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Ranking Law Schools, 2015: Student Aptitude, Employment Outcome, and Law Review Citations by SSRN
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill – School of Law
June 28, 2015
This essay builds on a paper released last year that ranked law schools on three variables: the median LSAT of entering students of the most recent class, the most recently available employment outcome for each school’s graduates, and citations to each school’s main law reviews over the past eight years. This paper updates that study with LSAT median data for the class entering in fall 2014, employment data for the class graduating in 2014 ten months after graduation, and the most recent law review citation data for 2007 through 2014. It studies 195 ABA approved law schools.
In addition to using more recent data, this study changes the method of combining those data. Where the last paper used simple ranks for each variable and averaged them, this study has a more granular approach to the data. It converts each school’s median LSAT score and the percentage of students employed in full-time, permanent, JD-required jobs ten months after graduation (excluding school-funded positions and solo practitioners) to standard scores. In addition, given the dramatic differences in number of law review citations among schools, it employs a common log transformation of law review citations and then converts the transformed scores to standard scores. The paper combines the first two scores to provide a two-variable ranking, and then combines all three variables to provide a three-variable ranking. The paper reports average scores for the three-variable ranking, thus permitting examination of how close schools are to each other. It also ranks the 195 ABA-approved law schools in the United States (excluding the three schools in Puerto Rico) that U.S. News included in its rankings released in March 2015. And it compares the new, two- and three- variable rankings to the U.S. News provided ranks in March 2015. It identifies the schools that improve and decline the most with the new rankings.
Ranking Law Schools, 2015: Student Aptitude, Employment Outcome, And Law Review Citations – Introduction
Nearly five years into the decline in law school applicants, there continues to be extraordinary concern among prospective students, legal educators, and the practicing bar about the state of legal education. These questions about the quality and content of education are occurring alongside long-term changes in the market for and delivery of legal services.
People considering attending law school are understandably focused on costs and employment prospects. Moreover, as the market for entry-level lawyers has continued to be poor, students want competitive edges. Common advice to prospective students is to attend wellregarded law schools. As competition increases to recruit students, schools are responding to prospective student preferences. The legal academic world is seeking the best students they can find and having the best job outcomes they can.
U.S. News & World Report rankings include a number of factors. U.S. News weights especially heavily peer and lawyer/judge assessment; it also includes student quality as measured by LSAT scores of entering students, student selectivity as measured by percentage of applicants accepted, expenditures per student, bar pass rate, job outcome data, and even library resources. In response to the increasingly detailed job data that the ABA is collecting, U.S. News now includes employment outcomes as part of its ranking.
While U.S. News’ rankings include many variables, there is reason to focus attention on student quality and student outcome.4 The former is of concern to students because so much of the law school experience relates to interactions that students have with each other that the quality of other students ought to be an important factor for prospective students to consider. This paper uses the median LSAT scores of students entering in fall 2014, as reported by schools to the ABA, as its measure of student quality. The median LSAT tells about the revealed preferences of applicants; it also tells a great deal about the quality of the educational experience.
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