Much like the swallows returning to Capistrano, every spring we are treated to a new ranking of law schools by U.S. News. Those rankings strike terror in the hearts and minds of deans and admissions officers, because students, alumni, and central administrations pay a lot of attention to them. And every year we hear law school officials — and many others — decrying the reliance on those rankings.
The criticisms of the rankings themselves are many. They include that U.S. News takes too many factors into account, that they focus too much attention on peer and lawyer/judge reputation scores, and that they pay insufficient attention to employment outcomes.
In part as a response to those criticisms (and also in part to see if it is possible to construct a good ranking without using U.S. News‘ proprietary reputation assessment scores that are collectively weighted as forty percent of the rankings) I have a paper that looks to three variables to rank law schools: their rank on the median LSAT scores of the class entering in 2013, the percentage of JD-required, permanent, full-time jobs held by graduates from the class of 2013, and citations to works appearing in schools’ main law reviews over the period 2006 to 2013. I use two different measure of the percentage of the class of 2013 employed in full-time, long-term JD required jobs. I begin by using all full-time, long-term JD required jobs and at the end of the paper I re-run the analysis excluding school-funded positions and solo practitioners from the analysis. There are relatively few changes in rank because of this alternative measure of employment, but for a few schools the changes are significant.
You can download the full paper for free from the social science research network. For people looking for the final rankings, tables 4 and 11 are the ones to turn to first. Table 4 presents a ranking of law schools from 1 to 194 using ranks on the median of the LSAT for the class entering in fall 2013, the percentage of the class of 2013 who had full time, long term JD required jobs after nine months, and the citations to each school’s main law review from 2006 to 2013. Table 11 uses those same variables, except it excludes school-funded positions and solo practitioners from the employment variable.
Update: Laura Santoski has some thoughts about this ranking system over at most strongly supported.