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Harvard Drops a Notch in Latest Rankings

Vivia Chen

March 13, 2012

Poster_of_The_Paper_ChaseThis is not as exciting as guessing who'll be George Clooney's next main squeeze, but for members of the academy (the legal academy, that is), it is much anticipated.

In case your BlackBerry has been dead, U.S. News & World Report came out with its law school rankings. Without further ado, here are the top 20 law schools for 2013 (Don't ask why it's pegged a year ahead.) from the report:

1.  Yale (It's been first since 1990)
2.  Stanford
3.  Harvard
4.  Columbia
5.  Chicago
6.  NYU
7.  Berkeley
7.  Penn
7.  UVA
10. Michigan
11. Duke
12. Northwestern
13. Georgetown
14. Cornell
15. UCLA
16. University of Texas
16. Vanderbilt
18. USC
19. University of Minnesota
20. George Washington
20. University of Washington

The National Law Journal reports that there were few changes this year among the top 20 schools, though "the middle and bottom of the numerical rankings saw some dramatic changes."

The big news is that Harvard dropped to third place, while Stanford ascended to its place. (Don't worry, Harvard, because a much higher percentage and number of your grads end up as Big Law partners—and that will cause alumni donations to swell like the Charles River during raining season.)

Also on the ascent, reports the NLJ:

The biggest jump was by the University of Missouri School of Law—a 28-position climb from number 107 in 2011 to number 79. The U.S. News ranking had been a source of handwringing at the Columbia, Missouri, school, which had fallen from number 65 since 2009.

Arizona State University Sandra Day O' Connor College of Law gained 14 spots, to land at number 26, while the University of Washington School of Law rose ten spots and cracked the top 20.

And the big losers, according to the NLJ:

The largest drop was by the University of Mississippi School of Law, which went from number 107 last year to number 135. The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law dropped by 22 spots, to numbere 135, while Pace Law School fell by 25 spots, to number 142.

It was not a good year for the two law schools caught up in admissions scandals. For the second year in a row, Villanova University School of Law plummeted 17 spots, to rank number 101. The University of Illinois College of Law went from number 23 last year to number 35. Both schools admitted that they'd inflated the median Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages of incoming students.

The NLJ  also reports that U.S. News gave 145 schools numerical rankings and "another 49 were ranked alphabetically in what U.S. News has dubbed the second tier. This format debuted last year, when the publication expanded its numerical rankings and eliminated the bottom two tiers of unranked schools."

In other words, the "second tier" now includes the third tier and those schools that used to be known as bottom-scrapers. So I guess U.S. News now has its own version of pass/fail, ranking inflation, politically sensitized designation, or whatever you want to call it.

Personally, I'd rather read about why George Clooney dumped Elisabetta Canalis for Stacy Keibler.

Photo: Movie poster for Paper Chase (1973).

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Yale has been first since at least 1987.

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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: [email protected]

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