The Law School Rankings Debate Rages On

A number of law school blogs—and a sitting federal judge—have commented on the new rankings.

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Our recently published 2010 America's Best Graduate Schools rankings have triggered a growing debate about how to rate grad schools and what factors should be used.

It's not a surprise that the new law school rankings have been the focus of such conversations, given the nature of legal education and the large number of law blogs. We welcome these discussions. Check out the blogs Above the Law and TaxProf for some of the best coverage and reactions to the law school rankings. Paul Caron, editor of the TaxProf blog, has published some interesting alternative rankings using data from our latest law school rankings. In addition, Prof. Brian Leiter's Law School Reports continue to offer sophisticated commentary and criticism as well as suggestions on how to improve the rankings. Leiter also does his own law rankings.

Other law blogs—including MoneyLaw, the Faculty Lounge, Law Librarian Blog, and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog—have all offered extensive coverage of the law rankings and related issues.

In other law ranking news—in what could be a first—a sitting federal judge has developed law rankings based solely on the U.S. News peer assessment data that were published in the 2009 edition of the rankings. These alternative rankings appear in D rexel Law Review's first issue in an article by Judge Louis H. Pollak called " Why Trying to Rank Law Schools Numerically Is a Non-Productive Undertaking: An Article on the U.S. News & World Report 2009 List of “The Top 100 Schools." Judge Pollak's article obviously is highly critical of our law rankings, which he believes are "bad for the health of legal education."

Pollak writes that:

"any serious attempt to measure the quality of a law school should include inquiry into a dimension unmentioned, let alone unexamined, by U.S.News & World Report—namely, how recent and current law students feel about their alma mater. A major difficulty, of course, is that a useful inquiry would be very difficult to design and carry out. But the larger difficulty is that the findings, while very likely of real interest (most especially to college seniors deciding which law schools to apply to) would be unquantifiable."

We agree that it would be very useful to have input from recent graduates and current students about their law school experience, but it's not possible to collect it. We do include input from legal professionals as part of the rankings because we measure the views of hiring partners at law firms and federal and state judges who hire law clerks. We also gauge initial legal career success by factoring in the proportion of new graduates who get jobs and the percentage of first-time test takers who pass state bar exams.

Bottom Line: The U.S. News law rankings are providing valuable information that has proved to be useful to prospective students, as well as to practicing attorneys and legal academics, in evaluating the relative merits of different law schools and legal programs.