The Good and Bad of Law School Rankings

Navigating the rankings and choosing a law school can be like navigating through a new place.

Navigating the rankings and choosing a law school can be like navigating through a new place.

Not All Law School Rankings are Created Equally


What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

With that teenage logic, Juliet Capulet probably would have made a questionable law school decision as well. Law school names and especially the numbers put next to them are increasingly pertinent. Ask any law school applicant and they will not only tell you the ranking of the “top” school they are trying to get into but also its median UGPA and LSAT score.

Why the stress on rankings? Yes, the shadow of the Tier 14 schools does cast dark and wide. A Forbes article puts together some helpful scatter plots illuminating the benefits of going to one of the 14 schools ranked atop the U.S. News rankings every year since 1989. The article also compares business, medical and law school rankings and deems law school rankings incredibly important. The Tier 14 is a reason why. In a world of increasing student debt and decreasing job possibilities, big law firms can select applicants like the NFL draft, where you go to school and where that school is ranked is Über vital.

It is no secret that akin to law schools, not all law school rankings are created equally. A one-word reason is methodology. At Tipping the Scales, we have a different methodology from U.S. News to the ever-important ranking system. Above the Law does something similar. Put simply, it is output over input. The U.S. News rankings puts only puts a 0.20 weight on finding a job. The rest of the weight falls on what law schools think about each other, LSAT scores and access to legal procedure books. Salary, debt and jobs are what are emphasized in rankings produced by Above the Law and us.

For these reasons, law school rankings should be viewed with a methodological grain of salt. So in the world of law school rankings, a lot goes into a name. And number. But most importantly, method.

Ranking methodologies broken down by the number:

U.S. News Law School Methods

Quality assessment (.40) – Peer assessment (.25)/Judge and attorney assessment (.15)

Selectivity (.25)

Placement success (.20)

Faculty resources (.15)

Tipping the Scales Methods

Acceptance rates and median LSATs (.25)

Graduates with jobs lined up (.25)

Starting salaries (.25)

Above the Law Methods

Quality jobs score (.30)

Employment score (.30)

Education cost (.15)

Alumni rating (.10)

Active federal judges (.075)

SCOTUS clerks (.075)

Source: Forbes

Source: Above the Law

Source: U.S. News methods

Source: Tipping the Scales methods