The blog, Concurring Opinions has a revealing analysis of top law school rankings volatility or musical chairs, depending on the schools. Some schools almost own specific slots; others bounce around a little, but not much. The post also links to an even more extensive spreadsheet on the same topic. The key take-away from all this as expressed by George Washington University Law School Professor Daniel J. Solove:
"When students choose law schools, they should remain focused on the forest and not get lost in the trees. Focusing on year-to-year changes can be misleading. For example, in 2006, Wash. U. moved up five spots from 24 to 19. But a year earlier, it dropped from 20 to 24. What is the real Wash. U? Over time, one can see a dramatic change — Wash. U was in the high twenties and early thirties until it leveled out at 25 in 2002. In another example, if one looked at GW in 1998, it was ranked 20. But at that time the 20 was an anomaly, as Wash U was 24 in 1997 and 25 in 1998. After 2004, GW has been consistently ranked either 20 or 19. To the extent that the US News rankings have any value at all, it is evident only in long-term trends, not in yearly fluctuations."
At the risk of being boring, because I have said this so many times before: Keep the rankings in perspective. They are useful as surveys (especially US News) and data banks. They are not objective, universal measures of educational quality. They should never be the beginning, middle, and end of your school research. Fit with your learning style and goals should be determinative.