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Why the FTC Needs to Intervene in Law School Rankings

 |  April 24, 2024

By: Darren Bush (The Sling)

Since a group of law schools boycotted the U.S. News and World Report Rankings (“U.S. News Rankings”), the rankings have become erratic. The top law schools, all highly ranked, declined to submit data to U.S. News. Other schools followed suit. Consequently, U.S. News adjusted its rankings, possibly placing more emphasis on publicly available data.

This change has sparked speculation about potentially drastic results. While significant ranking shifts were previously somewhat limited, the evolving rankings and the apparent new trend of frequent changes to methodologies might lead to more radical changes in the future. It is noteworthy, however, that these fluctuations seldom seem to affect the higher-ranked schools.

Meanwhile, prospective law students, possibly largely unaware of these fluctuations because the top-ranked law schools hardly change, are likely still relying on the U.S. News Rankings to determine what makes a good law school. A cursory check confirms that prestigious schools like Harvard and Yale consistently rank in the top ten, with little variation year to year.

Despite the legal academy’s understanding of the inconsistency and other issues, some schools still use the U.S. News Rankings as an aspirational and publication goal (with some schools offering anti-intellectual publication bonuses for high-rank placement). Others utilize the rankings for marketing materials to prospective faculty candidates and students.

In this essay, Darren Bush enumerates five problems with the U.S. News Rankings and proposes a few concrete solutions.