The University of Minnesota Law School has slipped out of the top 20 in the influential rankings published by U.S. News & World Report, the Pioneer Press reports. The PiPress goes on to say:

The university now ranks 22nd among national law schools, according to the 2009 rankings due to be released today. That's down from a rank of 20 in 2008 and 19 in 2007.

While many experts attack the U.S. News rankings as a poor and superficial way to judge an institution's quality, the numbers carry tremendous weight with prospective students and law firms looking to hire top graduates. The university has promoted its law school as a "top 20" destination. In December, as it named David Wippman its new dean, the university referred to its law school as "consistently ranked in the top 20."

The picture was mixed for the state's three other law schools. The PiPress notes a jump for Hamline University's law school, which joins the University of St. Thomas in the ranking's "third tier." Meanwhile, William Mitchell College of Law fell from the third tier to fourth.

For more from the PiPress click here.

I have written before about how little stock I put in the accuracy of the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Drawing such fine distinctions between law schools -- the difference between a #20 and a #22 school, for example -- is completely arbitrary. Tweak your magic formula of weightings a bit, and, lo and behold, the schools flip flop positions on the list.

It would be almost laughable, except there is no doubt these ratings have real world effect, particularly if your law school drops out of the "Top 20," as the U of M did. The U of M can now expect a drop in its law school applications and for its law graduates to have a slightly harder time in securing big firm jobs outside the region.

I don't know about you, but that makes me mad enough to cancel my U.S. News & World Reports subscription, if I hadn't already done that a decade ago, that is ...