Stanford Law School (SLS) withdrew from the U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the nation’s best law schools, wrote Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez in a Nov. 18 announcement. This announcement comes shortly after similar decisions by Harvard, Yale and the University of California Berkeley law schools.
Martinez wrote that SLS has been one of many law schools to approach U.S. News with “concrete suggestions to improve its ranking methodology” and hopes that their withdrawal will increase the chances of the rankings being “seriously overhauled.”
Martinez also wrote that SLS believes the ranking methodology “distorts incentives” and is “harmful to legal education as a whole.” Specific concerns included the discouragement of public interest careers and inappropriate weight on student expenditure and loan repayment programs. SLS students who are also pursuing an MBA or a Ph.D. are considered “unemployed” under the metrics of the rankings, Martinez wrote.
Another criticism shared by law schools that have withdrawn from the U.S. News’ rankings is decreased points as a result of offering financial assistance to a wider range of students. Martinez wrote that the rankings prevent schools from admitting “students from all walks of life” in order to keep their respective scores high.
Harvard and Yale released similar statements on Nov. 16, citing U.S. News’s rankings’ inability to convey accurate, relevant information about how each school can best meet prospective students’ needs.
UC Berkeley, Georgetown, UCLA and UC Irvine have also withdrawn from the U.S. News rankings. The University of Pennsylvania — which has yet to officially withdraw from the rankings — applauded Yale and Harvard Law for “raising key questions for all law schools” and plans to reevaluate its place within the rankings.
Cornell and University of Chicago Law Schools both released statements on Nov. 23 stating that they will continue to participate in the U.S. news rankings. “Most of the data we supply to U.S. News are already public, and the rest is information we have no reason to withhold. The rankings of academic institutions clearly have a readership, and we wish to prevent the use of inaccurate information,” wrote UChicago Law School Dean Tom Miles.
The Daily has reached out to the U.S. News & World Report for comment.
Dylan Vergara ’26, who plans to attend law school, thinks that Stanford is “setting a good example for peer institutions.” He told the Daily that by withdrawing from the rankings, SLS is “emphasizing public service fellowships and other careers that aren’t in big law.”
Vergara also said Stanford sets a high standard in distributing financial aid and the University should not participate in rankings that hurts institutions that provide more access to a wider range of students. “How institutions give financial aid should not be included in the methodology,” he said.
August Gweon J.D. ’23 agreed that the law school rankings are deeply flawed. However, he thinks that third-party tools and objective sources could help students decide where to go for law school.
He told the Daily that a new ranking system should be created since “relying on law schools to evaluate themselves is not an optimal solution.” Gweon is confident that this “exodus” will force U.S. News to reform its ranking process.
However, some students expressed doubts about the motivation behind the withdrawals. Afi Blackshear J.D. ’23 wrote that the public interest reasons for withdrawing from the rankings “are not very compelling,” in a statement to The Daily. Blackshear wrote that SLS must address its own direct role in systematically perpetuating these “distorted incentives,” with the tuition costing over $100,00 per year.
“The call seems to be coming from inside the house,” he wrote in regard to SLS’s withdrawal from the rankings.