Law School Rankings Methodology

How we rank law schools.

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The rankings of 184 law schools fully accredited by the American Bar Association are based on a weighted average of the 12 measures of quality described here. Data were collected in the fall 2008 and early 2009. Specialty rankings are based solely on nominations by legal educators at peer institutions.

Quality Assessment (weighted by .40)

Peer Assessment Score (.25) In the fall of 2008, law school deans, deans of academic affairs, chairs of faculty appointments, and the most recently tenured faculty members were asked to rate programs on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark "don't know." A school's score is the average of all the respondents who rated it. Responses of "don't know" counted neither for nor against a school. About 71 percent of those surveyed responded.

Assessment Score by Lawyers/Judges (.15) In the fall of 2008, legal professionals, including the hiring partners of law firms, state attorneys general, and selected federal and state judges, were asked to rate programs on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark "don't know." A school's score is the average of all the respondents who rated it. Responses of "don't know" counted neither for nor against a school. About 31 percent of those surveyed responded. The two most recent years lawyers' and judges' surveys were averaged and are weighted by .15.

Selectivity (weighted by .25)

Median LSAT Scores (.125) The combined median scores on the Law School Admission Test of all full-time and part-time entrants to the J.D. program (2008 entering class).

Median Undergrad GPA (.10) The combined median undergraduate grade-point average of all the full-time and part-time entrants to the J.D. program (2008 entering class).

Acceptance Rate (.025) The combined proportion of applicants to both the full-time and part-time J.D. program who were accepted for the 2008 entering class.

Placement Success (weighted by .20)

Employment Rates for Graduates The employment rates for 2007 graduating class determine success in this category. Graduates who are working or pursuing graduate degrees are considered employed. Employment rates are measured at graduation (.04 weight ) and nine months after graduation (.14 weight). For the nine-month employment rate, 25 percent of those whose status is unknown are counted as employed. Those who are unemployed and not seeking jobs are excluded from the calculations and are not counted as unemployed. Those who are unemployed and seeking work are counted as unemployed in the calculations of the employment rates.

This is a change from how U.S. News calculated employment rates for the 2006 graduating class and resulted from how law schools reported their 2007 graduating class employment data on the American Bar Association's 2008 Annual Questionnaire. For the 2006 graduating class, the American Bar Association's 2007 Annual Questionnaire required law schools to count all students who were unemployed as seeking work. Those graduates who were unemployed and seeking employment, unemployed and not seeking employment, and unemployed and studying for the bar all were counted as being unemployed for the purposes of the U.S. News employment rate calculations for the 2006 graduating class. When the American Bar Association's 2008 Annual Questionnaire changed how law schools categorized their unemployed students into either unemployed and seeking and unemployed and not seeking, U.S. News changed our calculations. It should be noted that this change in how U.S. News calculated the employment rates for the 2007 graduating class reverts back to how those rates were calculated prior to the 2006 graduating class.

Bar Passage Rate (.02) The ratio of the school's bar passage rate of the 2007 graduating class to that jurisdiction's overall state bar passage rate for first-time test takers in the winter 2007 and summer 2007. The jurisdiction listed is the state where the largest number of 2007 graduates took the state bar exam. The state bar examination pass rates for first-time test takers in summer 2007 and winter 2007 were provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.