Many consider U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Law Schools” ranking to be the go-to for prospective law school applicants. Yet a new ranking may be helpful for applicants interested in identifying more salient factors in their decision.
The “Revealed-Preferences Ranking of Law Schools,” by Christopher Ryan of Vanderbilt University and Bryan Frye of the University of Kentucky, analyzes law school rankings by looking exclusively at the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of matriculating students. The ranking’s method assumes that the best law schools are the “most successful at matriculating the most desirable students.”
“In contrast to objective rankings of law schools, which attempt to tell prospective law students which law school they should attend, this article provides a subjective ranking of law schools, by asking which law schools prospective students actually choose to attend,” according to the ranking’s abstract.
In comparison to the U.S. News rankings, seven law schools improved placing and ranked in the top 50. Schools that made significant gains include Brigham Young University, William and Mary, George Mason, Southern Methodist, Nebraska, Pepperdine, and Northeastern. BYU improved by 26 spots placing the law school at 20.
“BYU Law attracts outstanding students who are well informed and well prepared,” Gayla Sorenson, BYU Law’s dean of admissions, tells the Daily Herald. “We are pleased but not surprised that a ranking that relies on their assessment of critical factors places us in the top 20.”
Implications of the Study
What do these findings say? Well, for one, it could mean that a majority of big, name rankings are missing crucial factors that are important to applicants when looking at law school quality.
“Reliable indicators of quality are essential to inform market participants’ expectations but should be responsive enough to changes in quality and value that they do not become synonymous with participants’ expectations,” Ryan and Frye say. “Nearly every ranking system must make tradeoffs between simplicity and accuracy of measurement.”
While U.S. News does publish peer review rankings, Ryan and Fryre say it relies heavily on peer review ratings. In comparison, their ranking study is based on the measure of law student choice.
“The rankings we offer below form the basis of a consumer preference model and thus present a fundamentally improved ranking alternative for prospective students, not to mention the public, who wish to see where the best students are choosing to attend law school,” they say.
To see the full ranking, click on the Alabama Law Review link below.