Law School Rankings and Political Ideology: Measuring the Conservative Penalty and Liberal Bonus with Updated 2023 Rankings Data

Michael Conklin:

In 2020, novel research was conducted to measure whether, and to what extent, conservative law schools are punished and liberal law schools are rewarded in the U.S. News & World Report peer rankings. The study found a drastic conservative penalty and liberal bonus that amounted to a difference in the peer rankings of twenty-eight spots. This Article updates the research using the latest political affiliation data and the most recent 2023 rankings data. The updated results produce an astounding thirty-two-place difference in the peer rankings attributable to political ideology. This increase from the 2020 research elicits discussion regarding the effects of recent societal changes in polarization and civility. 

A discussion on how this disparity in the rankings may perpetuate a lack of ideological diversity in legal academia is also discussed. The harm to professors, students, and society at large from such a lack of ideological diversity in law schools is discussed. Finally, this Article concludes by proposing a simple solution to circumvent this manifestation of ideological bias in legal academia.