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:

Law School2019+/-2018
Yale University11
Stanford University22
Harvard University33
University of Chicago44
Columbia University55
New York University66
University of Pennsylvania77
University of Michigan—Ann Arbor88
University of California—Berkeley9+312
University of Virginia9-18
Duke University11-110
Northwestern University11-110
Cornell University1313
Georgetown University14+115
University of Texas—Austin15-114
University of California—Los Angeles16-115
Vanderbilt University1717
Washington University in St. Louis1818
University of Southern California (Gould)1919
University of Minnesota20+323
University of California— Irvine21+728
Boston University22+123
Emory University2222
George Washington University24+630
University of Notre Dame24-420
Washington and Lee University26+228
Arizona State University (O’Connor)27-225
Boston College27-126
University of Alabama27-126
University of Iowa27-720
University of Wisconsin— Madison27+330
Indiana University— Bloomington (Maurer)32-230
Ohio State University (Moritz)32-230
University of Georgia32-230
University of Washington32-230
Wake Forest University32+436
Fordham University37-136
University of California— Davis37+239
University of Illinois— Urbana- Champaign37+744
William & Mary Law School37+441
Brigham Young University (Clark)41+546
George Mason University4141
University of Arizona (Rogers)41+748
University of Florida (Levin)4141
University of North Carolina— Chapel Hill45-639
University of Colorado— Boulder46-1036
Florida State University47+148
Temple University (Beasley)47+653
University of Maryland (Carey)49-148
Baylor University50+151
Southern Methodist University (Dedman)50-446
University of Connecticut50+454
University of Richmond50+757
Tulane University54-351
University of Utah (Quinney)54-1044
University of Houston56-254
Yeshiva University (Cardozo)56+965
University of California (Hastings)58-454
Pennsylvania State University— Carlisle (Dickinson)59+665
Seton Hall University59-257
University of Nevada— Las Vegas59+362
University of Denver (Sturm)63+1376
University of Oklahoma63+972
Case Western Reserve University65-362
Georgia State University6565
Loyola Marymount University6565
University of Cincinnati65+772
University of Kentucky65-857
University of Miami65+1277
University of Missouri6565
University of Tennessee— Knoxville65-857
Villanova University65+1277
Loyola University Chicago74+882
Northeastern University74-965
Pennsylvania State University— University Park74+882
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey74-1262
University of Kansas74-965
University of Pittsburgh74+882
American University (Washington)80+686
Texas A&M University80+1292
University of Nebraska— Lincoln80-2357
Brooklyn Law School83+588
St. John’s University83-1172
Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago- Kent)85+792
University of New Hampshire School of Law85+15100
University of Oregon85+186
Louisiana State University— Baton Rouge (Hebert)88+896
Michigan State University88+896
St. Louis University8888
Syracuse University88+492
University of Arkansas— Fayetteville88-1177
University of New Mexico88-1177
University of South Carolina8888
Lewis & Clark College (Northwestern)95+5100
Marquette University95+5100
University of San Diego95-1877
Indiana University— Indianapolis (McKinney)98-1088
Stetson University98-296
Wayne State University98+2100
Drexel University (Kline)101+11112
Florida International University101-1100
University of Hawaii— Manoa (Richardson)101-1100
University of Mississippi101+8109
University of Tulsa101-1982
Albany Law School106+3109
University at Buffalo— SUNY106106
University of Maine106+33139
West Virginia University106-1096
Hofstra University (Deane)110+8118
New York Law School110+2112
The Catholic University of America110-4106
Cleveland State University (Cleveland- Marshall)113+14127
Gonzaga University113-1112
Santa Clara University113+19132
Texas Tech University113+5118
University of Louisville (Brandeis)113-2192
University of St. Thomas113+7120
Duquesne University119+8127
University of Baltimore119-7112
University of Idaho119-10109
University of Missouri— Kansas City119-7112
University of Montana119+1120
Washburn University119+8127
Creighton University125-5120
CUNY125+2127
Pace University125-5120
DePaul University128-8120
Howard University128-8120
Mercer University (George)128+6134
Seattle University128-8120
University of South Dakota128+14142
Drake University133-27106
Quinnipiac University133-6127
University of Wyoming133-21112
Vermont Law School133+1134
University of Memphis (Humphreys)137+3140
University of Toledo137-5132
Belmont University139+12151
Chapman University (Fowler)139-5134
University of Arkansas— Little Rock (Bowen)141-7134
University of Dayton141+10151
Widener University (Commonwealth)143+5148
Northern Illinois University144+4148
Suffolk University144-4140
University of Akron144-10134

 

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.

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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.