Monday, January 2, 2023
USNews.com has written to law school Deans announcing some significant changes, as a result of the boycott initiated by Yale. Here are the highlights:
1. USNews.com will give full credit in the employment metric to "school-funded full-time long-term fellowships where bar passage is required or where the JD degree is an advantage," as well as to those also enrolled in graduate studies. This will help Yale, but not only Yale.
2. More significantly, USNews.com will rely entirely on the public ABA data. (For schools that complete the surveys, USNews.com says it will make more information available, but it looks like this will not be used in the ranking.) What the letter to the Deans did not say explicitly is what this will mean for the per capita expenditures measure, which has long been the tail that wags the dog. Expenditures data is not among the public ABA data, which would mean that US News would have to drop it as a criterion. That will be very significant. Yale has been #1 for many years only because of per capita expenditures (most recently, for example, Yale was #3 in both reputational surveys of academics and practitioners); Stanford has been #2 for the same reason. If, in fact, per capita expenditures will not be included, then there will be a massive shake-up in the rankings.
3. Reliance on public ABA data will also affect the use of the numerical credentials of students, since the ABA reports the 75th and 25th percentile LSATs and GPAs, but not the median (which is what USNews.com uses). One possibility is that USNews.com will simply use the median or average of the 75th and 25th, another is that they will use the reported 75th and/or 25th in a more complicated formula. Since USNews.com runs American legal education, whatever choice they make will affect admissions decisions going forward. (Derek Muller points out to me that the ABA does report the median credentails, so this concern is moot. Of course it's still true that USNews.com runs American legal education!)
4. USNews.com will give less weight to the reputational surveys. It is unclear how much less weight. Relatedly, more weight will be given to outcome measures, meaning employment outcomes and bar passage.
5. USNews.com is still considering adding other factors to the ranking stew in future years: loan forgiveness, need-based aid, "diversity and socio-economic considerations." Adding "diversity" just as the Supreme Court is poised to render it an unlawful consideration would be ironic.
Without per capita expenditures in the mix, I would not be surprised to see Harvard come out at #1 in the Spring But the whole rank order will be shaken up quite a bit--and in no intelligible or meaningful way of course, since the whole thing will still be a stew of factors, weighted inexplicably. So the USNews.com "reign of terror" will continue!