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Justice Thomas says law school rankings cause discrimination

Supreme Court justice criticizes U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Law Schools list

It’s the list that prospective law students anxiously await each year: U.S. News & World Report’s Best Law Schools ranking. Many pre-law students place a high value on these rankings. Kaplan Test Prep recently reported that 32 percent of prospective law students say a law school’s ranking is most important when choosing a school to attend.

But one Supreme Court justice says U.S. News & World Report’s rankings aren’t so great. In fact, he says, they cause discrimination.

On Friday, while speaking at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, Justice Clarence Thomas criticized the popular annual rankings, saying the obsession with them is perverse and that they cause discrimination against students who attend lower-tiered law schools.

“Isn’t that the antithesis of what this country is supposed to be about? Isn’t that the bias that we fought about on racial terms, or on terms of sex, or on terms of religion, etc.?” Justice Thomas said. “My new bias—which I now embrace—is that I don’t eliminate the Ivies in hiring, but I intentionally prefer kids from regular backgrounds and regular students.”

Justice Thomas said his new outlook is thanks to his recent clerks who graduated from schools such as Rutgers School of Law-Newark, George Mason University School of Law, The George Washington University Law School and Creighton University School of Law. The clerks educated Justice Thomas about derogatory terms such as “third-tier trash” that people use to describe their alma maters.

Justice Thomas isn’t alone in his criticism of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. Recent law school graduates, citing a dismal legal job market and rising law school debt, say pre-law students should place a higher value on education affordability and job placement statistics rather than law school rankings.

For more InsideCounsel stories about law school and the post-law school job market, read:

Median first-year associate salaries drop to $145,000

Rankings shouldn’t be primary concern for prospective law school students

DOJ says LSAT is discriminatory

ABA will discuss accreditation of foreign law schools

Judge tosses Cooley Law grads’ lawsuit

Study ranks most-cited law professors

Median starting salaries plummet

Law school applicants value school rankings over job placement rates

2011 law school grads face worst job market in 18 years

Law school debt estimates exceed $200,000 for class of 2015

20 more law schools to be sued for misleading jobs data

U.S. News & World Report names 2013 best law schools

Contributing Author

Ashley Post

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