Friday, November 18, 2022
USNew.com is not going to go gently into the good night it richly deserves, even if dozens and dozens of schools withdraw over the next week. 40% of the ranking consists in reputational surveys, that USNews.com controls, and even if the response rate drops, they will use what they can get (as they have done with the lawyer/judge surveys, where the response rate is 15% or less--it's gotten so low, they now average several years worth of results). Most of the other data in the ranking stew is available to the public via the ABA. (One data point that is not so available is expenditures, and it would be salutary if they had to drop that factor altogether, but more likely is that they would concoct estimates, which is how they standardly deal with non-cooperating schools.) It is true that USNews.com has long depended on schools doing the work for them: USNews.com rankings are a "lean" operation, one of the reasons they don't audit any self-reported data. If schools don't cooperate, this would be a lot more work for USNews.com but given that the law school rankings are, along with the college rankings, their most influential product, my guess is they will do what it takes to keep it going (especially because of the risk that the boycott might spread to the colleges).
One worry I have is that the objections so far (by Yale, Harvard, and Berkeley) will be taken as an invitation by USNews.com simply to jigger the formula a bit. In that regard, the objections voiced so far seem to me mistaken: the problem is that the entire formula is indefensible and meaningless. There is no explanation for why reputation is 40% and not 100% or 10%; there is no principled explanation for any of the weightings of any of the factors, and that's putting aside that a lot of the inputs are garbage data anyway. The problem with USNews.com is that their ranking formula makes no sense, and it has never made sense for 30 years. Objecting to this-or-that recent tweak to the formula is missing the forest for the twigs on the trees.
UPDATE: US News has announced, as expected, that it will continue to rank all schools regardless of whether they submit data. That has always been their approach in all their rankings.