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Wave Goodbye to Your US News Ranking, Pepperdine Law

Alternate title: Pepperdine Law takes a mudslide down the US News Rankings (there are mudslides in Malibu)

Every time I read the news, it feels like one crisis after another. Evidently, the world of legal education is not isolated from the crazy currents events climate. Pepperdine Law dropped from 72 on last year’s U.S. News & World Report list all the way to … unranked. Apparently, Pepperdine misreported data about its median LSAT score, sent a correction to USNWR and USNWR thanked them for their honesty by taking them off the list entirely.

If you’re considering Pepperdine Law, this story might hit close to home for you. This post is going to cover concerns and questions that either potential applicants or current students may have about the fall in the rankings.

Largely, I think this story is something of a tempest in a teapot. If anything, the change in rankings is (1) more indicative of the unreliability of USNWR as a sole metric for grading law schools than anything else and (2) likely to help Pepperdine by giving it more attention (one look at its beach views, and you’ll probably want to go there too).

Let’s start first by talking about current students. I don’t think this will do much to change employer’s perception of the school. Pepperdine isn’t a new kid on the block trying to establish its name — it has been around for decades and it is a relatively strong regional law school (although not on par with UCLA or USC for serving the Southern California market). The vast majority of Pepperdine’s students stay in California, where Pepperdine is an established commodity. I would highly doubt that California employers would be aware of, let alone care about, a blip in the rankings. Nationally, there is a chance that an employer would be unaware of the school and be taken aback by noticing that the school is unranked, but this feels far too attenuated to have a real impact.

Next, for applicants, I wouldn’t anticipate much changing either. First, this is only for a year, so by the time applicants are looking for employment, it is likely that Pepperdine will be back sitting happily among the ranked schools (somewhere in the range of 60-65). Consequently, it seems unlikely that many students would choose to apply elsewhere on the basis of this short fall from grace. With that said, there are students who look almost exclusively at rankings in making their decision, for better or for worse. Maybe, if I’m one of those students, I’ll consider a peer school like Loyola that serves the same market (albeit, without the breathtaking beach views).

In sum, if you’re considering Pepperdine Law or you’re already there, I wouldn’t worry too much about the rankings drop. Pepperdine will be back up there soon.