I have a new paper on ranking law schools with LSAT scores, employment outcomes, and law review citations. This builds on the paper that I workshopped here at the faculty lounge last summer and that appears in the Indiana Law Journal. I've made some changes to methodology in light of those comments and also updated the data.
The new paper is "Ranking Law Schools, 2015: Student Aptitude, Employment Outcomes, and Law Review Citations." Here is the abstract:
This essay builds on a paper released last year that ranked law schools on three variables: the median LSAT of entering students of the most recent class, the most recently available employment outcome for each school’s graduates, and citations to each school’s main law reviews over the past eight years. This paper updates that study with LSAT median data for the class entering in fall 2014, employment data for the class graduating in 2014 nine months after graduation, and the most recent law review citation data for 2007 through 2014. It studies 195 ABA approved law schools.
In addition to using more recent data, this study changes the method of combining those data. Where the last paper used simple ranks for each variable and averaged them, this study has a more granular approach to the data. It converts each school’s median LSAT score and the percentage of students employed in full-time, permanent, JD-required jobs nine months after graduation (excluding school-funded positions and solo practitioners) to standard scores. In addition, given the dramatic differences in number of law review citations among schools, it employs a common log transformation of law review citations and then converts the transformed scores to standard scores. The paper combines the first two scores to provide a two-variable ranking, and then combines all three variables to provide a three-variable ranking. The paper reports average scores for the three-variable ranking, thus permitting examination of how close schools are to each other. It also ranks the 195 ABA-approved law schools in the United States (excluding the three schools in Puerto Rico) that U.S. News included in its rankings released in March 2015. And it compares the new, two- and three- variable rankings to the U.S. News provided ranks in March 2015. It identifies the schools that improve and decline the most with the new rankings.
There are a few changes from last summer's study -- this uses the most recent LSAT data, employment outcomes, and law review citations. But this also treats the data somewhat differently -- where last year I used simple ranks, this year I converted the raw data to standard scores (and in the case of law review citations I transformed them with a common log function first before converting to standard scores -- otherwise the leading law reviews would have had too great an influence on the overall rankings). And then I combined those standard scores. This helps preserve some sense of the differences between schools. For some schools, there the differences in standard scores are dramatic. Harvard and many of the other leading schools are many points higher than many of the middling schools. I'm going to talk a bit more about this later in the week. One key upshot here is that the differences between many of the schools in the middle aren't all that great. This I guess is no surprise, but sometimes I think people act as though the difference between a U.S. News rank of 55 and 75 is really significant. Looking at the standard scores in my study suggests such distinctions may not be so great.
As with last year I have tables that list the schools that perform substantially better (and worse) than their U.S. News overall rank. I think this is worth some commentary later in the week, too; because I think focusing on the three variables that I use here provides a good, basic sense of a law school's quality in comparison to other schools. It seems as though some of the other variables that U.S. News uses introduce some confusion -- or in the case of the notoriously static peer assessment and lawyer/judge assessment numbers may not reflect a school's current quality.
As I say, I'll be talking more about this later this week -- just as soon as I deal with some pressing matters on Confederate monuments, such as whether Georgia Code, 50-3-1(b)(2) that prohibits the removal of Confederate monuments by a local community without the consent of the legislature should be modified or repealed.
The image is Drexel Law School, which is one of most under-rated schools by U.S. News, according to one of the rankings methods in "Ranking Law Schools, 2015: Student Aptitude, Employment, and Law Review Citations."
An earlier study, which used a somewhat different methodology (ranks rather than scaled scores) and data from last year, appears in the Indiana Law Journal Supplement.