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Takeaways for Students: The U.S. News Ranking Delay

If you’re applying to law school and keep up with legal news, you might have seen the statement that U.S. News released this week about their 2023-2024 law school rankings. If you didn’t, here’s the gist: U.S. News, which releases yearly higher education rankings, has decided to delay publishing this year’s law school rankings. Every year, applicants and employers look to the U.S. News law school rankings as the definitive source, so they carry a lot of weight. Many students are naturally wondering what this will mean for them.

Why the wait?

Last November, Dean Heather Gerken of Yale Law School announced that Yale would no longer participate in the U.S. News rankings. Almost immediately, a large number of law schools followed suit, including most of the T-14 (top 14 law schools). Many schools cited the ranking’s emphasis on matriculating students’ LSAT scores and GPAs over other qualifying characteristics as their motivation. The decision not to participate in the rankings doesn’t mean that the U.S. News won’t rank these schools. In the past, U.S. News has used a mixture of publicly available information and data submitted by the schools to create their rankings. With so many schools choosing to no longer participate in this process, U.S. News has made significant changes to its methodology.

Just this week, U.S. News announced that it wouldn’t release the rankings on time as usual. It explained that a large number of schools had inquired into the rankings or requested to submit data late. This was likely prompted by U.S. News releasing a preview of the T-14 rankings earlier this month, which showed just how much the new methodology had shifted the rankings. Several T-14 schools rose or fell multiple places, including Columbia University, which went from fourth to eighth.

What does this mean for me?

Likely, not much, with a few exceptions. The top law schools in the country will remain the top law schools, and their employment outcomes probably won’t change. As schools adjust to the new methodology, it’s possible that admission factors like essays, resumes, and letters of recommendation will carry more weight. However, LSAT scores and GPAs will continue to be the most important criteria. 

For those who have already applied to law school this cycle and must decide on what school to attend by their deposit deadlines, it might be frustrating not to have access to the new rankings in time to consider them. While rankings will naturally play a role in school choice, if you’re in this position, you should lean on other factors and consider how each school can help you meet your goals. Don’t base any decisions on how you think a school’s rank might change, as it’s impossible to guess.

Once the full rankings are released, there could be greater implications. If a school significantly rises in the rankings, it might see a small increase in employment outcomes, or its median LSAT and GPA could rise. This could also be the beginning of applicants and employers moving away from depending on U.S. News when assessing a law school’s prestige. Overall, though, the law school admissions landscape is unlikely to change much. 

Check out our LSAT blog for more information on law school rankings and how to decide which law school is best for you!