Dear Members of the Fordham Law Community,
I am writing to you about Fordham Law’s participation in the U.S. News & World Report ranking. Fordham Law will no longer provide data about our law school to U.S. News for use in its ranking other than information that is already generally available to the public, which we would provide to anyone. Let me explain my thinking.
Each year, I am proud of the work of our faculty and administrators in teaching and supporting our students and in awe of the accomplishments of our alumni and the support they provide to our law school. Yet each year I know that whether our achievements will be reflected in our U.S. News ranking is a roll of the dice. Bizarre components of the algorithm and the tight clustering of schools means that schools can shoot up or drop down in the ranking based on imperceptible differences in data points. The algorithm has included components of dubious relevance to educational quality while omitting important criteria. U.S. News has recently announced adjustments to its algorithm, but its methodology remains deeply flawed.
More fundamentally, the project of creating a unitary ranking of the nation’s 200 law schools that functions like sports standings sows more misunderstanding than clarity for prospective law students. This is not a problem that can be fixed by tinkering with the formula. U.S. News’ ranking does not answer questions which are key to enabling a prospective student to determine which law schools are the best matches given their career goals and where they want to live and work. It also does not address whether a law school has programs and faculty expertise in a prospective student’s areas of interest or whether a law school has an alumni network that is supportive of students and provides connections and relationships over the course of a career. The U.S. News ranking will not reveal whether the culture and atmosphere at a school is a good fit given a prospective student’s values.
Moreover, U.S. News’ ranking does not capture much of what we prize most about Fordham Law—the strength and warmth of our community, the excellence of our faculty, our commitment to service, the richness of our many academic programs, the professional values and outlook that we nurture, the leadership of our alumni in the legal profession, and the ways a Fordham Law degree provides value over the arc of our graduates’ careers.
Providing information to U.S. News that is not otherwise publicly available contributes to the fallacy that U.S. News’ ranking is valuable because it is grounded on more information than is available to prospective students directly. The reality is that Fordham Law already publicly provides a plethora of information about the education we provide, including the profile of entering classes, the employment outcomes for students, the strength of our superb faculty and the breadth of our academic offerings and co-curricular activities. Our website also contains information about our alumni community and the Fordham Law network in the legal profession. Moreover, online resources are readily available that enable prospective students to compare schools, including Law School Transparency and the LSAC Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools.
While U.S. News’ ranking is deeply flawed, much of the pernicious effect of the rankings stems from the attention that the ranking too often has received within legal academia and in the legal profession. Rankings and ratings are part of our culture and will not disappear. The U.S. News ranking will not go away. Rather than treating the U.S. News rankings as the scorecard for law schools, we need to take it as one curious data point about law schools among many—a data point that reflects U.S. News’ problematic values and judgments which are baked into its algorithm. In short, we all need to collectively lower the stakes around the U.S. News ranking. If we can achieve this goal, prospective students will make better choices and law schools will better serve the profession.
Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law