I am writing to you about recent developments surrounding the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings. Some of you may be closely following the news about which law schools will continue to provide information to U.S. News and which have announced that they will not. Others may have a vague sense that the rankings landscape has shifted. And for still others, this letter may be the first time you hear of it.
Wherever you are in the process of considering your legal education, I want to draw your attention to these developments because they concern you. They concern your plans for law school and your ability to make a well-informed choice about what law school you will choose to attend. A legal education is transformative — it can transform how you think, and it can transform your career prospects and life trajectory. It can also be expensive. Choosing a law school is a decision you should make with as much information as possible about what kind of education you will receive, what kind of community you are joining, and what kind of support for your professional dreams you can expect.
Rankings can provide helpful guidance, and U.S. News has long aggregated data about law schools. That said, overreliance on a single source can distort decision-making, and any given ranking is only as useful as the relevance and accuracy of the comparative information on which it is based. For some time, I and many other legal educators have suggested ways for U.S. News to better align its rankings with the values and goals of legal education and the information applicants might find most pertinent to their law school experience.
As they currently stand, the U.S. News rankings fail to capture much of what we value at UVA — facilitating access to legal education and the legal profession for students from every background; fostering the free exchange of ideas within a community of joy, humanity, and trust; providing top-notch teaching by accomplished faculty; supporting public service; and launching our graduates into the stellar career paths of their choosing.
This year, the U.S. News rankings will provide less guidance than usual. A number of law schools — including nearly all of UVA’s peers — have announced that they will withhold data from U.S. News. In response, U.S. News has said it will continue to rank all law schools, but it has not said how it will account for the departed schools’ missing information or what changes it might make in response to the critiques law schools have articulated. Schools might move up or down the rankings, perhaps significantly, not because their quality has changed but because U.S. News has changed its formula in ways that are neither transparent nor meaningful.
Because of this instability, and because of our concerns that the rankings do not adequately capture the values of our law school, the University of Virginia School of Law will not provide requested data to U.S. News this year. We will continue to engage with U.S. News as it undertakes possible changes to the rankings, and we remain open to revisiting our decision in the future. Regardless of rankings, we will continue to provide the world-class legal education and the unparalleled student experience for which UVA is known.
I imagine that some of you might be concerned about the uncertainty of this moment. But I hope instead that you feel empowered. You have the power to decide what kind of education you want and to find a school that shares your priorities. Your legal education is too important to outsource to anyone. I urge you to ask many questions, consult the wide variety of publicly available information, and explore and visit the schools in which you are interested.
Toward that end, we have created a new webpage that collects some of the wealth of information available elsewhere on our website. This new page shares with you what we at UVA think are the important considerations in choosing a law school, helps you get to know us, and enables you to make the best choice for your legal education.
All my best,
Dean, UVA School of Law