Recent Law School News Focuses On Rankings

Law graduates' employment figures and their importance to applicants have been in the news lately.

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There have a been a few recent, noteworthy pieces that relate to the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings:

• " Despite an Uncertain Employment Landscape, Law School Applicants Still Consider School Rankings Far More Important than Job Placement Rates When Deciding Where to Apply": According to Kaplan's report based on a June 2012 survey of Kaplan Test Prep's LSAT students:

"When asked, "What is most important to you when picking a law school to apply to?", 32% cited a law school's ranking; followed by geographic location at 22%; academic programming at 20%; and affordability/tuition at 13%. At nearly the back of the pack? A law school's job placement statistics, which came in at 8%."

Our take: U.S. News urges law school applicants not to heavily rely on the rankings as the basis for where to apply or to attend. Applicants need to strongly consider cost, location, course offerings, and job prospects. The rankings should only be one tool in application process.

• " ABA and LSAC Announce Program for Reporting of Entering-Class Data": The American Bar Association (ABA) and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) announced a pilot program for the 2012-2013 entering class to certify the accuracy of each law school's entering-class credentials.

Reports for each school will include the 25th, median, and 75th percentile undergraduate grade point averages and LSAT scores. The certification is voluntary, but the ABA says that law schools that take part in it will be free to publicize that fact in order to give the public increased assurances about the accuracy of their data.

Our take: U.S. News hopes that all law schools will choose to participate in this data certification program so that prospective law school applicants and the public can be assured that the admissions data is 100 percent accurate. U.S. News uses this entering class admission data in our Best Law Schools rankings methodology.

• " Class of 2011 legal employment and underemployment numbers are in, and far worse than expected": The ABA released Class of 2011 job outcome data in June 2012 that was far more granular than ever before because it used the ABA's new employment reported standards. According to an analysis of the data done by Law School Transparency:

The ABA data shed considerable light on how poorly the 2011 graduates fared. We can now say with certainty that the employment picture is far worse than previously reported. Only 55.2% of all graduates were known to be employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs. These jobs require bar passage or are judicial clerkships and are for at least 35 hours per week and have an expected duration of at least one year. At 73 law schools, less than 50% of graduates had these legal jobs."

Our take: U.S. News plans to collect this new, more granular employment data and use it in our upcoming law school rankings. After studying the data, our goal is to revise the part of our Best Law Schools rankings methodology that has to do with employment rates. We hope this new data will enable the rankings to more accurately reflect the employment success—or lack thereof—of each law school's new graduates.