Debates about law school rankings and notions of "hierarchy" typically generate more ink than insight. A recent paper by Olufunmilayo Arewa (UC-Irvine), Andrew P. Morriss (Alabama), and William D. Henderson (Indiana), Enduring Hierarchies in American Legal Education, however, is one notable exception. The paper draws on a rich and diverse array of data sets, some of which span decades. (By sheer happenstance, the paper's circulation coincides with the distribution of US News ballots for its annual (2014) rankings.) Equally important, this paper contributes to a foundation for future empirical work on legal education and law schools. The abstract follows.
"Although much attention has been paid to U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of U.S. law schools, the hierarchy it describes is a long-standing one rather than a recent innovation. In this Article, we show the presence of a consistent hierarchy of U.S. law schools from the 1930s to the present, provide a categorization of law schools for use in research on trends in legal education, and examine the impact of U.S. News’s introduction of a national, ordinal ranking on this established hierarchy. The Article examines the impact of such hierarchies for a range of decision-making in law school contexts, including the role of hierarchies in promotion, tenure, publication, and admissions, for employers in hiring, and for prospective law students in choosing a law school. This Article concludes with suggestions for ways the legal academy can move beyond existing hierarchies and at the same time address issues of pressing concern in the legal education sector. Finally, the Article provides a categorization of law schools across time that can serve as a basis for future empirical work on trends in legal education and scholarship."