Narrow Your Law School Choices Using Ratings, Statistics | Depreciation for law enforcement

From candidates for admissions officers to deans of law schools, many people involved in the process of admission to law schools are eagerly awaiting the annual ranking of the law school by US News. What are these rankings, why are they so influential and how can candidates use them to identify target law schools?

For more than 30 years, US News has published a ranked list of the top law schools in America accredited by the American Bar Association. These ratings are not the only ones published, and they are not official or authoritative in any way, but they are clearly the leading measure of the reputation of the law school.

Because law can be an elitist field, the reputation of the law school is important. Extraordinary and exceptionally fortunate lawyers from obscure or low-ranking schools have reached the heights of the legal field, but most prominent lawyers, jurists and legal scholars have graduated from prestigious law schools.

How US News School of Law ratings are determined

In the first year, the U.S. ranking was based on academic reputation. Over time, US News has included and expanded its methodology to include a variety of factors such as admission selectivity, employment rates among recent graduates and median GPA and LSAT scores of newly graduated students.

The inclusion of more diverse and objectively valued factors has made the ranking fairer, more transparent and more influential. However, there are ongoing debates about how factors are selected, evaluated and weighted. Many law schools seem to be more concerned with these metrics than with their students or faculty, and some are trying to “play the rankings.”

Every rating system requires imperfect compromises. Excellence among law schools cannot be assessed objectively, universally or impartially. Thus, the US and other news rankings should be placed in an appropriate context.

How law school candidates can use the rankings

Law school principals may care about the suitability of their school, but candidates have a narrower goal: to understand where to apply and where to go.

Most applicants should apply to at least a dozen law schools: some safe gambling, some achievement and some middle schools where they have a good chance of being accepted. Comparing law school rankings can help candidates narrow down their list and find excellent schools where they have a reasonable chance.

Do not be obsessed with the numerical ranking of any school. Think of the rankings as a group of strata of 15-25 schools each. Generally, schools at the same level tend to be similarly selective, although they may be very different in size, geography or culture.

Find a target school whose median GPA and LSAT scores match yours, then search for schools with similar rankings. Explore these law school websites for compelling strengths, like features and programs that fit your interests.

The top 30 schools in the ranking may be considered well-known throughout the country, meaning their graduates are competitive candidates for jobs all over the country. Lower level schools may be considered more regional. While they may have a good reputation in the place, they probably suffer from lower recognition of weaker names and adult networks elsewhere.

If you plan to practice law in a particular area, consider the relative ranking of schools in that area. For example, both Columbia University School of Law and New York University School of Law are consistently ranked neck and neck near the top of the list. Neither is “better” than the other objectively, but both are ranked far above other law schools in the New York area.

New York City has law schools that are ranked in almost every stratum. Other regions may not offer such a full spectrum, but rankings can still reveal a rough hierarchy in the legal market.

Finally, do not ignore the US News rankings for specific law areas. Focus less on the specific ranking of schools and more on schools that rank higher in specific areas that interest you, relative to their overall ranking. This can help you identify less competitive schools that can set you up for success. In a specific field of practice.

Law school rankings can be a useful tool for candidates to identify target law schools, but they do not in any way determine which schools are “best” objectively. What matters is which school is best for you.

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