For anyone interested in the rankings process for professional degree programs

Who Responds to U.S. News & World Report’s Law School Rankings?

U.S. News & World Report (USN&WR) publishes annual rankings of ABA-approved law schools. The popularity of these rankings raises the question of whether they influence the behavior of law teachers, lawyers and judges, law school applicants, employers, or law school administrators. This study explores some indicia of USN&WR influence. Using data purchased from USN&WR, we attempt to determine whether USN&WR might have influenced (1) law faculty members who respond to the USN&WR survey of law school quality, (2) lawyers who respond to USN&WR surveys, (3) law school applicants choosing a school, (4) employers who hire law school graduates, and (5) administrators who set tuition. We find significant effects on the first three groups, particularly with respect to lower-rank schools. That is, there may be “echo effects” of USN&WR rankings that are folded back into subsequent rankings and tend to stabilize them. We also find that rankings may exert some influence on tuition at law schools outside the top 40. We do not find evidence that employers hiring law graduates respond to changes in USN&WR rankings, either in median salaries paid or in employment percentages reported by law schools.