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Indiana University’s two law schools say they are still deciding whether to join the list of law schools defying US News & World Report’s annual ranking. Conversely, Notre Dame has declined to comment on 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 that their institutions are evaluating their options and watching what others do law schools do.
Notre Dame responded to a request from Indiana Lawyer that she had “nothing to share at this time.”
Over the past 10 years, Indiana’s three accredited law schools have taken significantly different paths in the rankings.
In the 2023 ranking published in March this year, IU Maurer took 43rd placeapproxsteadily falling since the 26thth 2013 rankings. IU McKinney bounced back to 98thth in the 2023 ranking after a drop to 122nd in 2021. Notre Dame was consistently ranked in the mid-20s, finishing at #25th place in the 2023 survey.
Since Yale Law School, No. 1 in the ranking for more than 10 years, announced on November 16 that it would no longer participate in the ranking process, 11 other schools have followed suit. Only three of the boycotting schools are not in the top tier of the rankings, the so-called T-14 schools.
A statement from Robert Morse, chief data strategist at US News, said the magazine will continue to rank all fully accredited law schools, regardless of whether they participate.
“We respect each institution’s decision whether or not to submit its data to US News,” Morse said in the statement. “However, US News has an obligation to prospective students to provide comparative information that will enable them to evaluate these institutions. As such, US News will continue to rank the nearly 200 accredited law schools in the United States.”
Law schools have long attacked the methodology US News uses to compile the rankings.
In justifying its decision to stop participating, Yale condemned the ranking as “deeply flawed” and “undermines the core obligations of the legal profession.” The Ivy League institution said it sees the annual survey as discouraging for law schools to set up programs that financially support students pursuing careers in the public interest and to admit and support students of modest means.
Ochoa and Bravo also expressed concern about the way US News compiles the rankings and the impact the rankings are having.
“Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law is carefully considering whether to stop providing data to US News,” Ochoa said in a statement. “For many years, our law school, along with many others in US News, has pleaded that it be more responsive to the criticisms and suggestions made of the magazine by law schools subject to its ranking system. Our inquiries stem from our observations that the US News Law School Ranking employs an opaque and flawed methodology that results in serious and negative biases in legal education that do not serve students well and are detrimental to society.
“We are aware that the US News Leaderboards are in discussions with law school deans across the country, and we hope these discussions will lead to a more open dialogue that will result in immediate and long-term substantial improvements,” Ochoa continued . “The Maurer School of Law actively participates in a multi-stakeholder process to consider what is best for our law school and our students.”
Bravo said IU McKinney continues to monitor the changing terrain.
“I think at this point we’re taking a wait-and-see approach, waiting to see what’s going to happen, if anything, and realizing that maybe there won’t be a big impact this year,” Bravo said. “Perhaps there will be an impact in the following year. But I think waiting is best at this point.”
The dean added that the Indianapolis law school still has time to make a decision, and she outlined what her team is monitoring as the situation develops.
“Well, we’re tracking how many schools are announcing they’re not participating and of course what types of schools,” Bravo explained. “Are they schools that are similar to us, or are they schools that are in the top 14 or top 15 of US news? I also always want to qualify when I say it’s based on the US News ranking, not some neutral criteria.”
The first “non-elite law school” to announce that it would stop submitting information to US News was the University of California, Irvine School of Law, which is headed by Austen Parrish, the former dean of IU Maurer .
Parrish released a detailed statement explaining the school’s decision to end participation. In part, he explained, “The manner in which US News has chosen its rankings and the incentives it selects are not consistent with our values or our commitment to public service; Nor is it what executives at the top law firms, nonprofit and government organizations, corporations and others who hire our students appreciate.”