Yale and Harvard law schools both said on Wednesday they will no longer participate in US News & World Report’s annual ranking of law schools, the biggest shake-up to the closely watched list in years.
Yale, which has captured the No 1 spot every year since US News began ranking law schools in 1990, was first to announce the decision. Hours later, the Harvard Law dean, John Manning, informed students it would do the same. The school is ranked No 4.
Both schools said the rankings are in conflict with commitments to diversity and affordability.
The Yale law dean, Heather Gerken, said in a message on her school’s website that the “profoundly flawed” rankings disincentivize schools from bringing in working-class students, issuing financial aid based on need and helping students pursue public interest careers.
“US News continues to adopt metrics that undermine the legal profession and legal education,” Gerken told Reuters. “It seems like time to take a step back and decide whether this makes any sense.“
Eric Gertler, chief executive of US News, said in a statement Yale Law’s decision did not change the rankings’ mission to ensure “students can rely on the best and most accurate information” when deciding where to attend.
US News’ law school rankings loom large in the legal industry, which highly values prestige. Many would-be lawyers weigh the rankings when choosing a law school, and graduating from a highly ranked school opens doors to highly paid associate jobs at large firms, judicial clerkships and other sought-after positions.
Legal academics have long criticized the US News rankings. The system pushes law schools to funnel financial aid to applicants with high scores on the Law School Admission Test and strong undergraduate grades, which account for 20% of a school’s ranking, rather than to applicants who most need it, they argue.
And they say schools are rewarded in the rankings for high expenditures-per-student instead of for keeping tuition low.
Gerken said the rankings were misleading in part because they do not consider graduates in public interest fellowships funded by the schools be fully employed. And the way the rankings measure student debt does not take into account loan repayment assistance for those in public interest jobs, she said.
Yale and Harvard appear to be the first to opt out of the US News rankings. Representatives from No 3-ranked Chicago declined to comment.
A Stanford Law spokewoman said the school, ranked No 2, will be giving the matter “careful thought.“
Law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey said other schools will now have cover to stop providing data to US News – a move he said many law deans at top-ranked schools have wanted to take for years.
“The gun has been loaded and the trigger has been pulled,” Spivey said.
Yale and Harvard will not disappear from the law school rankings, however. US News says that it uses publicly available data when schools do not supply their own.
Columbia University, previously ranked No 2 in US News’ ranking of colleges and universities, dropped to No 18 this year after the submission of incorrect data spurred it to stop participating in the ranking. Columbia’s law school declined to comment on Wednesday.
Spivey said defaulting to third-party data would be a positive change because schools can’t manipulate those numbers.