The 2015 US News Law School Rankings Are Out!

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Hi everyone, it’s that time of year where your law school gets ranked and you can send harassing messages to your friends if their law school fell in the rankings. US News has published it’s annual “Best Graduate Schools” rankings. As I’ve said before, the US News rankings are essentially evil, encouraging big spending by law schools that has led to wildly inflated tuition. Despite that, they are also essentially accurate, giving a measure of a law school’s prestige that aligns fairly well with perception in the wider legal world. 

US News 2015 Law School Rankings

Compared to 2014 Rankings

 

Law School
2014 Ranking
Change
2015 Ranking
Yale University
1
0
1
Harvard University
2
0
2
Stanford University
2
-1
3
Columbia University
4
0
4
University of Chicago
4
0
4
New York University
6
0
6
University of Pennsylvania
7
0
7
University of Virginia
7
-1
8
University of California—​Berkeley
9
0
9
University of Michigan—​Ann Arbor
9
-1
10
Duke University
11
+1
10
Northwestern University
12
0
12
Cornell University
13
0
13
Georgetown University
14
+1
13
University of Texas—​Austin
15
0
15
University of California—​Los Angeles
17
+1
16
Vanderbilt University
15
-1
16
Washington University at St. Louis
19
+1
18
Emory University
23
+4
19
George Washington University
21
+1
20
University of Minnesota—​Twin Cities
19
-1
20
University of Southern California (Gould)
18
-2
20
University of Alabama
21
-2
23
College of William and Mary (Marshall-​Wythe)
33
+9
24
University of Washington
28
+4
24
University of Notre Dame
23
-3
26
Boston University
29
+2
27
University of Iowa
26
-1
27
Indiana University—​Bloomington (Maurer)
29
0
29
University of Georgia
33
+4
29
Arizona State University (O’Connor)
29
-2
31
Ohio State University (Moritz)
36
+5
31
University of North Carolina—​Chapel Hill
31
0
31
University of Wisconsin—​Madison
33
+2
31
Wake Forest University
36
+5
31
Boston College
31
-5
36
Brigham Young University (Clark)
44
+8
36
Fordham University
38
+2
36
University of California—​Davis
38
+2
36
University of Arizona (Rogers)
38
-2
40
University of Illinois—​Urbana-​Champaign
47
+7
40
Southern Methodist University (Dedman)
48
+6
42
University of Colorado—​Boulder
44
+1
43
Washington and Lee University
26
-17
43
Florida State University
48
+3
45
George Mason University
41
-5
46
Tulane University
48
+2
46
University of Maryland (Carey)
41
-5
46
University of Florida (Levin)
46
-3
49
University of Utah (Quinney)
41
-8
49
Baylor University
54
+3
51
Pennsylvania State University (Dickinson)
64
+13
51
University of Richmond (Williams)
53
+2
51
Pepperdine University
61
+7
54
University of California (Hastings)
48
-6
54
University of Connecticut
58
+4
54
University of Nebraska—​Lincoln
61
+7
54
University of Houston
48
-10
58
University of Kentucky
58
0
58
University of Oklahoma
68
+10
58
Temple University (Beasley)
56
-5
61
University of Arkansas—​Fayetteville
68
+7
61
University of Miami
76
+15
61
Case Western Reserve University
68
+4
64
Georgia State University
54
-10
64
University of Missouri
76
+12
64
Yeshiva University (Cardozo)
58
-6
64
Loyola University Chicago
76
+8
68
Seton Hall University
64
-4
68
University of Denver (Sturm)
64
-4
68
University of Kansas
86
+18
68
American University (Washington)
56
-16
72
Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago-​Kent)
68
-4
72
Lewis & Clark College (Northwestern)
80
+8
72
LSU — ​Baton Rouge (Hebert)
76
+4
72
University of New Mexico
64
-8
72
University of Tennessee—​Knoxville
61
-11
72
University of Tulsa
86
+14
72
University of Cincinnati
80
+1
79
University of San Diego
68
-11
79
Rutgers, ​Camden
91
+10
81
University of Pittsburgh
91
+10
81
Brooklyn Law School
80
-3
83
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—​Newark
86
+3
83
University of Nevada—​Las Vegas
68
-15
83
West Virginia University
91
+8
83
Indiana University—​Indianapolis (McKinney)
98
+11
87
Loyola Marymount University
68
-19
87
Michigan State University
80
-7
87
Seattle University
102
+15
87
University of Louisville (Brandeis)
68
-19
87
Wayne State University
105
+18
87
Marquette University
94
+1
93
Northeastern University
86
-7
93
Stetson University
109
+16
93
St. Louis University
102
+9
93
University of New Hampshire School of Law
119
+26
93
University of South Carolina
98
+5
93
Villanova University
98
+5
93
Florida International University
105
+5
100
SUNY Buffalo Law School
86
-14
100
University of Hawaii—​Manoa (Richardson)
80
-20
100
University of Oregon
94
-6
100
Mercer University (George)
105
+1
104
University of Mississippi
102
-2
104
University of Missouri—​Kansas City
109
+5
104
The Catholic University of America
80
-27
107
Gonzaga University
113
+6
107
Santa Clara University
96
-11
107
St. John’s University
98
-9
107
Syracuse University
96
-11
107
Texas Tech University
105
-2
107
CUNY
132
+19
113
Drake University
109
-4
113
Cleveland State University (Cleveland-​Marshall)
119
+4
115
Creighton University
119
+4
115
Washburn University
140
+25
115
Albany Law School
132
+14
118
Quinnipiac University
134
+16
118
University of Idaho
134
+16
118
Campbell University
126
+5
121
DePaul University
109
-12
121
Duquesne University
144
+23
121
Hamline University
126
+5
121
University of Akron
119
-2
121
University of Arkansas—​Little Rock (Bowen)
113
-8
121
University of Montana
113
-8
121
Willamette University (Collins)
T2
+25
121
Drexel University
126
-3
129
University of Maine
134
+5
129
University of North Dakota
140
+11
129
University of St. Thomas
124
-5
129
University of Wyoming
113
-16
129
Vermont Law School
119
-10
129
Hofstra University (Deane)
113
-22
135
Howard University
126
-9
135
Samford University (Cumberland)
113
-22
135
University of Baltimore
134
-1
135
William Mitchell College of Law
134
-1
135
Chapman University (Fowler)
126
-14
140
New York Law School
T2
+6
140
Pace University
134
-6
140
University of Memphis (Humphreys)
144
+4
140
University of Toledo
T2
+6
140
University of South Dakota
T2
+1
145

