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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Size Matters: Thomas Cooley's 2009 Law School Rankings

Judging_cover_08_tn Thomas Cooley Law School has released the 10th annual edition of its law school rankings, Judging the Law Schools.  The ranking is based on equal weights assigned to 32 objective variables, all but one of which are from the Official ABA Guide to Approved Law Schools.  Many of these variables favor large law schools:

  • Total enrollment
  • Total applications
  • Number of full-time faculty
  • Number of part-time faculty
  • Total teaching faculty
  • Number of minority faculty
  • Number of 2L & 3L courses
  • Total volumes in library
  • Total titles in library
  • Total serial subscriptions
  • Number of professional librarians
  • Library seating capacity
  • Number of networked computers available for student use
  • Total library square footage
  • Total law school square footage
  • Number of states in which graduates are employed

Here are the Top 50 Law Schools under this methodology (along with the school's U.S. News rank and total J.D. enrollment):

  1. Harvard (#2 in U.S. News; 1,734 students)
  2. Georgetown (#14; 1,990)
  3. NYU (#5; 1,424)
  4. Virginia (#9; 1,175)
  5. Texas (#16; 1,291)
  6. Michigan (#9; 1,148)
  7. Northwestern (#9; 771)
  8. Columbia (#4; 1,236)
  9. Yale (#1; 1,130)
  10. George Washington (#20; 1,662)
  11. Minnesota (#22; 793)
  12. Thomas M. Cooley (#181; 3,644)
  13. Fordham (#27; 1,509)
  14. UCLA (#16; 1,025)
  15. American (#46; 1,479)
  16. Pennsylvania (#7; 782)
  17. UC-Hastings (#38; 1,218)
  18. Stanford (#2; 538)
  19. Maryland (#42; 831)
  20. UC-Berkeley (#6; 864)
  21. Loyola-L.A. (#63; 1,294)
  22. Temple (#59; 968)
  23. Brooklyn (#63; 1,496)
  24. Wisconsin (#36; 842)
  25. Boston University (#21; 834)
  26. Miami (#82; 1,268)
  27. Duke (#12; 620)
  28. Washington University (#19; 810)
  29. Chicago-Kent (#66; 975)
  30. Houston (#55; 955)
  31. Chicago (#7; 607)
  32. Emory (#22; 709)
  33. Connecticut (#46; 663)
  34. Iowa (#27; 633)
  35. Suffolk (#137; 1,625)
  36. Indiana-Bloomington (#36; 620)
  37. SMU (#46; 987)
  38. Cardozo (#55; 1,075)
  39. Boston College (#26; 783)
  40. Ohio State (#32; 669)
  41. Alabama (#32; 515)
  42. Seton Hall (#66; 1,064)
  43. Vanderbilt (#15; 601)
  44. North Carolina (#38; 699)
  45. Cornell (#12; 583)
  46. Catholic (#88; 902)
  47. Tulane (#44; 753)
  48. Illinois (#27; 587)
  49. Denver (#88; 1,134)
  50. San Diego (#82; 1,048)

Note that this is the most extreme example of the phenomenon we observed in What Law School Can Learn From Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics, 82 Tex. L. Rev. 1483, 1524 n.235 (2004): in every alternative ranking of law schools, the ranker's school ranks higher than it does under U.S. News. The spread in Thomas Cooley's ranking (12 v. 181) is by far the largest of any of the alternative rankings we studied.

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Comments

Please, just come right out an say it without all the qualifications. This is the must absurd, self-serving ranking of law schools in existence.

Posted by: Hans Moleman | Jan 14, 2009 11:13:03 AM

Why (objectively) is total enrollment even a factor? It seems potentially double-weighted since there is probably a strong correlation between total enrollment and total applications. Rather than absolute size, it seems to me that the student/faculty ratio should be a factor. Any economies of scale should be reflected in the other factors, such as square footage and library size (is that even relevant anymore?).

If post-graduation placement is a factor, why not percentage of graduates employed in attorney positions rather than (or in addition to) the geographical diversity factor?

Posted by: Alan Cathcart | Jan 15, 2009 12:48:29 PM

Haha of course Cooley is up to #12 after being ranked by USNWR at #181. This ranking systems smells.

Posted by: Of Course | Jan 15, 2009 2:59:23 PM