Familiar No. 1 in ‘Above The Law’ Ranking

U.C. Berkeley Law School

UC-Berkeley Law School


On the surface, the 2016 ranking was a bit more turbulent than previous years. Two schools, Columbia Law and New York University, fell out of the top 10, replaced by Northwestern and the University of California-Berkeley (i.e. Boalt Hall). Overall, the ranking remained relatively consistent, with just two newcomers to the top 25: the University of Georgia (23rd) and Washington & Lee University (25th).

This stability extends over the past four years — with a few exceptions. The University of Iowa, for example, has jumped 19 spots over that period, going from 36th to 17th, aided by moderate tuition and a Midwest cost of living (for a $143,297 total investment). Ohio State has made a similar 19-spot leap, to 27th. While Boston University and Boston College have entered ATL’s top 20 in recent years, Georgetown Law and the University of Georgia have both tumbled out of it.

At the same time, several schools are faring better with ATL’s outcome-driven methodology than U.S. News’s emphasis on inputs and survey feedback. Exhibit A would be Boston College, which ranks 14th with ATL and 30th with U.S. News. Here, BC’s soft 45.3% acceptance rate isn’t counted against them — nor are their incoming LSATs and GPAs, which are clustered suspiciously close to similarly ranked programs like Ohio State University. Instead, BC can be judged on its above-average median starting private sector salaries ($145,000) and placement rates (88%), along with its respectable BigLaw placement rate (38.1%).

Several other schools rank higher in terms of ATL outputs in comparison to U.S. News. They include: Washington & Lee (25th versus 40th), Southern Methodist University (29th versus 45th), the University of Florida (30th versus 48th), Baylor (32nd versus 55th), Seton Hall (35th versus 65th), the University of New Mexico (35th versus 60th), and Louisiana State University (43rd versus 82nd).

But the opposite is also true, with the University of Minnesota, Emory, the University of Indiana (Maurer) and Arizona State (O’Connor) ranking lower when outcomes are amplified. Even more, several highly ranked programs in U.S. News don’t even crack ATL’s top 50. This includes three California programs ranked in U.S. News’s top 30: USC, UC-Irvine, and UC-Davis. The University of Wisconsin, Fordham University, and the University of Colorado (Boulder) also lacked the post-graduation chops to be ranked by ATL.

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To see additional ranking histories and comparisons between Above the Law and U.S. News, go to the next page.