Harvard drops out of top 3 in annual law school rankings

A man walks through Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts November 16, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

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  • Harvard Law School has been in the top three in US News rankings for three decades
  • NYU Law, Georgetown Among Other Schools Move Up Rankings

(Reuters) – Harvard Law School has been ranked No. 4 in the law school rankings published tuesday by US News & World Report, marking only the second time in more than three decades that the elite school has not made the top three on the annual list.

Longtime No. 1 Yale Law School still tops the list of top-ranked schools, and Stanford retained its No. 2 spot. University of Chicago Law School won a spot to supplant Harvard at No. 3, while Columbia Law School tied with Harvard at No. 4.

A spokesperson for Harvard Law declined to comment on the ranking.

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US News does not publicly disclose its full ranking formula. Available data shows a slight drop from last year in Harvard’s “peer review” among law scholars and a slight drop in the employment rate of graduates.

“Is Harvard a worse school today than it was yesterday? Of course not,” said law school consultant Mike Spivey. “But Harvard will be the buzz.”

US News began ranking American Bar Association-accredited law schools in 1990, which was the only other year Harvard landed outside the top 3. (It was #5 that year.)

Current rankings are based on law school peer reviews and assessments of attorneys and judges, as well as Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores, first grade point averages. undergraduate, employment and bar admission rates, student borrowing, and spending per student. , among other factors.

Law school administrators have criticized the rankings, saying they incentivize schools to channel financial aid to applicants with high LSAT scores relative to those who need it most. But they are closely watched within the law academy and among future law students and alumni.

Harvard wasn’t the only school to change places in the latest list.

Among so-called T-14 schools, which are in the top 14 of US News’ rankings, New York University Law School slipped one spot to No. 7 after being No. 6 for at least 2011. Duke Law School and Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law each dropped one position to #11 and #13, respectively.

Georgetown University Law Center joined the T-14, ranking at No. 14 after falling to No. 15 for the first time last year.

The biggest gainer in this year’s rankings was the University of Montana Law School, which moved up 31 places to 103rd. City University of New York (CUNY) Law School saw the biggest drop, dropping 21 spots to land at No. 133.

(Note: This story has been updated to clarify a comment by Mike Spivey.)

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Jon J. Epps