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Law Schools and Employment Rates

published November 02, 2010

Rebecca Neely
( 34 votes, average: 4.4 out of 5)
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The top ten law schools for 2010 are Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, the University of Chicago, New York University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the University of Virginia.

In the April 15, 2010 article entitled ''The Law School Rankings Methodology'', author Robert Morse discusses how the best law schools are ranked.

The rankings of 188 law schools fully accredited by the American Bar Association are based on a weighted average of 12 measures of quality. Data were collected in the fall 2009 and early 2010. Specialty rankings are based solely on nominations by legal educators at peer institutions.

For the "America's Best Graduate Schools" 2011 edition, U.S. News continued the same main law school rankings methodology that was used in 2010 edition for admissions data. The combined fall 2009 class admissions data for both full-time and part-time entering students for the median LSAT scores was used, as well as median undergraduate grade-point averages, and the acceptance rate in calculating the school's overall ranking.

U.S. News's law school ranking methodology in the 2010 edition used these same three admissions variables. U.S. News methodology continues to compare each law school's entering class against every other's based on the entire student body, which produces the most complete comparisons between schools. Statistics for part-time students have been included in the U.S. News law school ranking methodology starting in 1990 in computing all the other statistical variables used in the faculty resources and placement success factors that involved students.

Placement Success (weighted by .20)
Employment Rates for Graduates The employment rates for 2008 graduating class determine success in this category. Graduates who are working or pursuing graduate degrees are considered employed. Employment rates are measured at graduation (.04 weight ) and nine months after graduation (.14 weight). For the nine-month employment rate, 25 percent of those whose status is unknown are counted as employed. Those who are unemployed and not seeking jobs are excluded from the calculations and are not counted as unemployed. Those who are unemployed and seeking work are counted as unemployed in the calculations of the employment rates.
Bar Passage Rate (.02) The ratio of the school's bar passage rate of the 2008 graduating class to that jurisdiction's overall state bar passage rate for first-time test takers in the winter 2008 and summer 2008. The jurisdiction listed is the state where the largest number of 2008 graduates took the state bar exam. The state bar examination pass rates for first-time test takers in summer 2008 and winter 2008 were provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

The American Bar Association's 2009 Annual Questionnaire required law schools to report their bar passage rate results for first-time test-takers for the same calendar-year winter and summer 2008.

Faculty Resources (weighted by .15)
Expenditures Per Student The average expenditures per student for the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. The average instruction, library, and supporting services (.0975) are measured, as are all other items, including financial aid (.015).

Student/Faculty Ratio (.03) The ratio of students to faculty members for 2009, using the American Bar Association definition.

Library Resources (.0075) The total number of volumes and titles in the school's law library at the end of the 2009 fiscal year.

Overall Rank
Data were standardized about their means, and standardized scores were weighted, totaled, and rescaled so that the top school received 100; others received their percentage of the top score.

In the May 20, 2010 article entitled, ''U.S. News Takes Steps to Stop Law Schools From Manipulating the Rankings'', author Robert Morse discusses the methodology behind U.S. News's America's Best Law Schools Rankings, and how and why certain law schools are taking advantage of that knowledge better their rankings. The article is excerpted below.

U.S. News has said that the percent of J.D. graduates employed at graduation and those employed nine months after graduation count for 4.0 and 14.0 percent of the overall rankings, respectively. U.S. News has publicly disclosed the formula used in its ranking model to estimate the employed-at-graduation figure, should a law school not report the percentage of graduates who are employed at graduation.

The formula has been: that law school's employed-at-nine-months percentage minus approximately 30 percentage points equals employed at graduation. For example, for a law school with a 90 percent rate of employment at nine months, its ranking would be computed using an estimate of 60 percent. U.S. News publishes these non reporters's data as N/A on the law school ranking table.

Why is U.S. News making this estimate? In the past, U.S. News had been told by many in law school career services offices that some law schools didn't or couldn't keep track of the proportion of their J.D. graduates with jobs at graduation, that what really mattered was nine months out, and that it would not be fair to penalize law schools in the rankings if they didn't have the employed-at-graduation data.

The problem created by this openness about U.S. News ranking model is that it's clear that more law schools have decided whether to report their at graduation employment based on how their actual percentage will compare to the estimate U.S. News will make for them. For example, a law school knows that its actual at-graduation employment rate is 40 percent, but knows because of our transparency that based on its nine-month rate, U.S. News will estimate 60 percent for its at-graduation rate, that school has chosen not to report its actual numbers and instead lets U.S. News make the estimate. In other words: ranking gamesmanship.

In the latest edition of the America's Best Law Schools rankings, 74 law schools (39 percent of those that were ranked) did not report their at-graduation employment rate. This is nearly double the number of schools (38) that did not report in the 2005 edition. U.S. News believes that this increase proves that far more law schools do track their students at graduation and believe that virtually all law schools could be reporting vital job placement data and have chosen not to do so in order to game the rankings.

U.S. News is planning to significantly change its estimate for the at-graduation rate employment for non-responding schools in order to create an incentive for more law schools to report their actual at- graduation employment rate data. This new estimating procedure will not be released publicly before the rankings are published.

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