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Law School Rankings - What they mean and how they are changing By Joshua Nave As a law student or a prospective law student, you know how much emphasis schools and employers place on the yearly law school rankings put out by US News & World Report. The rankings are used by schools to justify steep tuition costs, by employers to screen potential new associates, and by lawyers to boost their own egos, but outside of a handful of career services professionals and the staff of US News & World Report, very few people know how the ratings are generated.

Forty percent of a school’s score comes from responses to a survey sent out to law school faculty, lawyers and judges. The survey asks them to rate every ABA school on a scale of 1 to 5. Faculty responses make up the peer evaluation portion of the score and accounts for 25% of the total score. Responses from lawyers and judges account for another 15%. 40% of the total score is based off of the voluntary responses to this survey, which usually numbers well under one thousand. Setting aside the absurdity of ranking hundreds of schools on a scale of one to five, any polling company that used strictly voluntary responses would be roundly criticized and nobody would take their results seriously. The second smallest factor in determining a school’s ranking is the bar passage rate, weighing in at 2%. Only library resources, accounting for .75% of the score, is seen as less important than graduating students capable of passing the bar exam. In fact, the median LSAT score for entering students is over six times more heavily weighted than the ability of outgoing students to pass the bar exam. 12.5% of a school’s score is based on LSAT scores, compared to the 2% for bar passage rates.

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18% of the score comes from post graduate employment, with 4% from immediate employment rates and the other 14% based on employment rates nine months after graduation. In the past, if a school failed to report the at graduation rates, US News would simply subtract 30% from the ninth month out figure and use that. However, concerns over gamesmanship by schools failing to report the at graduation number if and only if it is more than 30% lower has triggered the decision to use a different methodology for calculating at graduation employment rates when the school fails to report them. But so far, nobody knows what that new methodology is. For the truly curious, the remaining statistics used are undergrad GPA (10%), acceptance rate (2.5%), expenditures per student (11.25%) and student to faculty ratio (3%). Student satisfaction - not included in the rankings.

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Law School Rankings - What they mean and how they are changing