Law School Deans, Law Schools, Rankings, U.S. News

Law School Making Excuses About Its Low Ranking Before U.S. News Is Even Released


Dear MSU Law students,

Welcome back! I hope you all have a great Spring Break, especially the Alternative Spring Break students who worked in Louisiana and New Jersey handling tax issues of people still recovering from disaster.

I’m writing because the US News law school rankings are due to be released this week. These rankings are terribly flawed, with next-to-nothing in the formula that directly reflects the quality of the education we offer. Even worse, parts of the US News ranking formula conflict fundamentally with the best interest of our students. For example, you might be surprised that the US News formula rewards law schools that raise tuition as much as possible. For us, trying to keep tuition costs under control to limit student debt is much more important than whatever we lose in the rankings from that budgetary restraint.

But, these rankings are important because many people rely on them in spite of their deep flaws. This year is impossible to predict because US News has announced that it is changing the formula for counting employment statistics, but has not disclosed what the change will be. The change could help or hurt us, depending on what it is. We might stay the same, move up, or move down.

In spite of their flaws, we pay careful attention to the rankings. My goal is to manage to the rankings formula as much as we can, but not let the rankings undermine our bigger commitments to continually improve the quality of the education and services we provide to MSU Law students. If we do well this year, we should enjoy the success while remembering the flaws and keeping the results in perspective. If we do not do well, we will analyze the results and plan for the new formula as effectively as possible. Whatever happens, I look forward to discussing these and other issues with interested students.

Again, welcome back! Joan Howarth

Joan W. Howarth
Dean and Professor of Law
Michigan State University College of Law

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