Law school rankings generate a lot of interest and usually serve as excellent reference points for determining which law school is right for you. For the most part the ranking systems use surveys and published records regarding the schools amenities and standards for generating the lists.
The most popular law school ranking system can be found in US News & World Reports magazine’s annual "Top Graduate School" list. However if you’re basing your opinions on law schools solely on that list, you’re selling your opportunities short. Before deciding which law school is right for you, you should check out the following 15 alternatives to US News & World Reports list.
1. Cooley/ Brennan Rankings
The first edition of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s rankings, called "Judging the Law Schools" was published in 1996. This online publication, now in its seventh edition, goes as far as measuring obscure items such as library square footage and number of minority students. These rankings are designed to analyze the educational effectiveness of American law schools. In contrast to the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking methodology, each factor is given equal weight.
2. The Princeton Review’s Best 170 Law Schools
This website maintains 11 ranking lists based on various parameters. However, the website fails to maintain an overall generalized ranking system. This means you may have to go through 11 different lists ranging from ‘toughest to get into’ to ‘most welcoming of older students’ before you are able to generate a list of the schools that can best help you achieve your goals. You must register (for free) with the website in order to access the rankings.
3. The Consus Group Composite Rankings
This system ranks 100 law school programs based upon published rankings, selectivity, salary, success of the schools graduates, and the percentage of admitted candidates that matriculate to the admitting university. The site also features additional ranking systems based exclusively on published and selectivity data.
4. Internet Legal Resource Guide’s (ILRG) Law School Rankings
You really don’t need to check any other rankings once you’ve gone through ILRG’s humungous ranking lists. The rankings are based on a single factor and the methodology is implicit in the ranking (not to mention the data source is explained in detail on the main page). And to top it off, the data used is always from the schools’ most current records. The site offers various single factor rankings of law schools including employment rate at graduation, median salary and student/faculty ratio to name a few.
5. Cost-Benefit Analysis of American Law Schools
This is another type of ranking from Internet Legal Resource Guide’s (ILRG). This system re-ranks the top 50 law schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report in terms of cost-of-living adjusted median salary. We recommend you use this as purely a reference point and not a conclusive guide because the data is fairly out-dated.
6. Leiter’s Law School Rankings
Also known as Educational Quality Rankings (EQR), this ranking system is published by Brian Leiter, a professor at the University of Texas law school. The ranking system focuses exclusively on the three factors central to a good legal education: the quality of the faculty, the quality of the student body, and the quality of teaching. This site is extremely informative thanks to the rigorous discussion of the criteria used, detailed listing of schools in various categories, and the inclusion of comparative data from other ranking services.
7. LLM Guide: Master of Laws Programs Worldwide
This site uses popularity rankings based on the number of hits/views to a law school program’s website from the LLM Guide website. The site also contains a directory of other websites containing national and international law school program rankings.
8. The Study of Philosophy in Law Schools and Top Law Schools for Philosophy
This is a ranking system with a twist – it is intended for students interested in the philosophical study of law. This site is a part of Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report which ranks graduate programs in philosophy. The content includes descriptions of the top rated schools and links to lists of specialty rankings for law schools including legal philosophy, tax law, health law, and many others.
9. Top Law Schools: Rankings
The first thing you notice is that this ranking system doesn’t have a methodology of its own. Instead it consolidates rankings from U.S. News & World Report, Gourman Report, Educational Quality Rankings, Insider’s Guide to Law Schools and Justice Brennan rankings. Despite this, the site is very useful for comparing the variety of ranking outcomes for a particular academic program.
10. Gourman Report
While the US News’ survey is the most popular ranking system today, it was not the first. For that, you’ll have to check the Gourman Report. Dr. Jack Gourman, a professor at California State University – Northridge, is credited with being the person to rank US law schools. His system, The Gourman Report (a print book published by Princeton Review) ranks both undergraduate and graduates schools. The last edition to include law school rankings was published in 1997.
11. Hylton Rankings
The Hylton Rankings are the brainchild of Dr. J. Gordon Hylton of Marquette University’s Law School. The rankings are derived from US News data, but lack "clutter." The rankings consider only LSAT (converted median) and peer assessment (as measured by US News’ survey of law professors).
12. Law School 100
The Law School 100 lists America’s top law schools and provides a secondary list of the additional ABA-Approved schools not mentioned in the top 100. This list is supposed to be based on qualitative, rather than quantitative, criteria; however, the website isn’t regularly updated and fails to mention the methodology used for compiling the list.
13. The Insider’s Guide to Law School
This annual publication ranks the top 25 law schools. It also provides valuable information on admission tips and campus life.
14. The ABA Guide
The bar association and the admissions council does not subscribe to the ranking system and vehemently denounce all rankings. The website of the American Bar Association offers an interactive website that helps students sort and evaluate different law schools using criteria like employment rates after graduation, bar passage rate, size of faculty, student body breakdown and tuition. The site includes descriptions, photographs and admissions profiles for all A.B.A. approved law schools.
15. The Ranking Game
Created by a professor at the Indiana University School of Law, this site serves as both a ranking service and an educational tool. The actual "Ranking Game" component of the page is a Java applet which allows you to create your own law school rankings based on various criteria. The site emphasizes the use and abuse of rankings using links to a variety of pages that detail the dangers of ranking systems.