Cornell Law School Dean Jens Ohlin released a statement on Wednesday, Nov. 23 addressing the trend of top law schools withdrawing from the U.S. News and World Report rankings. Cornell will not withdraw from the rankings at this time, according to the statement.
Cornell Law refrained from issuing a statement when peer institutions began withdrawing from the rankings last week.
Ohlin said in the statement that while he believes the rankings distort academic decision-making, do not capture the institutional quality and create incentives adverse to the interests of the legal profession, withdrawal from the rankings is not the solution.
“Withdrawal from the rankings process will not have the desired impact that many assume that it will have,” Ohlin wrote in his statement.
Ohlin cited reasons for the decision to not withdraw in his statement as well. He noted that U.S. News said that it will continue to rank the law schools, regardless of their withdrawal. Additionally, he mentioned that all law schools are required to report the same data used in the rankings to the American Bar Association, which is publicly made available.
“The reality is that [the] U.S. News & World Report is a journalistic enterprise, and they don’t need anyone’s permission, including mine, to publish a ranking,” Ohlin wrote in his statement, “and they have ready access to information from the ABA and other public sources to construct their rankings.”
Ohlin said that regardless of whether Cornell Law withdraws from the rankings, he believes a deeper conversation needs to be had on the role of rankings in legal education, professional practice and in higher education overall.
“We should move to a world where all of us — faculty, administrators, students and applicants — focus on academic quality instead of numerical rankings that are, at best, a crude proxy for the reality on the ground, and at worst, a fundamental distraction from academic progress,” Ohline wrote. “I pledge myself to this effort.”
Last week, Georgetown Law, Stanford Law and Columbia Law — Ohlin’s alma mater — also joined Yale, Harvard and Berkeley in withdrawing from the rankings. The University of Michigan Law School, ranked 10th, announced its withdrawal last week as well.