Law Students

New Study Shows that Law School Heirarchy Long Preceded Annual Ranking
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Has the U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings arbitrarily skewed which law schools are truly elite, making distinctions that have no practical meaning? Those ranked lower on the chart may allege this is the case, and resentment has always found ways of undermining the pomp and circumstance of their superiors, but a new study that will be published in the Indiana Law Journal, entitled “Enduring Hierarchies in American Legal Education,” suggests otherwise. Its authors, Irvine School of Law professor Olufunmilayo Arewa, University of Alabama School of Law professor Andrew Morris, and Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington professor William Henderson make the case that such elitist hierarchies have remained mostly unchanged since the beginning, and if anything, the U.S. News & World Report only made this more visible.

“Schools have opened, changed position, changed names or university affiliations, or closed, and we show that relatively little movement has occurred between segments of the hierarchy since the 1920s,” the authors wrote, as reported by the National Law Journal. “Moreover, while the U.S. News rankings have brought the competition among schools for places within the hierarchy more into the open, the competition—including aspects similar to those decried today—long pre-dates the rankings.”


Schools like Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, and the University of Chicago Law School are by no means arbitrary selections, but perennial favorites. After all, it was Harvard Law dean Christopher Langdell who founded the case method that would revolutionize law school forever, and with the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools arising as meta-institutions, law schools had a bench mark by which to rank themselves and establish their effectuality.

Using 16 factors to rank the schools, including contributions to scholarly journals, and various law school rankings, it became apparent to the authors that the elite really are the elite, and long have been, and that the U.S. ranking did not invent the idea nor arbitrarily select its pecking order.

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