There’s still a global pandemic going on, and law students have been attending classes virtually for over a year now. Thanks to a global vaccine rollout, some students may be able to attend their graduations, and next year, many others will be able to attend class in person. But what people care about right now is law school rankings. How did law schools fare during the coronavirus crisis?
We’re about to find out.
The latest edition of the U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings are out, but not without much controversy. For the first time in what could be history, these rankings were publicly changed three times prior to their release due to several errors and omissions. It’s the kind of thing that really makes you confident in the U.S. News calculations (not really). There’s a fundamental problem with the approach that’s being taken here. If this doesn’t undermine consumer confidence, we don’t know what will. But still, law school deans hoped they were able to retain their ranks or rise, some prospective law students waited to send out seat deposits based on these rankings, and current law students crossed their fingers that the school they’re set to graduate from would be no less prestigious.
That said, here’s the official list of the Top 14 law schools in the nation, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the year 2021. Changes in rank from this year over last year come to us courtesy of Mike Spivey of the Spivey Consulting Group.
(1) Yale University (0)
(2) Stanford University (0)
(3) Harvard University (0)
(4) Columbia University (0)
(4) University of Chicago (0)
(6) New York University (0)
(6) University of Pennsylvania (+1)
(8) University of Virginia (0)
(9) University of California–Berkeley (0)
(10) Duke University (+2)
(10) University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (-1)
(12) Northwestern University (-3)
(13) Cornell University (0)
(14) University of California–Los Angeles (+1)
A new law school has entered the scene. No longer is Georgetown putting the 14 in T14. Welcome to the tippy top of the rankings, UCLA! Penn gets a one-up, but what happened with Northwestern? Whatever the case may be, Duke won out.
Now, let’s take a gander at the law schools outside of the T14. Like years past, we’re faced with yet another rankings orgy, with nothing but ties, ties, and more ties. There are five ties in this segment of the rankings alone (three ties, one three-way tie, and one six-way tie), with more to follow. Here are the schools ranked 15 – 29:
(15) Georgetown University (-1)
(16) University of Texas–Austin (0)
(16) Vanderbilt University (+2)
(16) Washington University in St. Louis (+1)
(19) University of Southern California (-1)
(20) Boston University (0)
(21) University of Florida (+3)
(22) University of Minnesota (-1)
(22) University of Notre Dame (0)
(24) University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (+3)
(25) University of Alabama (+6)
(25) Arizona State University (-1)
(27) University of Georgia (+4)
(27) George Washington University (-4)
(29) Brigham Young University (+8)
(29) Emory University (-5)
(29) Boston College (+2)
(29) University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (+2)
(29) University of Iowa (-2)
(29) University of Wisconsin–Madison (+9)
The big winners here are Alabama, BYU, and Wisconsin, up six, eight, and nine spots in the rankings, respectively. Congratulations to each school, as they must be doing something right to climb the rankings. The biggest loser in this segment of the rankings is obviously Georgetown. The school only dropped one spot, but that one-spot drop that booted the school out of the T14. Emory, of course, lost out on being a Top 25 school, but GULC’s drop here… ::gulp::.
Now, for the rest of the law schools in the Top 50, where there are five ties and one five-way tie. As you can see, there was A LOT of movement here:
(35) Fordham University (-8)
(35) University of California–Irvine (-8)
(35) Washington and Lee University (-4)
(35) William & Mary Law School (-4)
(35) University of California–Davis (+3)
(40) Ohio State University (-2)
(41) George Mason University (+1)
(41) Wake Forest University (+1)
(43) Indiana University–Bloomington (-5)
(43) University of Utah (+2)
(45) University of Washington (-3)
(46) Pepperdine University Caruso (+1)
(46) University of Arizona (+1)
(48) Florida State University (+2)
(48) University of Colorado–Boulder (-2)
(50) University of California–Hastings (+9)
(50) University of Maryland (-3)
The biggest winner here was UC Hastings, which moved up nine places in the 2022 law school rankings, propelling the school into the Top 50. The biggest losers here were Fordham and UC Irvine, with eight-spot drops, respectively. Whatever those schools are doing, they better shape up, because some have already been shipped out of the Top 30 — with others almost out of the Top 50.
The rest of the rankings are available on the next page.
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.