The rankings of 194 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 fall 2012 and early 2013.
A law school official at each law school that responded to the U.S. News statistical survey—in many cases the dean—verified the data for accuracy.
Specialty rankings are based solely on nominations by legal educators at peer institutions.
[See the Best Law Schools rankings.]
Quality assessment (weighted by 0.40)
Peer assessment score (0.25): In fall 2012, 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 63 percent of those surveyed responded.
Assessment score by lawyers/judges (0.15): In fall 2012, 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 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). 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.
In the fall 2012 lawyer and judge survey, U.S. News for the third year in a row surveyed hiring partners and recruiters at law firms who made the 2012 Best Law Firms rankings produced jointly by U.S. News and the publication Best Lawyers. Their ratings are included in the lawyer and judge survey score.
About 9 percent of those lawyers and judges surveyed responded. The two most recent years of the lawyer and judge surveys were averaged and weighted by 0.15.
Selectivity (weighted by 0.25)
Median LSAT scores (0.125): These are the combined median scores on the Law School Admission Test of all 2012 full-time and part-time entrants to the J.D. program.
Median undergrad GPA (0.10): This is the combined median undergraduate grade-point average of all the 2012 full-time and part-time entrants to the J.D. program.
Acceptance rate (0.025): This is the combined proportion of applicants to both the full-time and part-time J.D. program who were accepted for the 2012 entering class.
For the 2014 edition of Best Law Schools, U.S. News continued the same main law school rankings methodology that was used in the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 editions for admissions data. We used the combined 2012 class admissions data for both full-time and part-time entering students for the median LSAT scores, median undergraduate grade-point averages, and the acceptance rate in calculating the school's overall ranking.
Placement success (weighted by 0.20)
Success is determined by calculating employment rates for 2011 grads at graduation (0.04 weight) and nine months after (0.14 weight), as well as the bar passage rate, explained below.
As a result of new American Bar Association rules, a great deal more information can be had about the many types of positions law students take after they graduate. Each year, the schools report to the ABA how many of their most recent grads had jobs lined up by nine months after graduation.
The new standards require them to go into a lot more detail by reporting 35 different job types and durations, noting, for example, whether each graduate's employment was long term (defined as lasting at least a year) or shorter term, was full time or part time, and whether it required passage of a bar exam.
U.S. News collected these same statistics when we surveyed the schools for our annual rankings, along with the same data on those members of the class who were employed at graduation.
For this year's rankings, U.S. News incorporated this richer data into our computation of the employment measure for the class of 2011 at graduation and nine months later. Placement success was calculated by assigning various weights to the number of grads employed in 22 of these different types of post-J.D. jobs and durations.