The 2020 U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Schools rankings have been released and Yale Law School is ranked first once again. The report ranks law schools based on a weighted average of 12 measures of quality, including the employment choices of the Class of 2017. In my view, USNWR continues to use a misguided employment methodology that devalues public interest and academic career choices. 

In determining placement success, USNWR gives full weight only to positions that are full-time, last one year or longer, are not funded by their law school, and for which bar passage is required or a J.D. degree is an advantage in securing the job. According to USNWR, these are “real law jobs” and thus the only jobs for which a graduate should be counted as employed. Applying this standard to our graduates, USNWR deems unemployed the 22 members of the Class of 2017 (nearly 10% of the Class) who secured one of our prestigious post-graduate year-long full-time public interest fellowships. These include the Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship, endowed to honor one of Yale Law School’s graduates, Arthur Liman YLS ’57; the Robert L. Bernstein Fellowship in International Human Rights, established in 1997 to honor Robert Bernstein, the founder and former chair of Human Rights Watch; and the Robina Foundation Post-Graduate Fellowships in International Human Rights supported by the Robina Foundation, just to name a few. 

We take great pride in the fact that we offer three times as many public interest, post-graduate fellowships per student as any of our peers. Our fellowships are highly competitive, year-long positions for which fellows are paid market-based salaries and benefits. These fellowships enable our graduates to jumpstart their careers while tackling complex and important legal issues involving immigration reform, the environment, and disability rights among many other areas. After their fellowships, our graduates are hired permanently by their fellowship organizations or go on to clerkships, law firms, and other jobs armed with crucial practice experience and a deep appreciation for the importance of service. 

The USNWR employment methodology also devalues academia. Among our Class of 2017 graduates, six (nearly 3% of the Class) entered graduate programs immediately after graduation with the goal of joining the legal academy. These graduates will undoubtedly secure meaningful employment upon completion of their degree programs and yet USNWR has deemed them unemployed.

Ultimately, I encourage prospective students not to rely on the employment choices that USNWR deems to have value, but instead to view each law school’s detailed employment statistics (available on their websites or through the ABA) and to ask schools in depth questions about their graduates’ employment choices and law school-funded opportunities. I am confident that at YLS, you will like what you hear.

Kelly Voight
Assistant Dean, Career Development Office
Yale Law School