Law school rankings in the United States
Law school rankings are a specific subset of
college and university rankingsdealing specifically with law schools. Like college and university rankings, law school rankings can be based on empirical data, subjectively-perceived qualitive data (often survey resarch of educators, law professors, lawyers, students, or others), or some combination of these.
Such rankings are often consulted by prospective students as they choose which schools they will apply to or which school they will attend. The most popular ranking of law schools is the annual "
U.S. News & World Report" "Top Graduate Schools" listing. [ [http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/law/brief/lawrank_brief.php Top Graduate Schools] , U.S. News & World Report] Beyond this popular list, there are numerous other law school rankings:
Criticisms of rankings
American Bar Association(ABA), has consistently refused to support or participate in law school rankings. [http://www.abanet.org/legaled/approvedlawschools/approved.html ABA website] s.v. "Rating of Law Schools"] [http://www.abanet.org/lsd/stulawyer/mar03/rankinggame.html "The Rankings Game] ] Likewise, the Law School Admission Councilhas shown opposition to rankings. [http://www.lsac.org/LSAC.asp?url=lsac/deans-speak-out-rankings.asp "Deans Speak Out"] against rankings on the LSAC Website] The Association of American Law Schoolshas also voiced complaints; their executive director Carl Monkwent so far as to say "these rankings are a misleading and deceptive, profit-generating commercial enterprise that compromises U.S. News and World Report's journalistic integrity.""Deans Question Relevance of Law School Rankings in the [http://archives.thedaily.washington.edu/1998/030498/LawRank980304.html Washington Daily] ] Among the criticisms of law school rankings is that they are arbitrary in the characteristics they measure and the value given to each one. Another complaint is that a prospective law student should take into account the "fit" and appropriateness of each school himself, and that there is thus not a "one size fits all" ranking. Others complain that common rankings shortchange schools due to geographical or demographic reasons. One critic has gone so far as to create a website that sarcastically ranks US magazines. [http://www.rankingusnews.com RankingUSNews.com] ] US News is placed alone in the "Third Tier."
As a response to the prevalence of law school rankings, the ABA and the LSAC publish an annual law school guide. This guide, which does not seek to rank or sort law schools by any criteria, instead seeks to provide the reader with a set of standard, important data on which to judge law schools. It contains information on all 190 ABA-Approved Law Schools. This reference, called [http://officialguide.lsac.org/ The Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools] is provided free online and also in print for a small cost. A similar guide for Canadian Law Schools is also published by the Law School Admission Council and is called [http://www.lsac.org/canadianCFC/Canadian_homepage.asp Official Guide to Canadian Law Schools] . These guides seek to serve as an alternative to the US News Rankings and law school rankings in general.
American Bar Associationissued the MacCrate Reportin 1992, which outlined many fundamental problems with modern legal education and called for reform in American law schools. [ [http://www.abanet.org/legaled/publications/onlinepubs/maccrate.html The MacCrate Report] ] While the report was hailed as a "template for modern legal education", its practice-oriented tenets have met resistance by law schools continually ranked in the "top 14." [ [http://michbar.org/journal/article.cfm?articleID=141&volumeID=12&viewType=archive Crossing the Bar - Law Schools and Their Disciples] ]
US News has not allowed these criticisms to go unanswered. They regularly outline and justify their methodology alongside the rankings, and have even published defenses of their value. [http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2000/norc.cary.html US News Defense of Law School Rankings] ] Additionally, law professors William Henderson and Andrew Morriss have come out with a study criticizing law schools' (and the ABA's) refusal to adopt any better objective comparison method for the continued widespread reliance on U.S. News. [http://www.nylawyer.com/display.php/file=/news/07/06/061807h Rankling Rankings] , "American Lawyer", Jun. 18, 2007; see also [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=954604 Measuring Outcomes: Post-Graduation Measures of Success in the U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings] , Morriss and Henderson,
SSRNabstract.] Henderson and Morriss allege that law schools' attempts to "game" their U.S. News ranking by manipulating postgraduation employment statistics or applicant selectivity have led U.S. News to adjust its methodology accordingly, resulting in a counter-productive cycle. They go on to suggest that the ABA should use its accreditation power to mandate greater transparency in law schools' statistical reporting.
