Thursday, May 2, 2013

Above the Law's Law School Rankings

With all the thunder surrounding the legal education crisis, there has been a couple of new law school rankings systems which attempt to steal some of USN's thunder.  The National Jurist was one such one, whose methodology is broken down here.

Post-Graduate Success:  50%
Employment Rate:  22.5%
Super Lawyers:  12.5%
Partners in NLJ 200:  10%
Bar Passage:  5%

Student Satisfaction:  35%  20%
Princeton Review:  15%

Affordability and Diversity:  15%
Debt:  10%
Diversity:  5%

ATL gave those rankings hefty criticism, calling it "pure ridiculousness."  Now, however, they have gotten into the law school ranking game.

The basis of their rankings system is that they don't care about inputs, such as LSAT, GPA, and student scholarships, while focusing on outcomes, such as FT jobs, quality of jobs, cost, and alumni satisfaction.

Their ranking methodology is:

30% - Quality Jobs Score (combining NLJ250 firms with federal judicial clerkships)
30% - Employment Score (FTLT jobs with bar passage required, solos/school-funded positions excluded)
15% - Educational Cost
10% - ATL alumni ranking
7.5% - % Active Federal Judges
7.5% - % SCOTUS Clerks

There are immediately some problems with the ranking methodology, and if I wanted to I could nitpick, but I won't.  ATL says that they are focusing on what students care about, and their methodology makes a certain amount of sense.

They rank only 50 schools, and the top 10 are:

1. Yale
2. Stanford
3. Harvard
4. Chicago
5. Pennsylvania
6. Duke
7. Virginia
8. Columbia
9. Berkeley
10. New York

Of special mention are Yale, with most SCOTUS/Federal Clerks, Pennsylvania, with best employment score/quality jobs, and BYU (#28), which had the lowest cost.

Why only 50, you ask?  Well, according to their scores, Yale has an 85.87, and #50, Arizona State University, had 36.83.  So the other 150+ law schools have an abysmal score compared to even the lowest of the 50 on the ATL rankings, and I would be surprised if there was much difference between ASU and schools ranked at 100 or even 150/200.

Do you think the ATL ranking is the best we have?  What do you think about their methodology?  What would you do differently?

Please comment below, and we will try to keep the spam/worthless comments to a minimum.


  1. Whatever, ATL. Any ranking that doesn't put Arizona State in the bottom 5 in the nation is a sick joke.

  2. Hahahahs. Any "list" with the Seton Hall Law Toilet in its top 50 must br dismissed immediately, crumpled up, and thrown in the trash

  3. What I would do differently is pay no heed to rankings. This tends to form the basis for deciding which school to pick. "No school" seems to be the better option.

  4. David Lat manipulated the ATL rankings and ensured his alma mater, Yale, finished number one. Had the SCOTUS/Federal Clerkship criteria been assigned a 7% weight, Stanford would have finished number 1. By giving it an extra half percentage point, Lat massaged the numbers just enough to give Yale the top spot. All ATL rankings tell me is that David Lat is qualified to be a law school dean given how much liberty he takes with numbers.

  5. the scammers are at it again:

  6. Seton Hall is lucky it's in the top 50 schools in New Jersey. Sweet jesus, are they serious?

    Typical of Above the Law, they care about the federal judiciary than how much debt the average graduate has at graduation.

    SLU is another one that's just mind boggling. If you actually review the St. Louis landscape, it's the 3rd-choice law school in a 3rd-rate city. Between it and Missouri, you would be INSANE to go to SLU - and that's in its target market.

    Yet SLU is ranked higher on ATL's list. Methodology defeated.

  7. Seton Haul at #36, Rutgers Camden at #43, New Mexico at #26!

  8. A step in the right direction, but still focusing too much on "prestige" (SCOTUS?) and not enough on factors that normal students care about.

    But good call to ATL for just ending it at 50, because the rest really are total pieces of crap under any ranking system, and trying to put a number on those trash schools just makes them more attractive. "Oh look, this place can't be a dump because its ranked 89 and there are over 100 worse schools. So my school is better than average, right?" Ed, no. It's still a piece of crap because you don't understand the exponential drop off in quality after the top 10 schools...

  9. I agree it's a step in the right direction, but there is no way humanly possible Seton Hall is ranked that high, same with Rutgers-Camden. The two Rutgers law schools are merging precisely because Camden is such a sh*tshow. This is not to argue that Rutgers-Newark belongs on this list, but that Seton Hall and Camden belong nowhere near it.

  10. 10% - ATL alumni ranking
    7.5% - % Active Federal Judges
    7.5% - % SCOTUS Clerks

    This is all elitist nonsense in the rankings. As another commentor said, it conveniently helps Yale beat Stanford.

    Who really cares about SC clerks? there's so few of them and they only consider people from certain schools. It helps distinguish between 5, 10 schools max. You're not getting one out of Rutgers Camden, no matter what the brochure says.

    In any case, the whole idea of clerkships is that they lead to better jobs. How about focusing on measuring "real jobs" than puffy elitist nonsense.

    Last thing: How does "ATL alumni ranking" work? What does that mean. Does that mean his silly blog writers can make up reputation scores? Or does it mean his comment section gets crowdsourced to for assigning prestige scores?