 

The Analysis

Big Drops

Okay, it’s commentary time. First off I want to point how spot on I was that American was headed for big trouble. They went from the 40’s two years ago to the 50’s last year, and now took a whopping negative sixteen dive to the 72 spot this year. While drops like that are common outside the top 100, it’s not often you see them up top: only Washington and Lee did worse in the top 100.

Washington and Lee’s slide is very bizarre, as unlike American they are doing a fine job attracting quality students. If we were to rank W&L by median LSAT alone, they would still be a top 25 school. While some less well-endowed private schools are having trouble attracting students, who are fleeing for in-state tuition at public schools, W&L doesn’t seem to have that problem, so who knows what’s up. I’ll try to find out. I’m guessing that whatever the problem is it will be corrected soon and W&L will stay strongish long term.

Choosing The Best School Law for You

us-news-grad-2015

Start with the source of these rankings: US News and World Report’s Best Graduate Schools. This well-known guide ranks schools to help you pick reaches, targets, and safeties. Along with the rankings you’ll find plenty of valuable articles and advice, along with tons of information about specific schools.

Also check out this reputable rankings guide from Princeton Review:

The 169 Best Law Schools (Princeton Review)

Click Here To Add Rankings To An Amazon Cart

UPDATE 3.12.14: So it appears the Washington and Lee’s trouble may be linked to some drastic changes they have made of late. A sharp 40% reduction in class size (the biggest reduction thus far at any school) may have hurt their ability to spend. Also, W&L has had poor job placement relative to its peers of late, possibly the result of its move to an experience-based learning model for third year students. Read here for a report on the poor results of that program. 

