U.S. News May Change Its Law School Ranking Methodology

ABA changes will enable U.S. News to collect, publish, and use more detailed legal jobs data.

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There is a very strong likelihood that U.S. News will change the way it computes "at graduation" and "nine months after graduation" legal placement rates that will be used in the methodology for the upcoming 2013 edition of the Best Law Schools rankings, as a result of recent action taken by the American Bar Association.

The ABA Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has taken a long-awaited first step by approving new standards to report law school placement data. These new standards should result in a significant improvement in both the quality and quantity of post-J.D. employment data. U.S. News had been among those urging the ABA to take action to improve the credibility of the important consumer information.

According to Art Gaudio, dean of the Western New England College School of Law:

[H]opefully the new reporting requirements will be in place for the next version of the ABA Annual Questionnaire in October, 2011. If so, it will gather data regarding 2010 law school grads. However various issues must first be resolved before that will be certain to occur and those matters have not yet been resolved. If the new reporting system is established with the assistance of NALP [the Association for Legal Career Professionals], NALP will provide the individual law schools with data derived from their individual NALP surveys. The law schools will then provide the data to the ABA on the ABA Annual Questionnaire."

The new reporting rules, which have been reported on extensively by Law School Transparency, will require schools to report jobs data on whether a new J.D. grad is employed in a job requiring bar passage, in a job for which a J.D. is preferred, in another professional job, in a nonprofessional job, or in a job of unknown type. For those that are not employed, the categories of possible responses are will be pursuing a graduate degree, unemployed not seeking, unemployed seeking, or status unknown. In addition, the schools will have to report if the jobs are full time or part time and long term or short term. Schools will also need to indicate the number of jobs that are funded by the law school or university. Jobs will be broken down further in law firms of various sizes, business and industry, government, public interest, judicial clerkships, academia, and employer type unknown.

If more detailed information on types of legal jobs and full-time and part-time employment status was available from law schools for new J.D. graduates, U.S. News would collect it, publish it, and—where applicable—use these more detailed job type calculations in the law school ranking methodology. If the new ABA rules are implemented, U.S. News will use our own law school statistical surveys in fall 2011 to collect and eventually publish the entire new richer and more detailed set of employment and jobs data from each law school for 2010 J.D. graduates. When we gather this richer data set, we will be able to make a more exact determination of how our ranking methodology will change.