U.S. News’ Rankings: Winners & Losers

University of Kansas Law School

University of Kansas Law School


To see the winners and losers in U.S. News’ 2016 law school rankings, click here.

Do you hear that tapping sound?

For schools like the University of Kansas, it is faculty dancing like Michael Flatley to celebrate their rise in the rankings. And what about fallers like the University of Hawaii?  Well, that rattle is coming from the deans’ keyboards, as they busily update their resumes.

That’s the reality of the U.S. News system. The winners issue press releases and bask in the glory. And the losers engage in soul searching, answering the same questions until next March. Sure, rankings really don’t measure great teaching or students’ ultimate success. But the world needs structure. And U.S. News has cornered the law school market. Right or wrong, their data and formula can make-or-break careers and reputations.


Among this year’s winners is the College of William & Mary, jumping 9 spots to #24. Although most of its 2015 data was equivalent to 2014, there was one area that stood out: Employment. In one year, the school’s employment after 9 months percentage rose from 68.1% to 85.3%, higher than perennial powers like Georgetown, UCLA, Vanderbilt, and the University of Texas. While many of the schools clustered around William & Mary, such as the University of Washington, USC, and the University of Minnesota also showed increased placement, their rates fell far short of The Tribe’s growth.

Another winner was the University of Kansas, which scored the year’s largest increase, going from #86 to #68. Known for aggressively recruiting into Missouri these days, Kansas’ rise also came on the strength of placement, with 74.7% of students landing jobs within 9 months of graduation. And this jump occurred in spite of the Jayhawks receiving a lower assessment from lawyers and judges in 2015 (3.1 vs. 3.2) and accepting a lower GPA floor in their admissions criteria (3.10 vs. 3.22).

Overall, other marked improvements include the University of Miami (+15), the University of Tulsa (+14), Penn State (+13), the University of Missouri-Columbia (+12), the University of Indiana-Indianapolis (+11), the University of Oklahoma (+10), the University of Pittsburgh (+10), and the University of Rutgers-Camden (+10). Notably, Rutgers-Camden leapfrogged its northern counterpart, the University of Rutgers-Newark.


Alas, the rankings aren’t all champagne and lobster. Some schools’ recruiting efforts will be hindered by these new rankings. And none were hurt more than Washington & Lee, which plunged from #26 to #43.  Placement was again a theme, as 9-month hiring dropped from 63.6% in 2014 to 56.9% now. Assessments also pulled Washington & Lee’s ranking down, with legal professionals giving the school a 3.7 aggregate score (down from 4.0), with marks from legal administrators and faculty averaging 3.2 (down from 3.3). Enrollment also declined at the school, going from 457 to 419 students (despite the acceptance rate increasing from 30.3% to 38.1%).

The signs are also pointing down for the University of Hawaii’s Richardson School of Law. Five years ago, it ranked #72 according to U.S. News. Now, it has fallen to #100, dropping 20 spots from the previous year. However, this seems to be a case where the schools around Hawaii are simply getting better. Although the school’s enrollment dropped from 261 to 239 students, its GPA and LSAT ranges were nearly identical to the previous year (and the acceptance rate actually fell, demonstrating the school maintained its standards). However, its 9-month placement rate dipped from 72.3% to 66.0%.