Message from Dean Abrams regarding withdrawal from U.S. News rankings
In a Nov. 21 message to faculty, staff, and students, Dean Kerry Abrams announced that Duke Law School will no longer participate in the annual ranking of law schools.
Dear Duke Law community:
For more than 30 years, Duke Law School has participated in the annual ranking of law schools published by U.S. News. Although Duke Law has been among the top cohort of institutions in every edition, we have long had serious concerns that the design and influence of these rankings create incentives that are not aligned with our mission and our values. At a time of critical focus on access to legal education and the legal profession, we think it’s important to recognize this unfortunate impact and push for change. Therefore, Duke Law will no longer participate in the U.S. News rankings.
We recognize that prospective students need information to guide them through the process of choosing a law school. When they were initially published, in an era when information about schools was available only through print media, the U.S. News rankings provided a helpful, albeit imperfect, service to applicants who otherwise would find it difficult to learn about the variety of existing educational programs.
Today, however, we believe that the U.S. News law school rankings are having a detrimental effect on legal education. The rankings rely on flawed survey techniques and opaque and arbitrary formulas, lacking the transparency needed to help applicants make truly informed decisions. They create the wrong incentives by rewarding schools for the amount they spend, regardless of whether this money is spent directly on the student experience, rather than prioritizing outcomes that really matter to students, such as the long-term employment of graduates. The current iteration of the rankings incentivizes merit-based financial aid over need-based aid, disadvantages schools that offer public interest fellowships to graduates, and rewards schools that place undue weight on standardized test scores in the admissions process by treating small point differences as if they reflect meaningful distinctions in academic potential. The rankings also threaten to stifle innovation by relying on past reputation over current performance.
Duke Law will continue to provide extensive data to help prospective students make informed decisions, including detailed information on the demographics of our students and employment outcomes of our graduates. We hope that the future will bring a greater variety of approaches to ranking law schools, helping applicants to be discerning consumers of information about the educational options available to them.