Berkeley Law announced Nov. 17 that it would no longer be participating in the U.S. News & World Report, or USNWR, law school rankings due to a flawed ranking methodology.
The decision followed similar announcements by Yale Law School and Harvard Law School. Law schools at Georgetown, Columbia, Stanford, the University of Michigan, UC Davis and UCLA have also since opted out of the rankings.
“Nothing about Berkeley Law is fundamentally changed by this decision,” said Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky in a press release. “We will be the law school we’ve always been, and we will strive to improve – in accordance with our values.”
In the announcement, Chemerinsky cited three major reasons for the decision.
In addition to alleging that the current methodology penalizes schools helping students aiming for a career in public service, Chemerinsky said in the announcement that the current formula disregards graduates who pursue other advanced degrees. He added that the ranking prioritizes per student expenditure, something Berkeley Law does not believe is critical to the legal profession and the school’s role in society, according to Chemerinsky.
Other schools, including Yale, Harvard and Georgetown, also cited the same concerns in their own announcements.
“What people have done now is people reduce everything to a ranking. One school is No. 1, the other is No. 2; clearly number one is better. That actually is not good information,” said Georgetown Law Center Dean William Treanor. “There are all sorts of different schools, you can’t just reduce it down to a single metric.”
Treanor noted that if USNWR were to “significantly change” their methodology, Georgetown Law Center might be willing to rejoin the rankings. In particular, Treanor said he and other law school deans want to see the focus on per student spending, which Treanor alleged encourages schools to increase tuition, change.
Daniel Contreras, a Berkeley Law alumnus, disagreed with rejoining the rankings even if the methodology were substantially changed. Contreras said in an email the rankings incentivize prospective students to look at the “perceived prestige” of a school rather than the quality of education one might receive.
“The methodology is questionable at best, and I think lawyers who pay close attention to the USNWR rankings need to reconsider what makes a person a good lawyer,” Contreras said in an email. “The decision to go to law school is an incredibly important one, and prospective students shouldn’t make that decision by looking at an arbitrary list.”
Contreras added that if he were to change the USNWR law school ranking methodology, he would remove all factors that disadvantage students from low-income backgrounds. This includes ranking schools on average debt incurred during law school, which Contreras noted favors wealthier students.
In a statement issued Nov. 17, USNWR said the organization will continue to rank all fully accredited law schools regardless of whether the schools submit their data.
Other schools, including the University of Chicago Law School, have decided to continue participating in the rankings.
“Fundamentally, a ranking of schools is an opinion,” said University of Chicago Law School Dean Thomas J. Miles in a press release. “As our University is dedicated to the free expression of ideas and to questioning viewpoints, our aim is not to suppress opinions.”