Many law students have also criticized the rankings (in particular, the T14 schools) because these rankings often lead major law firms to hire otherwise unqualified candidates simply because they have JDs from "elite" T14 law schools. In contrast, many of these said law firms would often overlook an otherwise qualified law school graduate who may have better writing or research skills than their counterparts from more elite T14 law schools, but who did not graduate from a T14 law school or did not graduate in the top 10 percent from a school below the T14. Fact|date=June 2007
Impact of rankings
Despite these criticisms, law school rankings in general and those by US News in particular play a very dramatic role in the world of legal education. When a school's ranking drops, fewer admitted applicants accept spots at the school, and people may get fired. [http://www.deloggio.com/usnews/usnews.htm USNews Law School Rankings] , DeLoggio Admissions Achievement Program website] Verify credibility|date=February 2008 Likewise, when a school rises in the rankings, the school often accidentally over-enrolls.Fact|date=February 2008 This pressure has also resulted in various schools "gaming the rankings." [ [http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1113555914350 Law.com - Law Schools Play the Ranking Game] ] In a March 2003 article in Student Lawyer, Jane Easter Bahls stated that, in order to appear more selective, some law schools reject applicants whose high LSAT scores indicate that they probably would go somewhere else. [http://www.abanet.org/lsd/stulawyer/mar03/rankinggame.html American Bar Association Website] and [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=700862 "The Interplay between Law School Rankings, Reputations, and Resource Allocation"] ] Other schools, in an attempt to increase the amount of money spent per student, increase tuition and return it to the students as financial aid.
Rankings by U.S. News and World Report
As is noted above, the most recognized rankings are those by US News and World Report. The Law School Rankings are organized into three main sections: The first is a "Top 100" that lists the top hundred schools in order from highest ranked to lowest ranked. After that, US News groups the remaining 80 accredited law schools into two roughly unranked groups called "Third Tier" and "Fourth Tier".
Each school is assigned an overall rank, which is normalized so that it is out of 100. This rank takes into account Quality Assessment (measured by opinion surveys), Selectivity (measured by incoming student profiles and the acceptance rate), Placement Success (measured by bar passage and employment rates), Faculty Resources (measured by expenditures, library volumes, and student/faculty ratio). The magazine gives 40 percent to reputation, 25 percent to selectivity, 20 percent to placement success and 15 percent to faculty resources, thus combining these factors into an overall score. [http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/about/index_brief.php US News Website "About the rankings"] ]
pecialized U.S. News Rankings
The annual issue also includes special rankings of specific programs, including Clinical Training and Dispute Resolution. These are based more on opinion surveys.
Consistency at the top of the U.S. News Rankings
Although the US News has published an annual version of the rankings since 1989, there has been remarkable consistency at the top of the US News Rankings. Yale has been ranked first every single year. Additionally, Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia have always appeared in the top five.
Some have argued the consistent placement of these schools at the top has simply reinforced their position, leading to a "feedback loop" because of the heavy reliance by US News on opinion surveys.Search for the terms "t14", "top fourteen", or "top 14" at
Xoxohth[http://www.xoxohth.com/main.php?forum_id=2] , [http://www.lawschooldiscussion.org LawSchoolDiscussion] , and [http://www.4LawSchool.com 4LawSchool] ]
There are exactly fourteen schools that have ever earned a top ten spot. These schools, listed below, have seen their ranking within the top fourteen spots shift frequently, but have not placed outside of the top fourteen since the inception of the annual rankings.Previous rankings can be found in back issues of the US News and World Report since 1989, or can be viewed together in a [http://members.aol.com/stuje1/rank.html spreadsheet compilation] ] Because of their variable placement within the top ten, but remarkable consistency of these fourteen schools at the top of all 180+ schools, they are occasionally referred to collectively as the "Top Fourteen" in published books on Law School Admissions,See, for example, books by [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0735203768 Richard Montauk] , [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0156029790 Anna Ivey] , [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0312318812 Robert H. Miller] , and [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594480354 Susan Estrich] ] undergraduate university pre-law advisers ,e.g. [http://academic.udayton.edu/prelaw/choices.htm University of Dayton Prelaw Advising Website] and an [http://inside.binghamton.edu/news/newspage.cgi?issue=2003oct02&id=26 SUNY Binghamton press release] ] professional law school consultants,e.g. [http://www.deloggio.com/newweb/home.htm Loretta DeLoggio] , [http://www.lawschoolgenius.com/ezra-goldschlager.html Ezra Goldschlager] and [http://www.annaivey.com/about/team#Anna%20Ivey Anna Ivey] ] and newspaper articles on the subject.e.g. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27714-2005Apr5.html 2005 Washington Post Article] ] Facetiously, they are also referred to as the "Top Ten".
chools that consistently rank in the top 14
The "Top Fourteen" schools according to US News and World Report Rankings are (in alphabetical order):See the complete [http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/law/brief/lawrank_brief.php list] on the US News website.]
Columbia Law School, Columbia University, in New York, NY.
Cornell Law School, Cornell University, in Ithaca, NY.
Duke University School of Law, Duke University, in Durham, NC.
Georgetown University Law Center, Georgetown University, in Washington, DC.
Harvard Law School, Harvard University, in Cambridge, MA.
New York University School of Law, New York University, in New York, NY.
Northwestern University School of Law, Northwestern University, in Chicago, IL.
Stanford Law School, Stanford University, in Stanford, CA.
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, in Berkeley, CA.
University of Chicago Law School, University of Chicago, in Chicago, IL.
University of Michigan Law School, University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, MI.
University of Pennsylvania Law School, University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, PA.
