New Law School Rankings

usn_logo_bigU.S. News and World Report has released its 2010 law school rankings after they were first leaked by an industrious blog. There appears to be a change in methodology that affected the ranking in the top 25 (George Washington took a big hit in overall ranking while coming in second for its part-time program).

There were some major changes in methodology this year. The magazine changed how it measured post-calculating rates to exclude students who were not looking for jobs as opposed to graduates were unemployed and looking for jobs. They also changed the timing of the bar-passage rate calculation to look at a single calendar year — rather than split a two-year period. They also took a two-year measurement of reputation for lawyers and judges to avoid spikes or “volatility caused by having a low response rate in one year or another.” Finally, they changed how student scores are measured. Previously, they exclude part-time students but now include such students because “some schools we think were gaming the system. There were some part-time programs that were set up just for US News reporting purposes.” Frankly, these seem to be reasonable changes.

George Washington fell from 20 to 28 in the rankings and the faculty is studying how the change in methodology hit us so hard (our various scores have remained the same or improved from last year). It appears that we are better in smaller doses since our part-time program is ranked second in the nation. Our Dean has pointed out that many schools in the top 25 have had this type of sudden drop — only to readjust with a rise the following year. Nevertheless, it is a hard hit for the school. What is interesting is that the new methodologies only resulted in a reduction of 2 -3 points on the overall score which resulted in the drop in ranking. That shows how closely packed these schools have become.

While academics often criticize the rankings as meaningless and a poor measure of the quality of a school, I believe that they serve a positive purpose. When I went to law school, there were no objective rankings or reliable information on schools. It was just world of mouth and street reputation. This has given students information to compare schools, including reputation of academics and judges (which should be given more weight in the rankings).

Indiana had the biggest jump of 13 places to 23rd. Davis (+9 to 35th) and North Carolina (+8 to 30th) also had impressive increases. Notably, the Utah schools did well with Utah going up six places to 45th and BYU going up five places to 41st. The worst fall was Colorado by 13 spots to 45th. Washington & Lee and Arizona also fell five spots.

The drop this year is, in my view, not an accurate placement of the school, but as a Cubs fan I am patient. Here are the rankings:

1. Yale
2. Harvard
3. Stanford
4. Columbia
5. NYU
6. Berkeley
6. (tie) Chicago
8. Penn
9. Michigan
10. Duke
10. (tie) Northwestern
10. (tie) UVA
13. Cornell
14. Georgetown
15. UCLA
15. (tie) Texas
17. Vanderbilt
18. USC
19. Wash U
20. BU
20. (tie) Emory
20. (tie) Minnesota
23. Indiana
23. (tie) Illinois
23. (tie) Notre Dame
26. Boston College
26. (tie) Iowa
28. William & Mary
28. (tie) George Washington
30. Fordham
30(tie) Alabama
30. (tie) UNC
30. (tie) Washington & Lee
35. Ohio State
35. (tie) UC Davis
35. (tie) Georgia
35. (tie) Wisconsin.

For all of the rankings, click here.

13 thoughts on “New Law School Rankings”

  1. Vince:

    What I find more telling is the comments of judges about graduates of the various law schools. There is a certain mind set difference from graduates of the various law schools. I find this the strength of the system and make no qualitative judgments. It islike college football teams, and an old friend of mine who referees in the ACC put it best when I asked him which among thetop 5 teams was the best in the conference. He replied, “on which weekend?” A lot like the answer to the best lawyers, I think, “On which case?”

  2. “George Washington fell from 20 to 28 in the rankings and the faculty is studying how the change in methodology hit us so hard (our various scores have remained the same or improved from last year).”

    This is not true. The employment statistics fell.

  3. Who cares and unless you slept with somebody that slept with somebody that slept with Eleanor Roosevelt you will never make it to the Supreme Court. Just ask Renquist oh you can’t. Ok, call Miss. Cleo she will know.

  4. Sorry, blessedvirginmary, but you make no sense at all.

    Say hello to Xenu for all of us.

  5. The law school ratings are as mythical as the “National College Football Championship.” Until the AALS law schools agree to a tournament and a playoff, the rankings for number one on down are purely a matter of opinion. All prospective students should use them carefully, with a healthy amount of skepticism.

    Realistically, the ratings of schools are important, since many people rely on them, so it should be a factor taken into account. Years ago, the rankings were based on informal polls of deans, professors, and others. They reflected subjective opinion. There was no objective way to measure those things. Nowadays, the quantitative elements are open to abuse and can well have an adverse effect.

    For example, one factor is the average or median law board LSAT score. Studies have shown that a high score on this test only shows that the student is likely to succeed in the first year of law school, but not much else. Malcolm Gladwell noted that the LSAT probably measures only two of the 20 odd skills that a lawyer needs to succeed.

    The problem with the ratings, as JT noted, is the tendency to game the system, to the detriment of a sound legal education. Like the schools that teach to the standardized test, the law school may react to the ratings. They should instead look to the needs of the profession.

    Students should look to things like the size of the law library and other legal resources in the area, as well as the quality of the faculty. They should look for extensive trial and appellate practice courses and competitions that are extremely important for future practices.

    [Everything in the above posting entitled Rating of Law Schools was a direct quotation from the ABA website.]

  6. BVM, looked at the website, nice to hear from another planet.

    Or is it an alternate universe?

  7. Rating of Law Schools

    No rating of law schools beyond the simple statement of their accreditation status is attempted or advocated by the official organizations in legal education. Qualities that make one kind of school good for one student may not be as important to another. The American Bar Association and its Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar have issued disclaimers of any law school rating system.

    Prospective law students should consider a variety of factors in making their choice among schools.

  8. I think Wake Forest University School of Law is way, way down the list in rankings. WFU is planning to give War Criminal Joe Biden an honorary doctor of laws degree May 18th at commencement. Biden has been a War Criminal for years in initiating, funding, conspiring and waging Wars of Aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I can see Professor Adolph Hitler on one of their honorary law degrees.

  9. oh, and one more time because it’s funny: I’m not so worried about the USNWR. The Thomas Cooley rankings still have us top 10, so it’s all good.

  10. why did the inclusion of GW’s PT students have such a big effect (according to the Dean’s letter) but inclusion of part time students helped Gtown and other schools?

  11. To be tied with the college producing Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe,John Tyler, John Marshall, and, of course, Jon Stewart, seems high enough praise to me.

Comments are closed.