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Defending Its Rankings, U.S. News Takes Aim at Top Law Schools

by Staff

He argued that a school like his, which he said leaves nearly half of its graduates debt-free, “is doing a better job for society” than schools that send graduates into public service jobs where loans will be forgiven after 10 years.

But, he added, the U.S. News rankings did not influence the school’s policies. “I categorically reject that proposition,” he said. “We all just have to do a hard job with a certain amount of moral courage.”

At the conference, the big question was: If law schools abandoned the U.S. News rankings en masse, what would replace them as a guide for consumers?

Ms. Gerken, the Yale Law School dean, and other participants suggested that the data gathered by the American Bar Association already provided good information for prospective applicants. The data provided on the bar association website, however, does not allow someone to easily compare one law school with another, and it lacks the emotional punch of number rankings like the one used by U.S. News.

Other data sources that participants suggested, such as Law School Transparency, XploreJD and the Law School Admission Council, are similarly cumbersome.

One of the panelists, Deidré A. Keller, dean and professor of law at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a historically Black university in Tallahassee, said that the rankings’ emphasis on LSAT scores, grade point averages and selectivity was “inherently problematic” for her school. To make selectivity a hallmark of quality, she added, “we would have to be acting against our mission.”

More important, she said, was the support students received from the school to succeed.

“We have a mission to diversify the profession,” she said. At least one panelist, though, warned that a new ranking system might not be the answer. Christopher Norio Avery, who teaches microeconomics and statistics at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said changing the system “has exciting upside possibilities, but may have a range of unintended consequences.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

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