The ever-influential US News and World Report’s ranking of top US law schools are out!
Here is a full list of the 2019 rankings compared to the 2018 rankings:
|University of Chicago||4||–||4|
|New York University||6||–||6|
|University of Pennsylvania||7||–||7|
|University of Michigan—Ann Arbor||8||–||8|
|University of California—Berkeley||9||+3||12|
|University of Virginia||9||-1||8|
|University of Texas—Austin||15||-1||14|
|University of California—Los Angeles||16||-1||15|
|Washington University in St. Louis||18||–||18|
|University of Southern California (Gould)||19||–||19|
|University of Minnesota||20||+3||23|
|University of California— Irvine||21||+7||28|
|George Washington University||24||+6||30|
|University of Notre Dame||24||-4||20|
|Washington and Lee University||26||+2||28|
|Arizona State University (O’Connor)||27||-2||25|
|University of Alabama||27||-1||26|
|University of Iowa||27||-7||20|
|University of Wisconsin— Madison||27||+3||30|
|Indiana University— Bloomington (Maurer)||32||-2||30|
|Ohio State University (Moritz)||32||-2||30|
|University of Georgia||32||-2||30|
|University of Washington||32||-2||30|
|Wake Forest University||32||+4||36|
|University of California— Davis||37||+2||39|
|University of Illinois— Urbana- Champaign||37||+7||44|
|William & Mary Law School||37||+4||41|
|Brigham Young University (Clark)||41||+5||46|
|George Mason University||41||–||41|
|University of Arizona (Rogers)||41||+7||48|
|University of Florida (Levin)||41||–||41|
|University of North Carolina— Chapel Hill||45||-6||39|
|University of Colorado— Boulder||46||-10||36|
|Florida State University||47||+1||48|
|Temple University (Beasley)||47||+6||53|
|University of Maryland (Carey)||49||-1||48|
|Southern Methodist University (Dedman)||50||-4||46|
|University of Connecticut||50||+4||54|
|University of Richmond||50||+7||57|
|University of Utah (Quinney)||54||-10||44|
|University of Houston||56||-2||54|
|Yeshiva University (Cardozo)||56||+9||65|
|University of California (Hastings)||58||-4||54|
|Pennsylvania State University— Carlisle (Dickinson)||59||+6||65|
|Seton Hall University||59||-2||57|
|University of Nevada— Las Vegas||59||+3||62|
|University of Denver (Sturm)||63||+13||76|
|University of Oklahoma||63||+9||72|
|Case Western Reserve University||65||-3||62|
|Georgia State University||65||–||65|
|Loyola Marymount University||65||–||65|
|University of Cincinnati||65||+7||72|
|University of Kentucky||65||-8||57|
|University of Miami||65||+12||77|
|University of Missouri||65||–||65|
|University of Tennessee— Knoxville||65||-8||57|
|Loyola University Chicago||74||+8||82|
|Pennsylvania State University— University Park||74||+8||82|
|Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||74||-12||62|
|University of Kansas||74||-9||65|
|University of Pittsburgh||74||+8||82|
|American University (Washington)||80||+6||86|
|Texas A&M University||80||+12||92|
|University of Nebraska— Lincoln||80||-23||57|
|Brooklyn Law School||83||+5||88|
|St. John’s University||83||-11||72|
|Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago- Kent)||85||+7||92|
|University of New Hampshire School of Law||85||+15||100|
|University of Oregon||85||+1||86|
|Louisiana State University— Baton Rouge (Hebert)||88||+8||96|
|Michigan State University||88||+8||96|
|St. Louis University||88||–||88|
|University of Arkansas— Fayetteville||88||-11||77|
|University of New Mexico||88||-11||77|
|University of South Carolina||88||–||88|
|Lewis & Clark College (Northwestern)||95||+5||100|
|University of San Diego||95||-18||77|
|Indiana University— Indianapolis (McKinney)||98||-10||88|
|Wayne State University||98||+2||100|
|Drexel University (Kline)||101||+11||112|
|Florida International University||101||-1||100|
|University of Hawaii— Manoa (Richardson)||101||-1||100|
|University of Mississippi||101||+8||109|
|University of Tulsa||101||-19||82|
|Albany Law School||106||+3||109|
|University at Buffalo— SUNY||106||–||106|
|University of Maine||106||+33||139|
|West Virginia University||106||-10||96|
|Hofstra University (Deane)||110||+8||118|
|New York Law School||110||+2||112|
|The Catholic University of America||110||-4||106|
|Cleveland State University (Cleveland- Marshall)||113||+14||127|
|Santa Clara University||113||+19||132|
|Texas Tech University||113||+5||118|
|University of Louisville (Brandeis)||113||-21||92|
|University of St. Thomas||113||+7||120|
|University of Baltimore||119||-7||112|
|University of Idaho||119||-10||109|
|University of Missouri— Kansas City||119||-7||112|
