Statement from Dean Megan Carpenter – Suspending Participation with U.S. News Law School Rankings
When our law school was founded in 1973, we looked around at other law schools and decided that we wanted to stop talking about what was wrong with legal education and start transforming it. Since our founding, we have cultivated an innovative spirit with a mission to educate our students to be pioneering, principled, and practice-ready lawyers.
After careful consideration, we are seizing an important opportunity to suspend our participation with the US News & World Report rankings. It is our opinion that the rankings are seriously flawed, have an outsized negative influence on legal education, and are inconsistent with our values.
Among its flaws, US News negatively influences law schools to place too much emphasis on otherwise helpful tools—LSAT and undergraduate GPA—working to disadvantage students who show merit in other ways. Some information collected by US News is not publicly available nor subject to vetting or authentication. The rankings erode support for public interest careers, disadvantage students who have to take out loans to go to school, and do not reflect the realities of a modern law degree. In practice, they often disadvantage STEM majors and students who have prior work experience.
Over time, these flaws have been magnified to have an outsized negative influence on legal education because of US News’s significant primacy as a rankings system relied upon by prospective students. We believe that a marketplace so heavily influenced by a monolithic rankings system is detrimental to legal education and the legal profession, which needs great lawyers now more than ever. Notwithstanding our decision to suspend participation in US News rankings, we remain committed to sharing relevant data with prospective students so they may make informed decisions.
US News rankings are also inconsistent with our school’s core principles of innovation and being a leader to expand access to legal education. The rankings discourage schools from innovating and developing programs that prepare lawyers for the reality of modern practice and developing the kinds of lawyers we need today.
By any measure, our school has always been a national leader in intellectual property. Our alumni, students, faculty, and staff take great pride in our world-renowned reputation and note we have been ranked as one of the top law schools in the US News Intellectual Property specialty rankings for every year since they began more than 30 years ago. However, our success in this ranking system is not based on factors that benefit students—curriculum, employment, program breadth or depth—but on data derived from a survey asking professors to rank schools on a scale of 1 to 5. It’s time that even schools who have done well on this metric, especially schools who have done well, stand up for what really matters.
Our reputation as a leader in intellectual property pre-dates the US News rankings and will remain so regardless of US News specialty rankings. In fact, we believe that by freeing ourselves from the strictures of US News, we will be able to continue our path to innovation and strengthen our reputation in this field in ways that benefit students and the practice of IP.
To our current students, you might have questions about how this decision might impact jobs. In close consultation with our Dean for Career Services, we have full confidence that our graduates will continue to have access to the same employment opportunities.
To our wonderful network of alumni, Franklin Pierce has been a powerhouse since 1973 and our reputation is based on the strength of graduates like you. To our faculty and staff, I appreciate the robust discussion we have had about this important decision and thank you all for reminding me and all of us how important it is to stand up for principle.
And finally, to our prospective students who are currently weighing all the available information as you consider where to attend law school, avoid overreliance on any single source for decision-making. I encourage you to look at outcomes, bar passage and employment, and programs suited to your needs. Talk with people at various schools, and alumni. As always, our admissions team is here to help you navigate your journey and answer your questions to ensure that you ultimately make the best decision that meets your personal goals and needs.
This is a decision we do not take lightly and is informed by conversations and engagements with a wide range of members of our law school community and UNH leadership. These conversations remind me how honored and privileged I am to lead a school and community of alumni, students, faculty, and staff that care deeply about our school, our reputation, and our mission. I firmly believe that by suspending our participation in the US News rankings we can best fulfill our founding vision to stop talking about what is wrong with legal education and continue to transform it. This decision will free us to continue to innovate to meet the demands of the next generation, which needs powerhouse lawyers now more than ever.
Dean and Professor of Law
University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law