The Top 14

Yale is at 1 as always. Stanford jumped down to number 3, but it seems to alternate spots with Harvard (or tie) every other year. No big deal. Chicago is holding strong at the 4 spot which I like to see (That’s my school, baby!) Columbia and Chicago have shared the 4 and 5 spots for about the last four years or so, so the top 5 is pretty stable lately.

Lower down, the big surprise is Duke creeping into the top 10, even if they got there by a tie. Good for Duke. Still, my guess is they’ll be back down soon enough. Michigan continues it’s slide relative to it’s peer schools. The lower end of the top 10 is going to be their home for a while I would guess, but they’ll still always be a T10ish school.

All and all, it’s business as usual in the T14. Stuff moves around, but these schools so dominate the reputation component of the rankings that it’s tough to displace them. I could picture UT-Austin becoming part of this group so that we can finally start talking about a T15, but these schools will always be the elite group.

The Top 50

Nothing too much worth commenting on here aside from the aforementioned Washington and Lee. A lot of public schools have taken slight jumps, showing that they are weathering the applications drop well. I continue to pump in-state tuition as your best option if you aren’t going to an elite school, so think about backing the winners and go that route if you are headed to law school.

Obviously public schools situated in stronger markets are going to do the best right now while the legal economy remains tepid. You can see some evidence of that throughout the top 50 (William and Mary, U of Washington, U of Georgia, U of Illinois)

There are also some outstanding performers in the private school category: BYU has been doing a fantastic job being by cheaper than everyone and providing better employment stats than many comparably ranked schools; that’s reflected in their eight point jump. Southern Methodist is also doing well, likely on the strength of the good job prospects in its target market of Texas.

Reading The Rankings

Don’t put too much stock in little jumps and dips in the rankings. I’ve been watching these since I started law school, and schools usually stay in the same general area. Bear in mind that the lower down you go, the more arbitrary the rankings get. Past 50, it’s not uncommon to see huge leaps and big drops. It’s not always very closely tied to reality.

RELATED: HOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE GREAT APPLICATIONS DROP

The rankings should always only be a starting point for your research. If a school has been headed down in the rankings, that’s definitely something to look into, but it’s usually just a minor shake up. As we always say, the most important thing to look at when you are deciding between schools is how much the school costs and the kind of job prospects they can offer you.

UPDATE 3.12.14: INSIDE THE US NEWS BEST LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS – MEDIAN LSAT

I’m going to add some extra info about specific parts of the rankings, which can better help you understand why schools are where they are on the list. Here is a table of the top 25 school’s median LSATs from the class entering in fall 2013. These median LSAT scores accounted for 12.5% of this year’s rankings.

2015 Overall USNews RankingLaw School2013 Median LSAT
1Yale173
2Harvard173
3Stanford171
4Columbia171
4Chicago170
6NYU170
7U Penn169
8UVA169
9Berkeley167
10Michigan168
10Duke169
12Northwestern168
13Cornell167
13Georgetown168
15UT Austin166
16UCLA167
16Vanderbilt167
18WUSTL166
19Emory165
20GW165
20Minnesota164
20USC166
23Alabama164
24William and Mary164
24Washington164

 

As you can see, ranking lines up pretty well, but not perfectly, with this years rankings. Median LSAT helps assess roughly how desirable each school is, as all things being equal stronger LSAT scorers tend to get their pick of schools.

Observers may notice that median LSATs have fallen quite a bit from back in 2008/2009/2010 when overall law school attendance was strong. Basically, like we’ve been saying, law schools are easier than ever to get into. Even the highest ranked schools are having trouble maintaining their numbers given the dearth of applicants. I will try to dig up a chart from back then to compare, but The Legal Whiteboard provides some ready statistics about this year’s changes, which are pretty substantial:

The average decline in median LSAT scores between 2012 and 2013 across U.S. News “tiers” of law schools was .98 among top 50 schools, 1.18 among schools ranked 51-99, .72 among schools ranked 100-144, and 1.13 among schools ranked alphabetically.

