Yale Law School won’t participate in ‘flawed’ US News & World Report rankings

Yale Law School
Sign in front of Yale Law School on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. (sshepard/Getty Images)

Yale Law School won’t participate in ‘flawed’ US News & World Report rankings

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The dean of Yale Law School announced Wednesday that the Ivy League law school will no longer participate in the annual collegiate rankings of U.S. News & World Report despite consistently occupying the top spot.

In a lengthy statement Wednesday, Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken announced that the prestigious legal education institution would no longer participate in the rankings, which she said are “profoundly flawed.”

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“Since the very beginning, Yale Law School has taken the top spot every year,” Gerken said. “Yet, that distinction is not one that we advertise or use as a lodestar to chart our course. … We have reached a point where the rankings process is undermining the core commitments of the legal profession. As a result, we will no longer participate.”

Among the nation’s most prestigious law schools, Yale boasts an impressive number of prominent legal professionals. Three sitting members of the U.S. Supreme Court graduated from the law school, along with numerous federal judges at the district and appellate levels.

The U.S. News & World Report lists, which are updated annually, are widely considered to be the gold standard of college rankings, and institutions often advertise and promote their placement as a marker of prestige and excellence. The methodology used to calculate the rankings includes peer assessment, employment rates for graduates, bar passage rate, faculty-student ratio, and average student debt incurred.

But Gerken forcefully criticized the rankings, blasting the magazine for using “a misguided formula that discourages law schools from doing what is best for legal education.”

“While I sincerely believe that U.S. News operates with the best of intentions, it faces a nearly impossible task, ranking 192 law schools with a small set of one-size-fits-all metrics that cannot provide an accurate picture of such varied institutions. Its approach not only fails to advance the legal profession, but stands squarely in the way of progress,” Gerken said.

The Yale Law School dean especially criticized the rankings system for using assessment standards that she said disincentivize institutional programs that “support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession.”

“One of the most troubling aspects of the U.S. News rankings is that it discourages law schools from providing critical support for students seeking public interest careers and devalues graduates pursuing advanced degrees,” she said. “Because service is a touchstone of our profession, Yale Law School is proud to award many more public interest fellowships per student than any of our peers.”

While the law school will no longer participate in the rankings, Gerken vowed to continue to make the data usually shared with the magazine available to prospective students “in a public, transparent, and useful form to ensure they have the information they need to decide which law school is right for them.”

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“Leaders in legal education should do everything they can to ensure students of all backgrounds have the support and resources they need to enter our profession and contribute to society,” Gerken said. “Granting exclusive access to a flawed commercial rankings system is counterproductive to the mission of this profession and the core values of Yale Law School. While I do not take this decision lightly, now is time for us to walk away from the rankings in order to pursue our own path forward as we work to advance legal education.”

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