Law School Rankings – US News 2010 Rankings are Up! (We don’t want to care, but we do.)

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Many schools enter, but only one makes it to the top

It’s that time of year again, when all the hard work that law schools do gets acknowledged, along with the work their students put in before they were ever accepted.  The US News and World Report 2010 Law School Rankings are up for your review!

What is all of that hard work that schools and their students do?  If you’re an LSAT student (aspirant?), you might think it’s all about you, your LSAT score and your GPA.  It turns out that we in the LSAT game are not the center of the universe! LSAT scores and GPAs, while perhaps representing 90% of how a law school measures its applicants, are only 25% of how US News measures a law school.

Here’s what US News look at and how important each factor is to a school’s overall ranking:

  • Quality Assessment- 40%
  • Selectivity – 25%
  • Graduate Placement Success – 20%
  • Faculty Resources – 15%

(Yup, it adds up to 100%.)  So, the most important factor is what a school’s peers think of it, along with the views of various lawyers and judges. In some ways, those opinions are as much an assessment of the school as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a school is considered #1, it can select the best applicants, who in turn will be well-respected, and who will then have an interest in later ranking their alma mater as a great school.

Within selectivity, the median LSAT score of a school’s student body are 25% more important than it’s GPA.  That’s probably giving far less weight to LSAT scores than what law schools use.

What were the big changes this year?  The University of Chicago muscled out NYU, pushing it down to sixth — and that makes me mad, as a New Yorker.  Once you leave the upper echelons, there were some larger jumps, including an impressive one on the part of George Washington University, which jumped 8 spots up to #20.  Hooray!

To complain a bit more than I have in the past, these rankings have been widely criticized for being overly simplistic.  More importantly, there are indications that the rankings have led to higher tuition and less diversity in schools. A good analogy would be a high school with an extremely fierce social hierarchy. (Or should I simply say, “a high school”?)  There’s not much room at the top, and the folks at the top like it that way.  Everyone complains about the pressures that the popularity rankings create, but everyone cares deeply about them (except maybe for a few kids spending lunch behind the gym, getting stoned – tsk, tsk).

It’s great to go to a school where you’ll find peers that challenge you and where the opportunities are vast, but don’t lose sight of the big picture! The majority of lawyers did not go to one of the top 20 schools. While it’s exciting to be at the top of the heap, it’s not a prerequisite for having a successful career in law. But, since our students are generally looking to get up there with the big dogs, good luck to you our hard-working student! Hit that 170+!

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