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Monday, March 31, 2008

US News Hacked?: Does the US News Web Site Display 3rd Tier & 4th Tier Law Schools Ranked in Order?

In its published version of its law school rankings, US News lists schools in the "third tier" and "fourth tier" alphabetically, rather than in ranked order.  One of my colleagues has noticed an anomaly in this year's on-line version of rankings which, it appears, reveals the full ordinal ranking of third-tier schools in "batches" which correspond to "tied" scores. (Also noted a few days ago by the perceptive folks at the Legal Ethics Forum).

When viewing the "third tier" electronically on the US News web site, schools are not listed alphabetically.  In the third tier, for example, the first listed school is Creighton University (Creighton is not the first alphabetically).  Schools then appear in alphabetized groups which, it seems, reveal the full rankings:  wherever there is a tie in the top-100, US News has listed schools alphabetically. It appears that the web site does the same.

For the ordinal listing of 3rd and 4th Tier Schools, read on...

A few caveats.  It is possible that, in a few instances, a school that is is "bunched" alone following a group of schools that precede the school alphabetically.  In that case, schools might falsely appear to be tied.  Second, I post this not because I endorse the US News rankings, or its methodology. I am conscious of some of the dangers of ranking more law schools (see Tom Bell's post on this here).  But this information appears to now be in the public domain, and I'm curious (see below) why and what it means. 

Second Tier

* * *

99.      Hofstra

100. (Tie) Mercer, Stetson, Syracuse, U. Buffalo, U.Louisville

Third Tier

105. (Tie) Creighton, U. Arkansas (Fayetteville), U. Maine

108. (Tie) Michigan State University, Quinnipiac U., U. Mississippi, U. Toledo

112. (Tie) Albany, U. Akron, U.  Montana, U. San Francisco, U. St. Thomas (MN), Vermont

118. (Tie) Drake, Gonzaga, Howard, New York Law School, U. Idaho, U. Missouri-Kansas City, W. Virginia

125. (Tie) Cleveland State, Loyola - New Orleans, Texas Tech., U. Baltimore, U. Wyoming, Wayne State U.

131. (Tie) Chapman, Franklin Pierce, Hamline, Pace, U. Arkansas-Little Rock, Washburn

137.  (Tie) Ohio Northern, Samford (Cumberland), Suffolk, U. South Dakota, Willamette

Fourth Tier

142. U. North Dakota

143. (Tie) Campbell, So. Illinois, Southwestern, U. Memphis, U. Tulsa, Valparaiso

149. Northern Illinois

150. (Tie) CUNY,  William Mitchell

152. U. Dayton

153. (Tie) Duquesne, Florida International, John Marshall

156. (Tie) California Western, Northern Kentucky

158. (Tie) Nova Southeastern University, Roger Williams U., Widener

161. (Tie) Capital, Whittier

163. (Tie) Mississippi College, South Texas, St. Mary's, Texas Wesleyan, U. Detroit

168. (Tie) N.C. Central, Oklahoma City U., Texas Southern

171. (Tie) Florida Coastal, Regent, Western New England

174. (Tie) Golden Gate, New England, Southern, St. Thomas (FL), Thomas Jefferson

179. (Tie) Ave Maria, Touro

181. (Tie) Barry, Thomas Cooley, U. District of Columbia

184. Appalachian

Now some questions.  First, was this intentional?  Some critics have suggested US News should rank all law schools to avoid the exaggerated effect of slipping from Tier 2 to Tier 3 (something my employer did this year).  A drop from spot 104 in the rankings to 105 pushes one out of the ranked list and into (at least in the published version) alphabetical-land (Sorry, Creighton!).  Was US News trying to answer these critics without broadcasting that it was doing so?  My guess is that leaks prompted US News to rush the web site on-line, and that they missed this quirk, but who knows?

Second, how long will it take before US News changes its web page? 

Posted by Geoffrey Rapp on March 31, 2008 at 05:19 PM | Permalink


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Hmm. I can't seem to get the URL to appear. I'll try one more time, here.

Posted by: Tom W. Bell | Apr 2, 2008 5:29:36 PM

USN&WR has now disabled that feature, explaining that it was there by mistake. See .

Posted by: Tom W. Bell | Apr 2, 2008 5:27:49 PM

US News verifies that the rankings continue on through the third tier in the online version. This appears to be an added incentive to purchase the "premium edition"

(See #15)

Go State!

Posted by: Sparty | Apr 2, 2008 8:26:05 AM

In the printed version, the schools ranked at #100 (Mercer, Stetson, Syracuse, Buffalo and Louisville) are listed in both the top 100 and in the alphabetical third tier. So do they need to call themselves second/third tier schools?

Posted by: Joe Camel | Apr 1, 2008 9:51:38 AM

We are painfully aware of this phenomenon at William Mitchell. When we slip to the fourth tier, as we did this year, the alphabetical listing makes us appear to the absolute last place law school in the country. Some of my colleagues have (only halfway facetiously)suggested a name change just to improve our alphabetical ranking.

Posted by: Donna Byrne | Apr 1, 2008 9:14:45 AM

Jason -- thank for catching that misnumbering -- I've made the change you've suggested.

In the past, the on-line versions have not allowed sorting by rank for schools in the "Third Tier" and "Fourth Tier", from what I recall. So I am just in a bit of a wonder that US News would choose to make such a shift without at least mentioning it. To the extent it was deliberate, to not be obvious about it (given that it was something the mag had been criticized for before) is an interesting choice.

Posted by: Geoff | Mar 31, 2008 8:12:56 PM

I noticed this as well. I don't think it is an error because the top of the table includes sort by rank/name buttons.

Posted by: Bill Sjostrom | Mar 31, 2008 7:54:31 PM

Your numbers are off by one beginning with Cleveland State, etc. That tie is for 125, not 124 (as 7 schools are tied for 118). Each number below that should be one larger--there are 184 schools ranked this year, so Appalachian is number 184, not 183.

I share your intuition that this was a mistake, but thank goodness. It gives us a fascinating glimpse into the differences that put our sub-104 schools where they are. It's now relatively clear to us why my school is where it is, and I hope this focuses our attention AWAY from these silly rankings and toward a careful policy analysis of how best to run our particular institution with our particular goals.

Posted by: Jason Kilborn | Mar 31, 2008 7:52:07 PM

We were wondering the same thing over at legalethicsforum.com:
http://legalethicsforum.typepad.com/blog/2008/03/more-on-us-news.html#comments and

Posted by: Andrew Perlman | Mar 31, 2008 7:51:20 PM

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