Preparing for Our First Ranking of Law School Part-Time Programs

This new part-time ranking will be separate from our regular ranking of the best law schools.

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U.S. News has started working on the law school rankings that will be published at the end of March 2009. One of our goals with this edition is to produce our first-ever rankings of part-time J.D. programs. These programs enable many who can’t afford to attend law school full time to get a law degree and pursue successful legal careers. We believe that there’s a need to assess the relative merits of part-time J.D. programs because many prospective law students are trying to determine the best part-time program in their metropolitan area (or even nationally) in order to help them decide which law school they should attend.  

According to the American Bar Association, around 10 percent of all first-year law students are enrolled part time at around 80 law schools. Part-time programs typically take four years to complete instead of three years for full-time ones.      

In order to compile this first-ever ranking, we have added questions on rating part-time J.D. law programs to the annual U.S. News reputation peer assessment survey that we send to top administrators at each school accredited by the American Bar Association. We’re asking each of these law school academics—four at each school—to nominate up to 15 top part-time J.D. programs. In addition, we will also soon start collecting admissions statistics from each part-time J.D. program about the median LSAT score, undergraduate grade-point average, and acceptance rate of the class that entered in the fall of 2008. We plan to determine the final part-time program ranking methodology after we have gathered and analyzed the part-time peer assessment, admissions, and enrollment data.

It’s important to point out that these new part-time rankings will be in addition to the overall law school rankings that we will continue to publish as we have annually since 1990.  

Still undecided: In terms of the overall law school rankings, at this time, U.S. News is still studying the idea that was raised in my blog post "Changing the Law School Ranking Formula,” where we discussed the possibility of combining both full-time and part-time entering student data for median LSAT scores and median undergraduate grade-point averages in the calculation of the school's overall ranking. Our current law school ranking methodology counts only full-time student admissions data. Just to be clear, U.S. News is carefully contemplating the potential impact of such a methodology change: We will not make a decision until January 2009.