Yale Law School withdraws from “perverse” U.S. News rankings
Yale has taken the top spot since the magazine started its ranking in the 1980s. Harvard Law School, currently ranked fourth, withdrew hours later.
Yale Daily News
Yale Law School will no longer participate in the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, Dean Heather Gerken announced Wednesday morning.
Yale Law School, which has held the number one spot on the magazine’s list for the past three decades, will be the first top 14 school to part ways with the ranking system. Harvard Law School withdrew later the same day.
“Over the last few years, U.S. News has begun to adopt metrics that have become increasingly damaging to the profession,” Gerken told the News.“They’re making it harder and harder for other law schools to do the right thing.”
Gerken’s announcement characterizes USNWR rankings as “profoundly flawed,” and fundamentally at odds with the institutional values of YLS. According to the statement, the metrics considered by the magazine disincentivize law schools from introducing programs to increase accessibility and dissuades institutions from supporting public-interest careers.
According to the magazine’s website, rankings are determined by a series of metrics including graduate employment rates, placement of students, faculty resources, academic achievements of entering students and the “opinions by law schools, lawyers and judges on overall program quality.” 192 American Bar Association-accredited law schools were ranked by USNWR in 2022.
“I believe in giving people a chance to change and listen to critique,” Gerken told the News. “But we have been talking to US News about these problems, and nothing has changed.”
YLS is not the first educational institution to remove itself from USNWR ranking consideration. Last June, Columbia University announced that it would no longer participate in the undergraduate ranking system after the publication of an article written by Columbia math professor Michael Thaddeus, which alleged that Columbia was misrepresenting the data it reported to the magazine.
Gerken told the News that YLS’ decision to withdraw from the ranking system was not influenced by the Columbia University scandal.
Gerken shared that she believes deans at other law schools had engaged in conversations over the last few years about the flaws with the USNWR ranking system, but that YLS’ decision to remove itself from consideration was an entirely independent one.
“Our mission is to bring the most talented schools and students in the country here, and to provide the leadership they need,” Gerken said, “We’re just focused on our mission, we’ve always been focused on our mission and US News has no effect on our mission.”
Dean Gerken explained that the decision to withdraw from the ranking was made after consultation with faculty and students. She emphasized that community responses to the announcement had been overwhelmingly supportive.
In an email to the News, Professor Ian Ayres wrote that faculty members were “overwhelmingly supportive” of Gerken’s announcement.
“This is a proud day for the school,” Ayres wrote. “The US News ranking system makes it harder for law schools to take action on [need based aid and public service] without paying an undeserved price.”
Hillary Browning LAW ’25 noted that some students believed the dean’s decision was made in anticipation of a potential drop in the ratings.
“I want to emphasize, we have never made policies based on rankings,” Gerken said. “We just don’t pay attention. We’re really just focused on scholarship and leadership.”
Chisato Kimura LAW ’25 wrote in an email to the News that she fully supported YLS withdrawing from the ranking system, which in her opinion employed metrics that “inevitably hurt low-income students.”
“The ranking system incentivizes law schools to admit students who can pay for law school without taking on loans over students who may need financial aid,” Chisato wrote. “The ranking system also incentivizes law schools to funnel resources/support to private law career options rather than public interest law.”
Kimura does not anticipate that YLS’ withdrawal from USNWR will impact its prestige and reputation as an institution. She believes that Yale Law School will continue to make data publicly available that would otherwise be published on the USNWR’s law school ranking list.
Kimura also emphasized that YLS’ reputation should be all the more prestigious for its decision to withdraw from the USNWR rankings.
“I believe this decision affirms YLS’ commitment to increasing access to law school and addressing some of the systemic barriers to law school,” Kimura wrote. “That is a reputation that I would be proud for YLS to have.”
In an email addressed to the Harvard Law School community this afternoon, HLS Dean John Manning announced that Harvard Law would also no longer participate in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.
The letter acknowledges Dean Gerken’s announcement made earlier this morning, although it does not mention any coordination between administrations at Yale and Harvard Law Schools.
“We at HLS have made this decision because it has become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the U.S. News ranking reflects,” the statement reads. “This decision was not made lightly and only after considerable deliberation over the past several months.”
Yale Law School was founded in 1824.