Group Tries to Start Boycott of U.S. News Law School Rankings

Law school academics try to prevent U.S. News from obtaining LSAT scores.

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The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) recently issued a  statement urging law school deans and faculty members to work with the American Bar Association (ABA) to reduce the influence of the U.S.News & World Report law school rankings and to withhold the release of LSAT scores to U.S. News.

SALT’s statement says, in part:

“We write this statement on behalf of the Society of American Law Teachers to urge your support of the actions of Dean Alfredo Garcia, at St. Thomas University School of Law, FL in refusing to participate in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. As you well know, the rankings exert enormous pressure on deans and faculties to reshape admissions practices and divert scarce resources. While we understand the pressures that lead most law schools to participate in the rankings while criticizing the methodology, we also know that a concerted effort by deans and faculty members could dramatically reduce if not eliminate the many pernicious effects of the rankings.  We understand the pragmatic issues involved in suggesting law schools boycott the ranking process, yet we believe that deans, with the support of their faculties, have the power to address the many injustices created by the rankings. Thus, we encourage you and your colleagues to confront the influence of the U.S. News rankings by working with the ABA to devise a strategy to withhold the release of LSAT scores to U.S. News; by working collaboratively to establish alternate sources of consumer education; and by educating colleagues, students and alumni about the specific ways in which the ranking system compromises legal education while threatening the diversity of the profession.”

Here’s the U.S. News take on this: SALT’s focus on the U.S. News ranking and the use of the LSAT in the rankings is misplaced.  The median LSAT scores of the most recent entering class does count for 12.5 percent of each law school’s overall score in the ranking.

However, it’s important to remember that U.S. News does not sit in law school admission offices or make admission decisions on specific candidates, it does not set admissions standards for law schools,  it did not decide that LSAT scores are required for law school admission, and it has not published studies like the Law School Admissions Council—the organization that runs the LSAT test—has that state that LSAT scores are linked to law school performance. 

Based on our research, LSAT scores are the most important indicator of whether an applicant will be admitted to a particular school. They also are standardized, making them a key tool to compare schools, unlike undergraduate grade point averages. As long as the ABA requires the LSAT as part of admissions, U.S. News will keep LSAT scores in the ranking formula.  

SALT contends that some law schools manage their LSAT scores because of our ranking, and that the median score inhibits law schools from taking students whose LSAT profile is at a far lower level than their standard.

U.S. News believes that its law school rankings are not hindering diversity at law schools since we use the median (or midpoint)—not the average—LSAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages as ranking factors. The median gives schools considerable flexibility to accept students with very low LSAT and undergraduate grades without lowering the school’s actual median LSAT and grade-point average—and in turn, without negatively affecting their U.S. News rankings. 

Even if law schools and deans decided not to report LSAT scores to U.S. News, LSAT scores would still be available to be used in the rankings. Both the ABA and the Law School Admissions Council report LSAT scores at individual schools. U.S. News currently uses the previous year’s LSAT scores for the handful of schools that don’t participate in its survey.

Other articles on this topic are:

The Tax Prof Blog: SALT [Society of American Law Teachers] Calls for U.S. News Rankings Boycott
SALT Press Release
SALT Statement in Support of U.S. News & World Report Boycott 
National Law Journal, Law Scholars Propose to Starve ‘U.S. News’ of LSAT Data