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Sunday, February 22, 2015

The 2016 U.S.News Rankings Are Still Not Out Yet--Getting Ahead on the Methodology of the Law (and Business) rankings

We are fast approaching the date that U.S. News issues it’s graduate school rankings.  According to Robert Morse, chief data strategist for U.S. News & World Report, the official date is March 10th but they usually leak faster.  Paul Caron at Taxprof blog is, of course, already on this and will probably be first out of the box with the analysis when the time comes, so  I thought it might be helpful for those who want to prepare to interpret and explain them to read ahead on the methodology the magazine will use. (this could also be a good time to learn how to set  a Google Alert or some other  automatic notification method )  There have been some substantial changes in the law methodology over the past several years—so if you haven’t checked this out recently you might be surprised.    I also had a look at the methodology for ranking business schools because those seem to have much greater fluctuations than law schools—and indeed found some interesting information I don't know how to evaluate.  Out of the 435 programs U.S.News contacted for information, 285 responded but only “127 provided enough data needed to calculate the full-time MBA rankings.”  I leave the interpretation to others, but if my math checks out, they’re only ranking about 30% of the accredited programs.

Back to the law school rankings—

There a few things of note—a change I didn’t hear much about last year is that “for the first time” the “the lawyer and judge survey” which is weighted by .15 comes from names that “were provided to U.S. News by the law schools themselves. This change resulted in a much higher lawyer and judge survey response rate than in previous years.”  This should be of considerable benefit to schools whose reputations don’t extend far beyond their regions.

Another thing of note is that placement success, weighted by .20, was adapted to reflect “enhanced American Bar Association reporting rules on new J.D. graduates' jobs data” so that , “Full weight was given for graduates who had a full-time job lasting at least a year where bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage. Many experts in legal education consider these the real law jobs.”

However, “less weight went to full-time, long-term jobs that were professional or nonprofessional and did not require bar passage; to pursuit of an additional advanced degree; and to positions whose start dates were deferred. The lowest weight applied to jobs categorized as both part-time and short-term and those jobs that a law school was unable to determine length of employment or if they were full time or part time.”

 

It’s also interesting to hear about how the specialty rankings are put together:

I knew that thespecialty rankings are based solely on votes by legal educators, who nominated up to 15 schools in each field. Legal educators chosen were a selection of those listed in the Association of American Law Schools' Directory of Law Teachers 2010-2011 as currently teaching in that field. In the case of clinical and legal writing, the nominations were made by directors or members of the clinical and legal writing programs at each law school.”

 

But I didn’t know that there was a “floor” so that no school is ranked unless it receives at least 7 nominations.   “Those programs that received the most top 15 nominations appear and are numerically ranked in descending order based on the number of nominations they received as long as the school/program received seven or more nominations in that specialty area. This means that schools ranked at the bottom of each law specialty ranking have received seven nominations.”

 

Posted by Jennifer Bard on February 22, 2015 at 06:16 PM in Blogging, Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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