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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

UC Davis School of Law withdraws from US News and World Report rankings

The decision follows other schools’ leads, citing concerns over the methodology of the rankings


By SYDNEY AMESTOY — campus@theaggie.org


The UC Davis School of Law will no longer submit data such as post-graduation employment rates and LSAT scores to the U.S. News and World Report’s annual law school ranking, according to a letter from Dean Kevin Johnson issued Nov. 28.

Three other UC law schools, including those at UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles and UC Irvine have also announced decisions to stop providing data for use in the rankings, according to an article on law.com, along with the law schools at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Columbia, among others. Cornell Law School and University of Chicago Law School have decided to continue to provide data for the rankings.

Johnson’s letter cited concerns about the rankings not involving diversity in their methodology, as well as a preference towards private schools with more resources.

“We really were frustrated that the rankings didn’t consider things […] that are particularly important to what we’re trying to do, and important goals for our school,” Johnson said. “[There is] no attention paid to quality of teaching, no attention paid to diversity of the student body [and] faculty, and really [there is] a bias toward private schools with many resources that public universities don’t have.”

Concern with the U.S. News and World Report’s handling of diversity within law schools has been central to the discussion around the UC Davis School of Law’s decision to leave, according to Johnson. 

“Last year, [the U.S. News and World Report] was talking about doing a diversity index for the student body,” Johnson said. “But their initial index would not have included mixed race people [or] Asian Americans as people of color. […] It seems to many people that when U.S. News came up with this [diversity index], they didn’t know what they were doing.”

The U.S. News and World Report ranking’s emphasis on scoring high on the LSAT, a standardized test taken by prospective law school candidates, was another concern for faculty, according to Johnson. 

“There’s been a great deal of concern for a number of years that standardized tests aren’t fair, and maybe biased against particular groups,” Johnson said. “In fact, that concern with the use of standardized tests is one of the reasons that the University of California doesn’t use them anymore in admissions decisions for undergraduates. We have similar concerns with the way that the LSAT is used.”

According to Johnson’s letter, the decision to withdraw came after long deliberation between the law school’s faculty and the alumni board, as well as the students attending the school of law.

Hon. Nancy Wieben Stock, a retired judge from the UC Davis class of 1976 and president of the alumni board at the UC Davis School of Law, has been involved in the process leading up to this decision since it was proposed by Dean Johnson.

“Our law school has been climbing those rankings for many years, thanks largely to our success in producing successful lawyers,” Wieben Stock said. “But we realized that pursuit of higher rankings could come at a cost to other factors that make the law school successful, [such as] promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the law school admissions process and [the] recruitment of a diverse faculty.”

Admissions was a big part of the internal conversation leading to the decision to withdraw data, according to Johnson, because the U.S. News and World Report rankings are considered a powerful indicator to prospective law students. This means that withdrawing from submitting data for the rankings could have a negative impact on admissions.

“If I have a roomful of prospective law students, and ask them how many people have looked at the U.S. News rankings, I can almost guarantee that everybody will raise their hand,” Johnson said. “So they are important.”

However, despite the potential drawbacks of the decision, and some dissent from a few faculty and alumni, Johnson said that over 90% of feedback he received was in favor of not participating anymore. 

  The U.S. News and World Report’s official statement on several law schools leaving the rankings states that the ranking will include all accredited law schools, including schools not submitting data. These schools will be ranked using publicly available data, whether or not the schools respond to their annual survey with more in-depth information. 

The U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings are designed for students seeking to make the best decision for their legal education,” the statement reads. “We will continue to pursue our journalistic mission of ensuring that students can rely on the best and most accurate information, using the rankings as one factor in their law school search.”

On Jan. 2, the U.S. News and World Report published a letter to law school deans announcing modifications to the 2023-2024 ranking system based on feedback they’ve received.

According to the letter, some of the main changes include an increased weight on outcome measurements, such as bar exam pass rates and employment outcomes, as well as increasing the weight given to school-funded full-time long-term fellowships in order to encourage public service careers.

The letter also cited concerns that they have not addressed in this year’s modifications, including loan forgiveness, diversity and need-based aid, saying that these areas “require additional time and collaboration to address,” and that they will continue to collaborate on “metrics with agreed upon definitions.” 

The U.S. News and World Report went on to directly ask the law schools that have pulled out of submitting data to reverse their decision.

“We call on all law schools to make public all of the voluminous data they currently report to the [American Bar Association] but decline to publish, so that future law students can have fuller and more transparent disclosure,” the letter reads.


Written by: Sydney Amestoy — campus@theaggie.org