really a difference between, say, number 121 and 125 that makes a difference for you?  The rankings tell any individual law school applicant less the lower one drops in them.

Evidence of that is that the large increases and decreases in rankings almost never occur in the top 20 or 25 law schools.  Good for Richmond, Chicago-Kent and Catholic for sizeable increases, but does anyone really believe that in 9 months, the quality of their law school educations got so much better that they passed more than 10 other schools apiece?  There’s a false horse-race quality to all this.  The instability of rankings in the middle to lower reaches of the rankings indicates that they’re less meaningful proxies for much of anything there, and especially not meaningful for your career prospects after law school.    

Even at higher rankings, what U.S. News largely produces is a complex of disparate factors the weighting of which is really the whole game—and if what U.S. News thinks is most important conforms with what you want as a prospective law student, that’s great.  That’s rarely true (and few people really spend the time they should looking at the methodology of the rankings).  What the rankings serve as is one data point among many that you’ll need to consider as you make a law school decision.

In the “Law School Admissions” section of this blog, I talk regularly about what entering law students should consider, and the significance of rankings (from U.S. News and others) as proxies for some of those factors.  In the end, you and your law school admissions and applications advisors need to do the careful work of determining what you need and developing the data you need to make that decision, especially including extracting meaningful post-law school employment data.  That will generally not be possible except by sustained and strategic conversations with law school admissions personnel, based on a realistic assessment of your options.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on March 16, 2011.

2 Responses to “New U.S. News Law School Rankings: The More Things Change…”

  1. […] New U.S. News Law School Rankings: The More Things Change… […]

  2. […] generate a lot of comment in the legal press.  For the most part, the attention is devoted to who rose, who fell, what changed and what didn’t.  Advise-In Solutions is also focused on law school value, and so in addition to discussing the […]

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