Law School Rankings

Law School Rankings

August 14, 2019 16 By Stanley Isaacs


Welcome to LearnLawBetter. Wondering how to use law school rankings? Want to use them wisely? Stay to the end as I cover the 4 criteria
used in law school rankings, and some advice on how to leverage the rankings so you can get into the right law school. Don’t forget to hit the like button if you
enjoy this episode, and click the subscribe button and bell if you don’t want to miss
any future episodes. Hi, this is Beau Baez, and today I want to
discuss law school rankings in the United States. The ranking relied on by most law students
is published by the U.S. News and World Report. First, I will go through their criteria, and
then provide you with some advice on how to use this data in making a decision. #1: Quality Assessment. Forty percent of the ranking is based on a
law school’s perceived quality. Each year, surveys are sent to law school
deans, associate deans, professors, practicing attorneys, and judges. They rate a law school on a five point scale,
ranging from marginal to outstanding. Raters can choose not to rank every law school,
but even then it would be nearly impossible to know what is going on in even a few law
schools. Also, is a rater basing their score on the law school’s scholarship, their teaching, bar passage, job placement. Or worse, a recent basketball championship, or a past negative interaction with an alumnus. Ultimately, this criteria is nothing more
than a perception assessment. The elite law schools—Harvard, Yale, Georgetown,
etc…–remain on the top, because they are perceived to be top programs. Lower ranked schools can’t move higher because
they are perceived as weak, even when they make significant changes to their programs. And the schools in the middle can move wildly
each year, depending on who rated them. #2: Selectivity. Twenty five percent of the ranking is based
on LSAT or GRE scores, undergraduate GPA, and acceptance rate. This measurement is less subjective, but fails
to take into account undergraduate institution or major. For example, a 3.0 GPA from an MIT engineering
major should probably be weighted higher than the 3.96 I received with a social science’s
major. Next, there is acceptance rate manipulation. Law schools will request students with lower
LSAT scores to apply, only to deny them. This increases their ranking, but by giving these students false hope. #3: Placement success. Twenty percent of the score is based on job
placement and bar passage. This is the least subjective measure, though
there is still some room for some manipulation. #4: Faculty resources: Fifteen percent of
the score is based on the student to faculty ratio, expenditures per student, and library resources. Unfortunately, these figures are misleading
or irrelevant. For example, a law school might have a 6 to
1 student to faculty ratio. But at large law schools, you might never
have a class with less than 75 students. The reason many law schools can report smaller
ratios is because they offer many boutique courses, which very few students ever take. As to library resources, who cares about the
number of volumes in the library? Most older volumes have been digitized by
Google and then there is inter-library loan. So this measure helps older law schools with
many older books. And student expenditures is practically irrelevant,
since its costs more to hire staff in cities like New York. Now, let’s discuss how to use the Rankings. I suggest that you look at the rankings in three different ways. Elite law schools. These are the top 14 national law schools,
with Georgetown rounding out the bottom. If you can attend one of these schools, you
will have opportunities all over the country. Clusters. Once outside the elite law schools, cluster
the rankings. Treat law schools within a certain range as equivalent. As you know, rank varies from year to year, often
wildly outside the elite law schools. The reality is that most law schools offer
a very similar program of legal education. For schools in the 15 to 50 range, cluster them in groups
of 20. For schools 50 to 100, use clusters of 30. For schools below a 100, clusters of 50. For example, treat schools 25 to 45 as equivalent,
or schools 102 to 150 as equivalent. Regional schools. These are the law schools that are strong
in a particular market. For example, if you are going to practice
in North Dakota, you would likely find the University of North Dakota to be a better
choice than a school that is ranked 40 spots higher. Now let’s work through an example, using numbers
I made up and not tied to any law school. You get accepted to law school #36, where you pay full tuition. You also get accepted into a regional law school, which is ranked #56, which offers you a 50% tuition discount and is in the market where you want to practice. Now, I know that 20 spots seems like a significant
jump to you, but it’s not. When you start practicing, almost no one will
perceive that these two law schools are different, other than alumni. You’re probably better off going with the
tuition discount. If you enjoyed this material, hit the like
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hit the subscribe and bell buttons. For more resources to help you get ahead,
including my blog and newsletter, check out LearnLawBetter.com. Thanks for watching.