Legal educators love to blame U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings for drawing what they see as arbitrary distinctions between schools that play an outsized role in where prospective students choose to enroll.

But a fairly rigid hierarchy existed long before U.S. News entered the picture in the early 1990s, according to an academic article by three law professors. In fact, as far back as 1914, an Austrian scholar named Joseph Redlich divided American law schools into two categories—the lesser of which, Redlich concluded, “have not the slightest significance from the point of view of a scientific legal institution.”

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