Report of the Special Committee on the U.S. News and World Report Rankings

A Resolution of the ABA House of Delegates requires an examination of any form of law school ranking.  Pursuant to the Resolution, ABA President Carolyn Lamm assigned the task of examining law school ranking to the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar.  The Special Committee has prepared a comprehensive annotated bibliography on the ranking of law schools.  The analysis shows that there are many forms of law school rankings, but that the U.S. News rankings still dominate the discourse and have become increasingly important for law schools to attract students.  Additionally, the criterion used by U.S. News has impacted the management and design of law school education.

The Committee noted three of the greatest concerns they have about the U.S. News rankings.  First, “the current methodology tends to increase the cost of legal education for students.”  The rankings award schools that spend more money per student. Therefore, a low cost school will be punished despite the quality of education.

Second, “the methodology tends to discourage the award of financial aid based upon need.”   Financial aid is now used to attract students with high GPA’s in order to satisfy that component of the rankings.  The result is that students with the greatest financial need are required to borrow heavily to attend law school.

Third, “the current methodology tends to reduce incentives to enhance the diversity of the legal profession.”  Racial diversity is ranked among law schools in a separate report and not included in the official rankings.  Therefore, diversity is forsaken in order to focus on GPA and LSAT scores.  And because the cost of law school continues to increase, other forms of diversity, like family financial background, are further ignored.

The remainder of the bibliography is devoted to providing an overview of the various criticisms to the rankings systems and alternative ranking systems that have been discussed.  However, none of these are about to supplant the U.S. News rankings anytime soon.  The result is that those rankings have a profound impact on the operation of law schools.

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