TaxProf Blog

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Most Overrated and Underrated Law Schools

U.S. News 2015Following up on yesterday's post, John Yoo on the U.S. News Rankings: Peer Reputation Is the Only Thing That Matters:  the charts below list the most overrated and underrated law schools in the 2015 U.S. News Law Schools Rankings, based on the discrepancy between a school's overall rank and its peer reputation rank:

  • Overrated law schools:  overall rank is better than academic peer reputation rank
  • Underrated law schools:  overall rank is worse than academic peer reputation rank

Overrated Rank

Law School

Overall Rank

Peer Rank

Difference

1

Florida International

100

152

+52

2

Campbell

121

168

+47

3

Tulsa

72

116

+44

4

New Hampshire

93

128

+35

5

LSU

72

99

+27

6

Arkansas (Fayetteville)

61

87

+26

6

West Virginia

83

109

+26

8

Baylor

51

76

+25

8

Penn State

51

76

+25

10

Wayne State

87

109

+22

11

Seton Hall

68

87

+19

12

Duquesne

121

139

+18

12

Hamline

121

139

+18

12

Akron

121

139

+18

15

SMU

42

58

+16

15

Richmond

51

67

+16

15

Stetson

93

109

+16

15

St. Louis

93

109

+16

19

Drake

113

128

+15

20

Nebraska

54

67

+13

20

Cleveland State

115

128

+13

20

Creighton

115

128

+13

20

Washburn

115

128

+13

24

Alabama

23

35

+12

24

Arizona State

31

43

+12

24

Louisville

87

99

+12

24

Mercer

104

116

+12

28

Washington (Seattle)

24

35

+11

29

BYU

36

46

+10

29

Quinnipiac

118

128

+10

29

St. Thomas (Minneapolis)

129

139

+10

 

Underrated Rank

Law School

Overall Rank

Peer Rank

Difference

1

Oregon

100

53

-47

2

Hofstra

135

99

-36

2

Howard

135

99

-36

4

DePaul

121

87

-34

5

Santa Clara

107

76

-31

6

Maine

129

99

-30

7

Loyola-L.A.

87

58

-29

8

San Diego

79

53

-26

9

Hawaii

100

76

-24

10

American

72

49

-23

10

Pittsburgh

81

58

-23

12

Arkansas (Little Rock)

121

99

-22

13

Catholic

107

87

-20

13

Syracuse

107

87

-20

13

Vermont

129

109

-20

16

UC-Hastings

54

35

-19

16

Baltimore

135

116

-19

16

McGeorge

147

128

-19

19

Marquette

93

76

-17

20

Washington & Lee

43

27

-16

20

Brooklyn

83

67

-16

22

Cardozo

64

49

-15

23

UC-Davis

36

22

-14

23

Florida

49

35

-14

23

Tennessee

72

58

-14

26

SUNY (Buffalo)

100

87

-13

26

Drexel

129

116

-13

26

Wyoming

129

116

-13

29

North Carolina

31

19

-12

29

New York Law School

140

128

-12

29

Pace

140

128

-12

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/03/the-most-overrated.html

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

Any chance we can see this comparison with respect to the judges/practitioner's score?

Posted by: FactCheck | Mar 13, 2014 6:51:18 AM

Arguably you have these categories backwards. Maybe it's the academic peer assessment that should be seen as overrating or underrating schools as compared to a more objective set of criteria of school quality. No, the US News formula is by no means perfect--or even good--but don't try to convince me that peer reputation is scientific. The US News form asks its recipients to assess every law school in the country, the vast majority of which a faculty member will know nothing about.

And yes, this is a self-interested post.

Posted by: Brant Lee | Mar 13, 2014 6:53:00 AM

Overrated: #6 West Virginia, which has (a) 76.8% of its 2012 graduates in full-time/bar-required positions with no school-funded positions and (b) a resident COA of $110,078.

Underrated: #10 Pittsburgh, which has (a) 51.4% of its 2012 graduates in full-time/bar-required positions with no school-funded positions and (b) a resident COA of $168,483.

But yes, clearly academic peer reputation is what matters most to employers.

Posted by: Morse Code for J | Mar 13, 2014 7:55:58 AM

I think that jobs outcomes (Faculty Lounge has rankings based on % of FT, LT, license required jobs) vs. US News rank or student selectivity would be a better gauge of what schools are under- or overperforming with regards to their students.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 13, 2014 8:48:43 AM

Can we have an overrated/underrated law faculty post? Pretty please.

Posted by: Jojo | Mar 13, 2014 8:58:24 AM

I'm not sure that any single metric captures everything an aspiring law student might want to know when comparing law schools. My preliminary analysis of the 2015 rankings suggests, however, that regional differences in unemployment rates had a dramatic effect on the rankings. California's recovery, for example, is still well behind the rest of the country.

California schools are further prejudiced by the fact that California bar results are among the last summer bar results to be released. This means that California grads have substantially less time after admission than grads in other states to find the jobs that are then counted by US News. In a world in which admission to the bar has become increasingly important to getting a grad's first law job, these differences significantly affect reported 9-month out employment rates.

