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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Above the Law 2014 Rankings of the Top 50 Law Schools

ATLAbove the Law has released its 2014 Rankings of the Top 50 Law Schools. Here are the Top 25, along with each school's U.S. News ranking:

ATL

US News

Law School

1

1

Yale

2

2

Harvard

3

3

Stanford

4

4

Columbia

5

4

Chicago

6

6

NYU

7

10

Duke

8

7

Penn

9

8

Virginia

10

10

Michigan

11

12

Northwestern

12

9

UC-Berkeley

13

13

Cornell

14

16

Vanderbilt

15

15

Texas

16

13

Georgetown

17

26

Notre Dame

18

27

Iowa

19

16

UCLA

20

29

Georgia

21

36

Boston College

22

72

New Mexico

23

31

North Carolina

24

36

BYU

25

42

SMU

Methodology:

Employment score (30%)
We are staying out of all of the hairsplitting about the definitions of “J.D. Advantage” versus “J.D. Preferred,” or whether employment data should be captured at 9 or 10 months after graduation. Much of the debate around law school employment data strikes us as so much fiddling around the edges of a larger problem. Thus for the employment score, we only counted full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage (excluding solos and school-funded positions).

Quality jobs score (30%)
This measures the schools’ success at placing students on career paths that best enable them to pay off their student debts. 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. These clerkships typically lead to a broader and enhanced range of employment opportunities.

SCOTUS clerk & Federal judgeship scores (7.5% each)
Though obviously applicable to very different stages of legal careers, these two categories represent the pinnacles of the profession. For the purposes of these rankings, we simply looked at a school's graduates as a percentage of (1) all U.S. Supreme Court clerks (since 2009) and (2) currently sitting Article III judges. Both scores are adjusted for the size of the school.

Education cost (15%)
Solid data on individual law student educational debt is hard to come by. Published averages exist, but the crucial number, the amount of non-dischargeable government funded or guaranteed educational loan debt, is not available. So as 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. Our ATL Insider Survey asks students and alumni to rate their schools in terms of academics, financial aid advising, career services advising, social life, and clinical training. For the purposes of the ATL Top 50, we only counted the alumni ratings, as that was more in keeping with our “outcomes only” approach. 

Four of the five California law schools ranked in the Top 50 by both Above the Law and U.S. News rank lower in the ATL ranking due to its heavy (60%) reliance on placement data and California's comparatively weak legal employment market.

ATL

US News

Law School

3

3

Stanford

12

9

UC-Berkeley

19

16

UCLA

35

20

USC

42

36

UC-Davis

Like U.S. News, ATL has not heeded the call by California law school deans to use state-adjusted employment measures.

Update:  Brian Leiter (Chicago), ATL's Approach to Ranking Law Schools: Decide What the Result Should be, Then Adjust the Criteria Accordingly

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/04/above-the-law-1.html

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Comments

For an upstart group that's pretty conventional

Posted by: michael livingston | May 1, 2014 4:53:15 AM

I would like to see the rankings without any weight placed on Supreme Court clerkships and federal judgeships. It is hard to see how this variable is relevant to the vast majority of law school applicants and students. I suspect that if you took the 7.5% weight on this variable and redistributed it to the employment and quality jobs variables, you would see some interesting changes, such as Yale falling off the top spot and perhaps out of the top 3. I also suspect that this is why ATL's editors put so much weight on this irrelevant variable.

Posted by: critic | May 2, 2014 10:57:56 AM