Stanford Law Dean Jenny Martinez shared the following message with the SLS community on November 18, 2022, stating that the law school will not participate in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of best law schools.
Dear SLS –
Stanford Law School has made the decision to withdraw from the US News law school ranking. US News and other rankings have long been a topic of conversation and internal study by our faculty at SLS. We know that well-formulated rankings, along with other publicly available data, can provide a valuable service to prospective students. In the spirit of providing useful information to prospective students and improving the ability of law schools to do their best for students, we have been one of a number of law schools who have approached US News over time with concrete suggestions to improve its ranking methodology, to no avail.
Stanford Law has stood near the very top of the rankings for many years, and we are lucky to be in a position where the rankings do not significantly affect our decisions. However, we agree with many of the points that other schools have presented about how the rankings methodology distorts incentives in ways that are harmful to legal education as a whole. For example, the US News ranking methodology inappropriately discourages public service by treating students whose schools provide fellowships to support such work much the same as it treats students who are unemployed. In a world where interdisciplinary expertise is increasingly important, it also treats students pursuing another advanced degree, such as an MBA or PhD, as unemployed. The ways in which it weights per-student expenditures and measures debt, including excluding schools’ public service loan repayment programs, further distorts incentives in ways that act against students’ interests. Stanford Law School is proud to be one of the few law schools that offers exclusively need-based financial aid, and believes more schools across all tiers of legal education would be able to emphasize need-based financial aid, admit students from all walks of life, and keep expenditures down if the rankings methodology were different.
By joining with the other schools that have chosen to withdraw from participation in the US News rankings this year, we hope to increase the chances that the methodology is seriously overhauled, not only to reduce perverse incentives but to provide clearer and more relevant information that prospective students would find genuinely useful in making decisions about which law schools best match their interests and needs. In the meantime, we will be compiling data that we hope will be considerably more transparent and usable than the information that US News provides and will better help applicants determine whether SLS meets their educational and career aspirations.