These factors systematically depressed the 2015 rankings of California schools. Note that not a single California school appears on the "overrated" list. By contrast, 6 of the 25 most "underrated" schools are California schools. History suggests that regional differences in employment are temporary and that whether a state releases its bar results earlier or later is not a good predictor of long-term career success. If so, then US News is systematically misleading students about the long-term effects of attending one school rather than another.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Mar 13, 2014 10:36:05 AM

It seems to me odd to subtract ordinal numbers. Although I would not necessarily conclude that it is desirable to use the underlying rankings themselves as a basis for comparison, one might instead look at the actual rankings from USNWR (the best being 100) and from the underlying peer scores and compute the z-scores for each and then the differences. If the tedious inputting of the actual rankings has been done correctly, that produces:

Corresponding to Overrrated:

School peer z minus ranking z
Florida International -0.67
Tulsa -0.63
Campbell -0.59
SMU -0.53
New Hampshire -0.47
Alabama -0.45
Baylor -0.45
Penn State -0.45
Arkansas (Fayetteville) -0.41
Washington (Seattle) -0.39
LSU -0.36
West Virginia -0.32
Richmond -0.32
Yale -0.3
Seton Hall -0.29
Wayne State -0.27
William & Mary -0.26
Nebraska -0.26
BYU -0.25
Drake -0.24
Mercer -0.22
Stetson -0.21
St. Louis -0.21
Kentucky -0.2
Oklahoma -0.2
Duquesne -0.2
Hamline -0.2
Akron -0.2
Cleveland State -0.18
Creighton -0.18
Washburn -0.18
Arizona State -0.18


Corresponding to Underrated:

School peer z minus ranking z
Oregon 0.63
UC-Hastings 0.52
North Carolina 0.47
DePaul 0.46
Hofstra 0.44
Howard 0.44
American 0.42
Florida 0.41
UC-Davis 0.4
Loyola (Los Angeles) 0.39
Maine 0.38
Washington & Lee 0.37
Santa Clara 0.36
San Diego 0.35
Arkansas (Little Rock) 0.33
Cardozo 0.3
McGeorge 0.28
Pittsburgh 0.27
Vermont 0.25
Hawaii 0.24
Catholic 0.23
Syracuse 0.23
Tulane 0.22
Michigan 0.21
Wisconsin 0.21
Texas 0.21
Brooklyn 0.2
Marquette 0.18
Baltimore 0.18
Cornell 0.17
Georgetown 0.17

Posted by: Royce Barondes | Mar 13, 2014 1:01:05 PM

On the other hand, Ted, after nine months people are well within the bounds of being long-term unemployed, and as every study over the last few years has concluded, the long-term unemployed are the least likely among us to find gainful employment. I have seen no evidence that law school graduates have magical elixirs to guard against the trap of long-term unemployment; indeed, my personal history would indicate the opposite. And from my experience, the small law firms hiring entry-level lawyers would rather look at *fresh* graduates than those who are ten months out. Ten months out, one is unfortunately already past their sell-by date. The only *positive* to result from changing the jobs reporting goalposts from nine months to ten would be that the jobs reports would not be released until after most schools require first deposits of their 0Ls.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 13, 2014 1:37:45 PM

Not sure I get why I should care about the peer rank. Am I supposed to believe that most academics are coming up with intelligent and reasoned impressions of 163 law schools? Obviously a lot of it is going to suffer from lack of any real information, plus bias from hometown schools or undergrad sports, and the historical USNWR will supplement for ignorance.

Moreover, why do we care about being +12 versus +15 for schools ranked in the 110s on USNWR and 90s among academics? A twenty point spread in that area doesn't necessarily mean much, and the USNWR individual ranking levels are two steps shy of useless outside the top twenty or thirty.

Posted by: nl7 | Mar 14, 2014 7:34:36 AM

FIU representing! My own peer review rating (having never worked in legal academia, I am well-qualified for this) places Harvard at #1 for being overrated. I calculate this by looking at tuition costs, post-grad employment, douchebaggery, overinflated ego, and lack of self-awareness of each graduate.

Posted by: Hurricane | Mar 14, 2014 1:28:46 PM

You think law school evaluators have it rough? For us in the Business school world, we are asked to rate almost 500 AACSB accredited schools! What do I do? If I know something about the school--I went there, worked there, have been on a peer review team, know the dean well, etc. I will rate them. Otherwise, it is a DK. I probably rate about 25- 30 schools at most. A couple of years ago I didn't turn in the evaluation form. USNEWS sent a certified letter to the university President wanting to know why we weren't participating.

Being a dean at a small school i don't have to worry about "rankings"--other schools spend more on marketing alone than we have for our entire budget. What i worry about is how well our students learn the things we think are important, as measured by things like the MFT, CAPSIM competitions, etc., and most importantly, how they do in the job market both graduation time and years beyond.

Posted by: David Sollars | Mar 14, 2014 1:42:10 PM

Actually, I'm not sure where they rank but Harvard Law School should be number one on those over-rated. Based on who we now have as President, who was not only a graduate of Harvard Law school, but also President of the Law Review, for him to be acting, in the manner he is now, should call into question what sort of education they're handing out at Harvard. I believe we should be able to take away their accreditation, unless they can prove they're not responsible for this.

Posted by: bflat879 | Mar 14, 2014 8:06:37 PM