University of Virginia School of Law, University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, VA.
Yale Law School, Yale University, in New Haven, CT.
Characteristics of the top schools in the U.S. News Rankings
There exist common characteristics across these top schools. Reputation is a key driver of their placement, according to
Anna Ivey, noted law school admissions counselor, who declared that "A degree from a top-14 school will be portable nationally" in a Washington Postinterview. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27714-2005Apr5.html Washington Post Interview] ]
Alternatives to the U.S. News Rankings
There are a number of alternative law school rankings that have been prepared, often in response to those by US News. The Internet Legal Research Group has compiled links and background on many of these rankings at [http://www.ilrg.com/rankings.html their website] .
Judging the Law School Rankings
"Judging the Law School Rankings" are sometimes called the Brennan rankings, in reference to the President of Cooley Law School who is involved in their creation.
Thomas M. Cooley Law School- a school consistently placed in the fourth tier by US News, - struck back by creating its own set of rankings. The first edition of these rankings, called "Judging the Law Schools" was published in 1996 by Thomas E. Brennan, Sr., founder and president of the Cooley Law School.See the complete first edition of "Judging the Law Schools" at [http://www.ilrg.com/rankings/ ILRG's Website] .] This online publication, now in its seventh edition, measures things such as library square footage, library open hours and number of minority students, among dozens of other measures. It is available on [http://www.cooley.edu/rankings/index.htm Cooley's website] . Brian Leiter, whose views on the Judging the Law School Rankings are shared by many, calls their system, which places Cooley Law School higher than schools such as Stanford and Berkeley's Boalt Hall, "Mysterious". [ [http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2005/10/the_cooley_law_.html Brian Leiter's Law School Reports: The Cooley Law School Rankings ] ]
Dr. Jack Gourman is credited with being the first ranker of law schools. He is a professor at
California State University-Northridge. The Gourman Report, a print book published by Princeton Review, ranks undergraduate and graduates schools. The last edition to include law school rankings was published in 1997. Among the criticisms particular to the Gourman Report rankings is that it favors large, public universities and the use of an opaque methodology that prevents the reader from careful analysis. [http://www.collegeconfidential.com/college_rankings/gourman_report.htm College Confidential Description of Gourman Rankings] ]
Another new set of rankings, which has received attention recently, is the Hylton Rankings, prepared by Dr. J. Gordon Hylton of Marquette University's Law School. Hylton billed his rankings as US News data "without the clutter." The rankings consider only LSAT (converted median) and peer assessment (as measured by US News' survey of law professors). The much-discussed "top fourteen schools," though ordered differently, remain the same. [http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/property/2006/04/the_hylton_rank.html Law Professors Blog] ]
Brian Leiter, a law professor at University of Chicago School of Law, has prepared a set of various rankings that he dubs Leiter's Law School Rankings. [ [http://www.leiterrankings.com Leiter's Law School Rankings] ] These various rankings judge schools on factors similar to those used by US News, such as incoming student LSAT/GPA profiles, and also on faculty reputation and scholarly research. This, he notes, puts the focus "exclusively on the three factors central to a good legal education: the quality of the faculty, the quality of the student body, and the quality of teaching." Among the criticisms of the Leiter Rankings is that they reflect certain biases of the other by including various lists of schools ranked by individual factors with no attempt to create an overall ranking that cumulatively takes into account all relevant factors. [ [http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2005/11/why_leiters_ran.html Concurring Opinions: Rankings Bias]
The career information and survey site Vault.com released its first set of law school rankings in 2008. [ [http://www.vault.com/lawschool/top25/ Vault Top 25 Law Schools] ] Based solely on the surveys of nearly 400 hiring partners and recruiting professionals from across the United States, the rankings reflect how survey participants rated incoming associates on their research and writing skills, knowledge of legal doctrine, possession of other relevant knowledge (e.g., science for IP lawyers), and ability to manage a calendar and work with an assistant. Without turning directly to statistics or educational quality, the Vault rankings attempt to quantify which schools produce the most marketable graduates in the private sector. As of 2008, only the law schools with the top 25 cumulative scores received recognition.
* [http://www.leiterrankings.com Leiter Rankings]
* [http://www.ilrg.com/rankings.html Internet Legal Research Group's Index to Law School Rankings]
* [http://www.rankingusnews.com Ranking US News] (A collection of various criticisms of the US News Law School Rankings)
* [http://www.law.indiana.edu/front/special/2005_rankings_nextgen/ Law School Rankings Symposium] (Website for national symposium on law school rankings, including copies of papers and abstracts).
* [http://www.library.uiuc.edu/edx/rankoversy.htm College Rankings: Caution and Controversy] (Education and Social Science Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
* [http://www.llm-guide.com/article/6/university-ranking-and-its-discontents University Ranking and its Discontents] (Article by V. Wish about the ongoing debate over the value of law school rankings).
* [http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/law/brief/lawrank_brief.php US News Top 100 Law Schools]
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