The big difference is the order. After Stanford and Yale comes No. 3 Harvard, this time tied with No. 3 University of Pennsylvania. Penn went up one spot from last year’s TippingTheScales ranking. At No. 5 is the University of Chicago, up an impressive six spots: Its employment rate is now 94% instead of 90.6%, and the median public interest salary is almost $10,000 higher than last year’s. The next big change comes from Columbia Law, down 5 spots at No. 10. The school got every-so-slightly easier to get into, with its acceptance rate 2.9 percentage points higher and its median LSAT score one point lower.
Beyond the T14, no school’s score changed by 10 points or more until No. 20 Notre Dame, which was No. 30 just last year. The school’s acceptance rate and median LSAT score actually got a bit worse, but the post-graduation statistics got noticeably better. This year, Notre Dame’s employment rate was 60.7%—a vast improvement over last year’s figure, 48.9%. On top of that, graduates’ median starting salaries were higher by $17,500 (private sector) and $25,000 (public sector). Clearly, the ranking boost is well-deserved.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Five schools we didn’t rank last year made it on the list. They were all concentrated in the 40s: No. 40 Washington and Lee University; No. 41 UC Davis; No. 42 University of Colorado—Boulder; No. 44 University of Iowa; and No. 47 Ohio State University.
Two of the schools, Washington and Lee and UC Davis, are higher up in our ranking than in U.S. News’ ranking. For the rest, the opposite is true. Most notably, we put the University of Iowa a full 17 points lower, even though it’s one of the better-known law schools in the Midwest; plus, in December, the school slashed tuition by 16.4%, which likely made it a more desirable option for in-staters and out-of-staters alike. Nonetheless, some of its stats aren’t promising: It accepted a little over half of its applicants, and only around the same percentage of graduates had jobs at graduation. Average starting salaries in the private and public sectors were on the lower end, too: $75,000 and $51,000 respectively.
Right after Iowa in the U.S. News ranking (and dead last in ours) is Indiana University—Bloomington, tied with the University of Connecticut. We ranked Indiana 21 points lower than U.S. News did. The most damning statistic is the percentage of graduates who finished school with jobs lined up: 40.7%. Some schools were actually worse off in this department—for example, at Washington and Lee, the figure is 34.6%—but they generally made up for it by being more selective.
The biggest outlier is the No. 30, the University of Houston; U.S. News put the school at the 58th place. With a respectable acceptance rate of 34.1% and a median private sector starting salary of $127,500, Houston surpassed many better-known schools. (It’s worth noting that the school did even better in TippingTheScales’ 2013 ranking, coming in at No. 26.)
As always, no ranking is perfect. We made our ranking simple enough for anyone to follow, but its simplicity hides a certain amount of nuance. For example, some schools with lower average starting salaries might simply have a lot of graduates moving to inexpensive parts of the country. $75,000 likely goes a lot farther in Iowa than in New York City.
Moreover, attending the highest-ranked law school you get into isn’t the best strategy in every single case. For example, in our examination of how law school graduates find jobs, Jeff Holt explained that he chose to be a big fish in a small pond: He attended Georgia State (unranked by TippingTheScales) instead of Emory (No. 26), finished second in his class, and got hired as an associate at Burr & Forman in Atlanta. Look at law school rankings the way admissions officers will look at your application: Numbers are very important, but they never tell the whole story.
DON’T MISS: The U.S. News 2015 Law School Rankings