WA law schools pull out of US News rankings over equity concerns

Washington’s three law schools have announced they won’t participate in a longstanding annual ranking of such institutions, citing equity concerns about how the rankings are calculated.

Seattle University and Gonzaga University law school leaders said this week they won’t provide data to US News & World Report, which compiles the rankings. They join the state’s other law school, the University of Washington School of Law, which announced last month it’d no longer participate.

This week’s decisions come after a boycott from several top law schools prompted US News & World Report to amend its ranking methodology.

The changes include an increased focus on outcomes for law school students, such as getting a job and passing the bar exam, and give more weight to the availability of school-funded fellowships. The rankings will also place less emphasis on surveys from academics, lawyers and judges.

But the changes don’t address all the concerns raised by over 100 law school representatives during recent meetings with US News & World Report officials, according to The Associated Press. US News & World Report is working to address additional concerns about socioeconomic factors, need-based financial aid, diversity, consideration of loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs, reported The Associated Press.

Seattle University School of Law Dean Anthony Varona said in a statement Wednesday that the ranking system doesn’t align with his university’s core values ​​and fails to consider many areas crucial to law school performance, focusing “far too much attention and funding on a limited and arbitrary set of objectives.”

Gonzaga School of Law Dean Jacob Rooksby announced Tuesday the school would not submit data this year, saying the rankings reward law schools for investments that have “little to do with improving educational outcomes.”

he said the rankings value arbitrary measures of “quality,” use imprecise variables as markers for excellence and reinforce structural inequality in the legal field.

Yale Law School was the first to announce it would not participate in the rankings. Dean Heather Gerken said in a blog post Nov. 16 that the ranking system is biased against programs intended to increase socioeconomic diversity, support lower-income students and encourage public services.

Several law schools across the country have since followed suit in withdrawing from the rankings.

US News & World Report said it will continue ranking law schools, regardless of whether they submit data, in an attempt to continue to provide prospective students information about institutions across the country.

Schools that submit data will have more robust profiles, according to the media company, which said in a statement that legal education is “neither monolithic nor static” and that its rankings might not capture the individual nuances of each institution.

US News & World Report had meetings with dozens of law school representatives to develop changes to its ranking system. The new methodology will be reflected in the 2023-2024 rankings, which are expected to be published in spring, the media company said in a statement.