TaxProf Blog

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Law School Rankings By Student Quality (LSAT And UGPA)

2018 U.S. News Law 2Christopher J. Ryan Jr. (Vanderbilt) & Brian L. Frye (Kentucky), A Revealed-Preferences Ranking of Law Schools,  69 Ala. L. Rev. ___ (2017)

The U.S. News & World Report “Best Law Schools Rankings” define the market for legal education. Law schools compete to improve their standing in the rankings and fear any decline. But the U.S. News rankings incite contention, because they rely on factors that are poor proxies for quality like peer reputation and expenditures per student. While many alternative law school rankings exist, none have challenged the market dominance of the U.S. News rankings. Presumably the U.S. News rankings benefit from a first-mover advantage, other rankings fail to provide a clearly superior alternative, or some combination of the two.

In theory, the purpose of ranking law schools is to provide useful information to prospective law students. Rankings can provide different kinds of information for different purposes. Existing law school rankings seek to provide information that will help prospective law students decide where to matriculate. However, objective rankings can provide useful information only if they measure factors that are salient to prospective law students, and different factors are salient to different students.

This article provides the first subjective ranking of law schools. It describes a method of ranking law schools based on the revealed preferences of matriculating students. Law school admission depends almost entirely on an applicant’s LSAT score and undergraduate GPA, and law schools compete to matriculate students with the highest possible combined scores. Our method of ranking law schools assumes that the “best” law schools are the most successful at matriculating the most desirable students. Accordingly, this article provides a “best law schools ranking” based exclusively on the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of matriculating 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 law students actually choose to attend. This “revealed-preferences” method of ranking law schools may help identify which factors are actually salient to prospective law students.

Law schools in our ranking were assigned a scaled desirability index score based on the “purchasing power” of their matriculating students. This index score was summed from six parts equal parts: a scaled 75th percentile GPA, a scaled median GPA, a scaled 25th percentile GPA, a scaled 75th percentile LSAT, a scaled median LSAT, and a scaled 25th percentile LSAT — each given one-sixth weight to construct the index. The consumer preference rankings we constructed from these index scores, proffered in the appendix below, surprised us, because there are consistencies between this ranking system and previous year’s peer review ratings, particularly among the top law schools. However, there are several notable exceptions, a few of which are detailed below, and the full rankings are published in the appendix at Table 1.

First, our rankings shake up the perennial contenders outside of the top-10. For example, the T- 14s are disrupted, with Texas falling on the outside of the coveted territory, while Georgetown narrowly scraped back into the top-14. Several public universities in the South tend to perform better in this ranking than their US News ranking, such as Alabama, William & Mary, and Georgia, all of which make our top-25. Midwestern bluebloods like Washington U. and Iowa, however, both slid outside the top-20, falling to 29 and 31, respectively, while Minnesota crept into the top-20. Boston College tumbled from 26 in the US News rankings to 42 in our rankings, and other traditionally top-30 schools, such as Arizona State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, and newcomer UC-Irvine, were on the outside looking in.

There were some surprising additions to the top-25, such as BYU, and top-35, such as SMU and George Mason, all of which have often are usually rated in the middle of the Top-100 law schools by US News. Also, perennial top-40 schools were also impacted, like North Carolina, which fell to 45, and Washington & Lee fell precipitously to 65. Florida State, Utah, and Maryland were also ousted from the top-50. Notable newcomers to the top-50 include Nebraska, Northeastern, and Pepperdine.

LSAT & GPA Rank

 

Law School

U.S. News 

Rank

1

Yale

1

2

Harvard

3

3

Stanford

2

4

Chicago

4

5

NYU

6

6

Pennsylvania

7

7

Columbia

5

8

Virginia

8

9

Duke

10

10

UC-Berkeley

12

11

Michigan

8

12

Northwestern

10

13

Cornell

13

14

Georgetown

15

15

UCLA

15

16

USC

19

17

Vanderbilt

17

18

Texas

14

19

Minnesota

23

20

BYU

46

21

Alabama

26

22

Emory

22

23

Boston University

23

24

William & Mary

41

25

Georgia

30

26

Notre Dame

20

27

G. Washington

30

28

U. Washington

30

29

Washington U.

18

30

Colorado

36

31

Iowa

20

32

George Mason

41

33

Arizona State

25

34

Indiana

30

35

SMU

46

36

Fordham

36

37

Nebraska

57

38

Ohio State

30

39

UC-Irvine

28

40

UC-Davis

39

41

Florida

41

42

Boston College

26

43

Wake Forest

36

44

Wisconsin

30

45

North Carolina

39

46

Illinois

44

47

Pepperdine

72

48

Northeastern

65

49

Baylor

51

50

Arizona

48

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/07/law-school-rankings-by-student-quality-lsat-and-ugpa.html

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

This essentially rewards nonelite law schools who cut matriculating classes as opposed to gutting admissions standards to keep enrollment steady. For instance, Dear Northeastern, which in this list has a much better showing than in USNWR (or in its employment outcomes) has kept its LSATs and uGPAs steady over the last several years. But at what cost? In 2010, they had 220 1Ls. By 2014, that had dropped to 126. And the median tuition discount exploded from the $8k/year it was before, during, and well after I was a student way up to $27k/year. In other words, they are almost certainly losing sheds of money to keep appearances. *Shockingly,* they aren't very forthcoming about such things with their alumni. And even with that massive $27k discount, it is still cheaper for the public-interest oriented students to attend UMASS Law down New Bedford, where tuition is $20k/year less and the cost of living is honestly about a third of Boston's.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 25, 2017 5:19:05 PM