No decisions yet from Indiana law schools about joining U.S. News rankings boycott

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Indiana University’s two law schools say they are still deciding whether to join the list of law schools revolting against the annual rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report. Conversely, Notre Dame has declined to offer any comment about its plans.

Both Indiana University Maurer School of Law Dean Christiana Ochoa and Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Dean Karen Bravo told Indiana Lawyer their institutions are evaluating their options and watching what other law schools are doing.

Notre Dame replied to an Indiana Lawyer inquiry that it did not “have anything to share at this time.”

Over the past 10 years, Indiana’s three accredited law schools have charted markedly different paths in the rankings.

In the 2023 rankings published in March of this year, IU Maurer was 43rd, having fallen steadily from the 26th slot in the 2013 rankings. IU McKinney recovered to 98th in the 2023 rankings after dropping to 122nd in 2021. Notre Dame has consistently been ranked in the mid-20s, landing at the 25th spot in the 2023 survey.

Since Yale Law School, No. 1 in the rankings for more than 10 years, announced Nov. 16 it would no longer participate in the rankings process, 11 other schools have followed. Only three of the boycotting schools are not in the top tier of the rankings, or what are called the T-14 schools.

A statement from Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, said the magazine would continue to rank all fully accredited law schools regardless of whether they participate.

“We respect each institution’s decision to choose whether or not to submit their data to U.S. News,” Morse said in the statement. “However, U.S. News has a responsibility to prospective students to provide comparative information that allows them to assess these institutions. U.S. News will therefore continue to rank the nearly 200 accredited law schools in the United States.”

Law schools have long assailed the methodology that U.S. News uses to create the rankings.

In explaining its decision to quit participating, Yale denounced the rankings as “profoundly flawed” and “undermining the core commitments of the legal profession.” The Ivy League institution said it sees the annual survey as discouraging law schools from establishing programs that financially support students seeking public interest careers, and from admitting and providing aid to students of modest means.

Ochoa and Bravo also noted the concerns with the way U.S. News compiles the rankings and the impact the rankings have.

“The Indiana University Maurer School of Law is carefully evaluating whether to stop supplying data to U.S. News,” Ochoa said in a statement. “For many years, our law school, together with many others, have implored U.S. News to be more responsive to the critiques and suggestions made to the magazine by law schools subjected to their ranking system. Our requests have resulted from our observations that the U.S. News Law School Ranking employ a non-transparent and flawed methodology that results in severe and negative distortions in legal education that do not serve students well and are detrimental to society.

“We are aware that the U.S. News rankers are in conversation with law school deans across the country and hope these discussions result in a more open dialogue leading to immediate as well as long-term substantive improvements,” Ochoa continued. “The Maurer School of Law is actively engaged in a process involving a variety of stakeholders considering what is best for our law school and our students.”

Bravo said IU McKinney is continuing to monitor the changing terrain.

“I think at this point, we’re doing a wait-and-see approach, waiting to see what will happen, if anything, and realizing that maybe there won’t be a big impact this year,” Bravo said. “Maybe there’ll be an impact the following year. But I think wait-and-see is the most appropriate at this point.”

The dean added the Indianapolis law school still has time to make a decision, and she outlined what her team is watching as the situation develops.

“Well, we’re tracking how many schools are announcing that they’re not participating and what kinds of schools, of course,” Bravo explained. “Are they schools that are similar to us or are they schools that are in the top 14 or top 15, ranked by U.S. News? I also always want to qualify when I say that it’s according to U.S. News ranking, not, you know, some neutral criteria.”

The first “non-elite law school” to announce it would quit submitting information to U.S. News was the University of California, Irvine School of Law, which is led by Austen Parrish, formerly dean at IU Maurer.

Parrish released a detailed statement explaining the school’s decision to quit participating. In part, he stated, “How U.S. News has decided to approach its rankings and what it chooses to incentivize do not align with our values or our commitment to public services; nor is it what leaders in the top law firms, nonprofit and government organizations, corporations, and others that hire our students value.”

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