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

Thursday, May 2, 2013

ATL Law School Rankings

ATLAbove the Law, Most People Attend Law School to Obtain Jobs as Lawyers. (Not Butchers or Bakers, or Candlestick Makers.):

If law school was just a cool place to chill out for a few years without building specific job skills, they'd call it "college." Jobs are important, and we think that law schools should be competing to place students in the best jobs, not the best libraries. And given the cost of obtaining legal education, we want to know which law schools put you in jobs that pay you money, instead of jobs the law school pays for. With that in mind we present our inaugural ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings.

Here are the Top 20 (and their U.S. News ranking):

  1. Yale (#1 in U.S. News)
  2. Stanford (#2)
  3. Harvard (#2)
  4. Chicago (#4)
  5. Pennsylvania (#4)
  6. Duke (#11)
  7. Virginia (#7)
  8. Columbia (#4)
  9. UC-Berkeley (#9)
  10. NYU (#6)
  11. Cornell (#13)
  12. Michigan (#9)
  13. Northwestern (#12)
  14. Texas (#15)
  15. Vanderbilt (#15)
  16. Georgetown (#14)
  17. UCLA (#17)
  18. Notre Dame (#23)
  19. Georgia (#33)
  20. USC (#18)

Hre are the schools that most outperform their U.S. News ranking:

+55: St. Louis (#47 Above the Law, #102 U.S. News)
+48: Rutgers-Camden (#43, #91)
+38: New Mexico (#26, #64)
+28: Seton Hall (#36, #64)
+27: Miami (#49, #76)
+26: SMU (#22, #48)
+14: Georgia (#19, #33)
+14: Illinois #33, #47)
+13: Houston (#35, #48)
+12: Georgia State (#42, #54)

Here are the schools that most underperform their U.S. News ranking:

-21: Arizona State (#50 Above the Law, #29 U.S. News)
-15: Indiana (#40, #25)
-13: University of Washington (#41, #28)
-13: Minnesota (#32, #19)
-12: Washington & Lee (#38, #26)
-11: Iowa (#37, #26)
-10: George Washington (#31, #21)
-10: Ohio State (#46, #36)
-10: Fordham (#48, #38)
-7: UC-Davis (#45, #38)


  • Employment Score (30%) -- full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage (excluding solos and school-funded positions)
  • Quality Jobs Score (30%) -- We’ve combined placement with the country’s largest and best-paying law firms (using the National Law Journal’s “NLJ 250”) and the percentage of graduates embarking on federal judicial clerkships.
  • SCOTUS Clerk & Federal Judgeship Scores (7.5% each) -- We simply looked at a school's graduates as a percentage of (1) all U.S. Supreme Court clerks (since 2008) and (2) currently sitting Article III judges. Both scores are adjusted for the size of the school.
  • Education Cost (15%) -- [A]s a proxy for indebtedness, we’ve scored schools based on total cost. For those schools placing a majority of their graduates into the local job market, we’ve adjusted the score for the cost of living in that market.
  • Alumni Rating (10%) -- This is the only non-public component of our rankings. For the purposes of the ATL Top 50, we only counted the alumni rating.

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"For those schools placing a majority of their graduates into the local job market, we’ve adjusted the score for the cost of living in that market."

In other words, if you think living in Oklahoma is as appealing as living in New York or California, have we got a law school for you!

There are good reason certain areas cost more to live in. Because people who have money would rather live there and bid up the price.

And why might people want to live there?

Because those areas have:

-Better schools
-A more educated population
-Better transportation networks
-Better and healthier food
-Less crime
-Less poverty
-Pleasant, walkable neighborhoods
-Culture (Art, Museums, etc.)
-Natural beauty and good weather
-Access to a major body of water, preferably with nice beaches
-A robust local economy

But heck, if you think the real estate market is wrong and there are some great deals in the backwoods of middle-of-nowhere, these are the rankings for you.

Posted by: Anon | May 2, 2013 6:43:26 AM

In the list of schools that underperform their US News ranking, you should have listed the schools that did not show up in the Top 50 in the ATL rankings at all, yet were listed in the top 50 in US News. For example, George Mason, #41 in US News, is somewhere between 51 and 200 in the ATL rankings, an underperformance of somewhere between 9 to 159 places, which is clearly more than UC-Davis' underperformance. There are others as well.

Posted by: Justin | May 2, 2013 6:44:11 AM

"We simply looked at a school's graduates as a percentage of (1) all U.S. Supreme Court clerks (since 2008) and (2) currently sitting Article III judges"

Why don't other federal clerkships, like Tax Courts, count?

Why don't state court clerkships count?

Posted by: Anon | May 2, 2013 6:46:46 AM

In defense of ATL's clerkship metric, the clerkships ranked are the hardest to obtain. State court clerkships and Article I clerkships get lumped in with the legal jobs category. With that said, I'd take a clerkship with an Article I or state supreme court judge over many other legal jobs because those jobs operate as a foothold into prestigious employment. It's also probably a great experience. So yes, something is lacking here.

Posted by: HTA | May 2, 2013 8:07:44 AM

Prof. Leiter also notes the exclusion of J.D. advantaged jobs. The exclusion seems like an error to me.

Posted by: HTA | May 2, 2013 11:58:09 AM

The people who continually fight over law school rankings should wear this t-shirt: "---- Contest".

Posted by: Woody | May 2, 2013 6:50:40 PM

Woody: For the first time ever, I agree with you 100%. I really don't care what law school a lawyer went to, and frankly, I don't think it matters a whole lot. I have met Yale grads who are clueless (and arrogant) and New England School of Law alums who are among the best ever. People who want a good legal education will get one, pretty much at any law school. The reverse is also true.

Posted by: Publius Novus | May 3, 2013 7:08:46 AM