Volume 110

Of Law School Rankings, Disparity, and Football

by Christopher J. Ryan, Jr.

U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) announced in February 2019 its intention to debut its new ranking measuring the scholarly impact of law schools’ faculty members. In producing the ranking, USNWR has collaborated with William S. Hein & Co., Inc., which specializes in distributing legal periodicals to “link the names of each individual law school’s faculty to citations and publications that were published in the previous five years and are available in HeinOnline, an online database with more than 2,600 legal periodicals.” From these data, USNWR plans to create and publish a “comprehensive scholarly impact ranking of law schools.” However, this ranking has yet to be printed, allowing legal academics to challenge the notion that we need it at all. 

This new ranking of scholarly impact is as interesting as it is problematic. In this Article, I unpack a few of the problems inherent in the newly proposed ranking of scholarly impact. Because I am starved for sports in this COVID-19 world, I do so through the analogy of football penalties. Part I describes what rankings of law schools should do and where they fall short. Part II examines the potential effect of the proposed USNWR scholarly impact ranking, focusing on the inequalities that they are sure to perpetuate. Part III continues by discussing whom rankings of law schools are for—or whom should they be for. Finally, this Article concludes with suggestions about how scholarly impact rankings could be improved, and if not improved, ignored. 

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