Saturday, November 19, 2022
Stanford is out...
...but makes it pretty clear that if "the methodology is seriously overhauled" they may be back. Meanwhile, this NYT story reports that some schools--for example, Boston University and George Mason University--are not planning to withdraw. Both have done well in recent iterations of the USNews.com exercise, and without a brand name like "Harvard" to fall back on, the rankings give them free and helpful publicity.
Since it's clear not all law schools are going to withdraw, and since it's also clear USNews.com will continue to rank schools that do not cooperate (which has always been their practice), the question is whether if many or most top law schools withdraw that will undermine the (fake) legitimacy and influence of the rankings. My guess is it will not, and that many of those that withdraw now will return after some tweaking of the formula (most of the tweaks proposed, it must be noticed, would favor the schools asking for them).
As the NYT story also makes clear, what is driving this is the impending end of "diversity" as a legally permissible consideration in admissions--the NYT even links the boycott of USNews.com to the ABA's recommendation of dropping the LSAT for the same reason. The suggestion would be that places like Yale, committed to diversity, are prepared to disregard numbers in order to admit a diverse class, but in so doing they endanger their position in USNews.com--thus their motive to withdraw preemptively. I do not know whether this is true, but it is not implausible.
A final observation: there is an opportunity for another commercial entity to enter the law school ranking market. The trashy Internet tabloid Above the Law has produced its own rankings (based entirely on output measures) for awhile, but it hasn't gotten much traction, probably in part because ATL lacks all credibility. The American Lawyer, National Law Journal, or Newsweek could get in on the act, and with some aggressive marketing, displace USNews.com, especially if there is buy-in from law schools.