Of Law School Rankings and Football

18 Pages Posted: 20 May 2020 Last revised: 21 May 2020

See all articles by CJ Ryan

CJ Ryan

Roger Williams University School of Law; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: May 20, 2020


U.S. News & World Report recently announced its intention to offer a new ranking measuring the scholarly impact of law schools’ faculty members. In producing the ranking, U.S. News & World Report will collaborate 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 this data, U.S. News & World Report plans to create a “comprehensive scholarly impact ranking of law schools.”

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

Keywords: Legal Education, Law Schools, Rankings, U.S. News & World Report, Scholarly Impact, Football

JEL Classification: I20, I23, K30, Z20

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Christopher, Of Law School Rankings and Football (May 20, 2020). Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3606008

Christopher Ryan (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
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