Various students have been writing recently asking about whether I plan to update the faculty quality rankings, based on the Spring 2003 survey. I had planned to do so, but plans are one thing, and time is another. Right now, I hope to do it in the early fall. The truth is there haven't been that many significant changes in overall faculty quality since the Spring 2003 surveys that students interested in this data should be too concerned. (In fact, no purpose is served by yearly rankings of law schools, since they change at a rather glacial pace; one indication of the unreliability of the US News rankings is that the rank of some schools--such as Emory this year--change dramatically in a single year. Such changes inform us only about the stupidity of the ranking methodology, not about the academic or educational quality of the schools in question.)
On the overall rankings for faculty quality, the top clusters are pretty much the same: Yale dominates; Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford form the next cluster; then Columbia and NYU (though NYU has lost perhaps a bit of ground). Boalt and Virginia have taken some hits since 2003, while Texas and Penn have made some gains, but overall it's still the Boalt/Michigan/Texas/Virginia/Penn cluster. Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, USC, and UCLA are not much changed, though I'd guess that Duke and UCLA would fare a bit better, and Cornell, Northwestern, and USC a bit worse. But I'm fairly confident that it's uncontroversial among knowledgeable insiders that these 17 schools still dominate in faculty quality, with Vanderbilt, as before, on the cusp of the top group.
For the remainder of the top 40, my best (reasonably informed) guess is that a few schools have clearly improved in the interim (Illinois, Emory, Ohio State, William & Mary) and a few schools have weakened (Minnesota in particular, maybe others). (UPDATE: Although Minnesota has taken some significant hits in the last two years [Donald Dripps, David McGowan, etc.], there were more additions than I had recalled, including Peter Huang, Brad Karkkainen, and Kevin Reitz, among others. So it may be more of a wash since 2003 than I had originally thought.)
There would probably be more differences in the various specialty areas that were ranked in 2003. The ones worth flagging for prospective law students would probably be these:
(1) In the broad "Business Law" area, faculty strength at Yale, Texas, and Ohio State is improved, faculty strength at Cornell is weaker.
(2) In "Constitutional Law," Berkeley and Southern California are a bit weaker than in 2003.
(3) In "International and Comparative Law," Harvard, Michigan, and Duke are all improved, while Virginia and Chicago are a bit weaker.
(4) In "Law and Philosophy," Penn and UCLA are improved, and NYU slightly less dominant than in 2003.
UPDATE: Roger Alford (Law, Pepperdine) points out to me that the overall ranking in the new US News is here. Unfortunately, this listing includes none of the underlying data (such as the 25th/75th LSAT and GPA scores of the entering class and the bar passage rates), which is the only information that has some utility for students. The most worrisome aspect of the new US News data (which should be on-line by Friday) is that it is now clear that the academic reputation survey component of the ranking is completely unhinged from any actual change in either faculty or student quality at the law schools in question. (A stunning example: UCLA, which made several significant faculty appointments last year, saw no change in its academic reputation score. Other schools in similar situations even saw their academic reputation scores decline! In general, the pattern is clear: the "peer reputation" scores among academics are basically gravitating towards the typical overall US News rank of the school, i.e., the "reputation" is being determined by the typical US News ranking which, itself, purports to be based in significant part (25%) on reputation. Talk about an echo chamber!) Orin Kerr (Law, George Washington) also comments here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Even my esteemed friend Stephen Bainbridge (Law, UCLA) knows in his heart, of course, that Texas still has a better faculty than UCLA! UCLA was flat in academic reputation despite all their good appointments (ridiculous!), but we actually went down .1! Why? Clearly because we added Bernard Black in corporate law from Stanford and because my colleague Philip Bobbitt was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. No good achievement goes unpunished in US News!
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: More on the U.S. News "echo chamber" here.