Notably, 133 law schools saw a decline in their median LSAT between 2012 and 2013, with 80 down one point, 38 down two points, 12 down three points, one down four points, one down five points and one down six points, while 54 law schools were flat and 7 saw an increase in their median LSAT.

In terms of schools experiencing “larger” declines in median LSAT scores between 2012 and 2013, five schools in the top 50 saw a three point decline in their median LSAT, five schools ranked 51-99 saw at least a three point decline (of which one was down four points), three schools ranked 100-144 saw a three point decline, and two schools ranked alphabetically saw large declines – one of five points and one of six points.

The average decline in median LSAT scores between 2010 and 2013 across U.S. News “tiers” of law schools was 1.54 among top 50 schools, 2.27 among schools ranked 51-99, 2.11 among schools ranked 100-144, and 2.79 among schools ranked alphabetically.  If one were to unpack the top 50 schools a little more, however, one would discover that the top 20 schools saw an average decline in their median LSAT of 1.05 between 2010 and 2013, while the bottom 15 schools in the top 50 saw an average decline in their median LSAT of 2.53.

In terms of schools experiencing “larger” declines in median LSAT scores between 2010 and 2013, three schools in the top 50 have seen declines of four or more points, nine schools ranked 51-99 have seen declines of four or more points, 11 schools ranked 100-144 have seen declines of four or more points and 17 schools ranked alphabetically have seen declines of four or more points.

So there you have it. Median LSATs are basically down all over the board. Where you see big swings in the rankings this year, median LSAT is likely playing a role (such as at American University, which relaxed admissions standards to a frightening extent). A large number of lower-ranked schools in particular have had major difficulty attracting the kind of students they used to have.

We’ll keep updating with more in-depth looks at different parts of the rankings, so bookmark the page and follow us on twitter @onlawschool.

About Author

University of Chicago, J.D., 2012 Ready to Kickstart your LSAT Prep? Join the LSAT Mastermind Study Group

6 Comments

  1. Hi!
    For someone who wants to do Entertainment, which is more beneficial aside from scholarship: Pepperdine 2 year program or USC/UCLA.

    Thank you in advance for your advices!

    • Hi Lionel,

      Be aware that entertainment law is always, always a long shot, even from an elite school. There are certainly a lot more successful entertainment lawyers coming from USC or UCLA than there are from Pepperdine. Both USC and UCLA offer a lot of classes with an entertainment focus. While it’s definitely a good idea to pursue your interests, make sure you are developing skills for areas of the law where hiring is stronger as well.

      • Thank you for your advice, Evan!

        Based on what you stated, would you recommend Pepperdine OR UCLA/USC? The reason I ask is because by completing the program in 2 years at Pepperdine, one can save 1 year of housing & transportation cost.

        Many thanks!

        • Well, do you have a scholarship at Pepperdine? If the cost is about the same at both and you are just adding housing/transit for one year, then I would definitely go to either UCLA or USC.

  2. Thanks G-d, we have your website, Evan!

    You really answered exactly my question! I will definitely consider either UCLA or USC!

    Thank you so much!

    Lionel

  3. Hello Guys!

    So I just took my LSAT in February and I ended up with a 158. What do you guys think are my chances at Cornell and William & Mary? I’m a Junior and currently my undergraduate GPA is a 3.96 (with only one semester left that they willl see on the application). I work part time at Morgan Lewis as a Paralegal/Intern and have worked at the PA Attorney General’s Office. I’m also Latino. According to LSAC they give me a 17% to 27% chance at Cornell and 26% to 36% chance at William & Mary. I just wanted to hear imput from you all. I’ll most likely retake my LSAT next year. I need something in the 160’s at least…hahaha.

    Thank you,
    Anthony

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