|University of Montana||119||+1||120|
|Mercer University (George)||128||+6||134|
|University of South Dakota||128||+14||142|
|University of Wyoming||133||-21||112|
|Vermont Law School||133||+1||134|
|University of Memphis (Humphreys)||137||+3||140|
|University of Toledo||137||-5||132|
|Chapman University (Fowler)||139||-5||134|
|University of Arkansas— Little Rock (Bowen)||141||-7||134|
|University of Dayton||141||+10||151|
|Widener University (Commonwealth)||143||+5||148|
|Northern Illinois University||144||+4||148|
|University of Akron||144||-10||134|
For those trying to sort out what this all means, here are our answers to some FAQs about the Best Law Schools Rankings.
What do the USNWR rankings measure?
The bulk of the weight (40%) in these rankings come from “peer-assessment scores,” evaluations from professors, judges, firm hiring partners, and other eminent members of the legal field. These peer-assessment scores are a relatively good measure of a school’s prestige and the perception of the quality of its graduates.
The next most significant component is the school’s selectivity (25%) as measured predominately by incoming students median LSAT and GPA scores. A tiny bit of this part of ranking comes from a school’s acceptance rate, although this has been deemphasized, perhaps because it is easy for schools to game. Measuring median LSAT and GPA scores is a good proxy for determining which schools can attract the most desirable applicants.
The next part (20%) is placement success, which measures a school’s ability to place students into desirable full-time legal positions. Luckily, a lot more data has become available on this for the USNWR to measure, and rankings changes in recent years likely reflect that. In addition to job placement numbers, a small portion of placement success is determined by the school’s bar passage rates.
Faculty Resources (weighted at 15%) includes data such as how much a school spends per student and that school’s student-to-faculty ratio. Many have been critical of these criteria for helping to drive the rising cost of legal education.
Despite criticisms, the USNWR rankings do a reasonably good job of measuring the broader perception in the legal world regarding the relative prestige of law schools. In a prestige profession, that matters a lot. All things being equal, schools that rank higher on this list tend to provide better opportunities overall.
But How Much Do The Rankings Really Matter?
A lot, frankly, but there are limitations. Closely-ranked schools tend not to be significantly different in terms of objective measures, so small changes in ranking year-to-year don’t necessarily tell you anything about the underlying quality of a school.
It is also worth noting that the further you get outside of the T14, schools have more of a regional reputation than a national one, so it gets harder to compare schools. Peer assessment scores, in particular, might tell us less and less about schools as you move down the rankings ladder. Whereas there is a huge difference between Yale and Georgetown, there may not be, for example, too much of a difference between the quality of a school ranked 65, and one ranked 80.
What is the T14?
The Top 14 Law Schools (commonly known as the T14) are the fourteen schools, each with a very strong national reputation, that have historically held the top fourteen spots in nearly every year since the US News began making these rankings.
While Georgetown Law was edged out of the T14 last year, it regained its position as the historical gatekeeper of the T14. While there are small shifts within the T14 from year to year, six schools have consistently held the top six spots for most of the last several decades: Yale, Stanford, Harvard, University of Chicago, Columbia University and New York University.
Once you leave the top fourteen, you tend to get schools that are more regarded as regional powerhouses, although some still have significant national pull.
How Should I Use The Rankings?
If you are a prospective student, you should always only use the rankings as a baseline in your evaluations. They are helpful for introducing students to the hierarchy in the legal world, which for better or for worse is very real. They do not, however, give you much granular information as to what kind of jobs you can obtain from various schools. We recommend Law School Transparency as a great place to start your closer analysis of the kinds of job placement schools can provide.