A Cross-Case Analysis of Top-25 U.S. Law Schools in the U.S. News and World Report Rankings from 1998-2012

A Cross-Case Analysis of Top-25 U.S. Law Schools in the U.S. News and World Report Rankings from 1998-2012

Brooks Seay


Emory Law School

2012

Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 12-184

Abstract:
For law schools, U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings dominate discussion on how law schools compare to one another. In addition to focusing rivalry, U.S. News’ ranking criteria has a powerful influence over the management of U.S. legal education. Also, American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation standards require law schools to make expensive investments that reinforce uniformity and increase costs. As a consequence, the prevailing practices of elite, or top-25, law schools are largely undifferentiated and conformity is the norm. At the same time, elite law schools are aggressively seeking to improve their position in the existing hierarchy by displacing one or more higher ranked law schools. The upward spiraling effect of schools pursuing identical strategies has resulted in strategic convergence, eliminating any meaningful distinction between close competitors. However, law schools ranked in the top-25 by U.S. News have changed over time.

In this quantitative method study, I will focus on four institutions that have moved significantly in the U.S. News top-25 rankings. I will determine what key factors were at play in their movement since 1998 and why these changes have occurred. Finally, my research design contemplates studying two private schools and two public schools. In doing so, I will examine whether public and private schools are facing similar competitive challenges or whether distinctions appear in this cross-band comparison of law schools.

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