Law School Rankings Have Little Impact on Applicants’ Choices, Study Finds

Law School Rankings Have Little Impact On Applicants’ Choices, Study Finds

Law school rankings are ‘irrelevant’ to applicants, a new study finds.

The study, done by University of Kentucky law professor Brian Frye and Indiana University law professor Christopher Ryan, tracks the U.S. News rankings of all 197 American Bar Association-accredited law schools over the past decade. The goal was to see whether changes in a school’s ranking were correlated with changes in the academic credentials of its incoming classes.

“In a nutshell, our study shows that the U.S. News law school rankings have been largely irrelevant to prospective law students for a decade, and have recently become entirely irrelevant,” reads the study, titled The Decline and the Fall of the U.S. News Rankings.


The study found that changes in law school rankings did not significantly influence applicants’ preferences.

“If a school’s US News ranking increases, prospective law students should prefer it more the following year, and if it decreases, they should prefer it less,” the authors state. “But in fact, they were at best very weakly positively correlated, and often they are weakly negatively correlated.”

“In other words, prospective law students appear to be largely indifferent to changes in a school’s US News ranking,” the authors add. “This suggests that prospective law students are getting information about which law school to attend from someplace other than US News. And it also suggests that law schools can safely stop paying attention to the US News rankings, because their customers don’t care.” 


Rankings have long been a focal point in law school admissions. However, in recent years, they have faced growing criticism and challenges. In 2022, several elite law schools, including Yale and Harvard, decided to boycott the U.S. News rankings, refusing to hand over data to the publication.

Yale Law School said that the U.S. News methodology undervalues programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession. The rankings, Yale Law argued, unfairly penalized law schools that prioritize such fields.

Sources: Reuters, Above the Law, The New York Times

Next Page: Survey says law school training doesn’t prepare graduates to be junior associates.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.