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U.S. News Releases Its Rankings, and Law Schools Grumble

The Careerist

March 24, 2011

We've been mulling over U.S. News & World Report's new rankings of the best law schools ever since the list was released on March 15. As reported by The National Law Journal's Karen Sloan, the top six schools on the list didn't change position at all: 1. Yale, 2. Harvard, 3. Stanford, 4. Columbia, 5. University of Chicago, and 6. New York University.

There were other changes, as compiled by Sloan:

• One of the more significant changes wasn't in the order of schools, but in how the magazine presented its rankings. It used to be the magazine listed its top 100 law schools, then broke down other schools into third and fourth tiers, listing the schools in each tier alphabetically. This year, the magazine only has two tiers: a first tier of 145 schools numerically ranked and a second tier of 45 schools only listed alphabetically.

• Among the top ten, University of Michigan Law School moved up two spots to No. 7, and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law moved down two spots to No. 9 to tie with The University of Virginia School of Law, which was at No. 10 last year.

University-rankings Within the top 50:

• The University of Colorado School of Law dropped nine spots to No. 47.

• Emory University School of Law moved down eight spots, to No. 30,

• Both The University of Georgia School of Law and the University of Wisconsin Law School fell seven spots, from No. 28 last year to tie for No. 35 this year.

• The University of Maryland School of Law moved up six spots to No. 42.

• The University of California, Davis School of Law gained five spots to No. 23.

• Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington (No. 23), Fordham University School of Law (No. 30), the University of Washington School of Law (No. 30), Washington and Lee University School of Law (No. 30), and Florida State University College of Law (No. 50), all moved up four spots.

Among the top 51 to 100:

• Both St. John's University School of Law and the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law dropped 23 spots, from No. 72 last year to No. 95 this year.

• Villanova University School of Law, whose administrators disclosed that they had reported inaccurate admissions data for a number of years, plummeted 17 spots to No. 84.

• Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (No. 79), the University of Richmond School of Law (No. 67), and Chicago-Kent College of Law (No. 61) each jumped 19 spots.

Falling out of the top 100:

• Chapman University School of Law fell 11 spots to No. 104, to tie with Saint Louis University School of Law and the University of South Carolina School of Law.

• The University of Missouri School of Law fell 14 spots to No. 107. Two years ago, the school placed No. 65 on the U.S. News list.

In her article, Sloan notes that the annual release of the U.S. News law school rankings prompts plenty of complaints and grumbling among administrators and other legal educators about their accuracy and usefulness. And as reported by Elie Mystal at Above the Law, U.S. News tweaked its methodology slightly to place a little more emphasis on employment after graduation this year. Some schools took a significant hit because of it--and apparently didn't like it. One of the most egregious examples of "whining" so far, as identified by Mystal, came from Emory Law School, which dropped from No. 22 to No. 30. Addressing the drop, School of Law Dean David Partlett wrote an e-mail addressed to law school students:

Emory's move to No. 30 is surprising, and on analysis is directly attributed to a change in the methodology U.S. News uses to calculate employment statistics. The employment numbers for the 2012 rankings are based on statistics from the Class of 2009. This year, U.S. News adjusted the employment rate calculations in an attempt to present a more accurate reflection of actual employment.

Historically, many of our students pursue careers in large law firms—the sector most impacted by the Great Recession. We remain optimistic in the improvements we are seeing in many of the country’s large firms.

Mystal notes "you don't hear Yale or Harvard or Stanford--all schools that send a large portion of their classes to Biglaw jobs--complaining that the Great Recession unduly affected their U.S. News ranking." And in a follow-up post, Mystal goes on to describe some of the dampened reactions coming even from law schools that did better in the rankings this year.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger Vivia Chen at VChen@alm.com or deputy blogger Audree Wong at awong@alm.com.


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The Emory Law debacle is caused by their admin.

There is an increase number of graduating law students. And they never know where will be after the graduation. Probably most of them will join the law firms. Usually clients look for the best law firms and not for the lawyers alone.

The number of graduating students, who took up law, is increasing but decreasing in demand. There are so many of those law graduates decided to have joined some law firms. And now, there are huge numbers of law firms exist.

Can you give us t he secret ratings for the bottom 45 schools that US News wants to charge us for? I want to know Cooley & Stetson

Mystal who? Or does she mean Sloan?

One of the ranking criteria should be "nice place to hang out for three years." Let's hear it for Charlottesville and my alma mater, UVA!

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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