Non-Traditional Law School Ranking -- by Student Quality

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 01, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

So many law schools, so many choices ...

Fortunately, the annual U.S. News rankings help students decide where to go to law school. But it's kind of a one-size-fits-all guide, comparing LSAT's, GPA's, acceptance rate, bar passage scores, student-to-faculty ratios, job placements, etc.

So some law professors have a different idea -- how about rankings that just compare student quality? Wait, is this a trick question?

"Revealed Preferences"

Christopher Ryan, Jr. and Brian Frye claim in a forthcoming Alabama Law Review article that their approach is the "first subjective ranking of law schools."

"Our method of ranking law schools assumes that the 'best' law schools are the most successful at matriculating the most desirable students," they say. "Accordingly, this article provides a 'best law schools ranking' based exclusively on the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of matriculating students."

Using their "desirable students" matrix, the authors recalculate the top law school rankings. Their top ten schools are almost identical to the U.S. News report, but some schools rose and others fell noticeably in the top 50.

"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," they say on the TaxProf Blog.

Rank Isn't Everything, Is It?

The professors report that Washington and Iowa universities slid outside their top 20, and Boston College tumbled from 26th in the U.S. News to 42nd in their rankings. There are other considerations besides rankings, but what do "preferred preferences" really mean?

"This essentially rewards non-elite law schools who cut matriculating classes as opposed to gutting admissions standards to keep enrollment steady," the authors report, taking a swipe at law schools that tailor their numbers to rank higher on the U.S. News report.

But guiding students to the law schools with the best student scores and grades raises another question. Doesn't it suggest that students ought to choose the most competitive law schools?!

Sorry, it's a rhetorical question. Welcome to the law school method.

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