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 2013 and early 2014.
A law school official at nearly all of the law schools 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 2013, 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 66 percent of those surveyed responded.
Assessment score by lawyers/judges (0.15): In fall 2013, legal professionals, including the hiring partners of law firms, practicing attorneys and 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."
For the first time, all the respondent names used in the lawyer and judge survey were provided to U.S. News by the law schools themselves. This change resulted in a much higher lawyer and judge survey response rate than in previous years.
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 32 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 2013 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 2013 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 2013 entering class.
For the 2015 edition of Best Law Schools, U.S. News continued the same law school rankings methodology for admissions data that was used in the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 editions. We used the combined 2013 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 a school's overall rank.
Placement success (weighted by 0.20)
Success is determined by calculating employment rates for 2012 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 the second consecutive year of enhanced American Bar Association reporting rules on new J.D. graduates' jobs data, a great deal more information is available from law schools about the many types of positions law students take after they graduate. Each year, the schools are required to report to the ABA how many of their most recent grads had various types of jobs lined up by nine months after graduation.
The ABA standards continue to require the law schools to go into a great deal of detail by reporting 45 different job types and durations, noting, for example, whether each graduate's employment was long term – defined as lasting at least a year – or short 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 members of the class who were employed at graduation and those with jobs that the law schools were unable to determine the length of employment or whether the job was full time or part time.
For the second year in row, U.S. News incorporated this rich data into our computation of the employment measure for the class of 2012 at graduation and nine months later. Placement success was calculated by assigning various weights to the number of grads employed in 27 of these different types of post-J.D. jobs and durations.