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Law School Rankings

Podcast Highlight:

This week’s podcast discusses law school rankings. The most well-known rankings system, that published by U.S. News & World Report, provides numerical rankings for those schools it ranks as the top 100 law schools in the nation, and then lists the rest of the ABA-accredited programs by “tier.” In this program, our guests discuss how U.S. News develops its rankings, explain how to understand the rankings, and present opinions on what can be done to make the rankings more effective.

On the program we have Bob Morse, Director of Data Research for U.S. News & World Report; Jeffrey Stake, author of The Ranking Game and professor at Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington; Elie Mystal, writer and editor at legal tabloid Above The Law (www.abovethelaw.com); and Al Garcia, Dean of St. Thomas University School of Law.

Our first guest, Bob Morse, discusses the U.S. News & World Report ranking system and the multiple levels of information they review for each law school. Morse states that, thought he believes them to be important, rankings should only be one of many factors students consider when deciding where to attend law school.

Jeffrey Stake, author of The Ranking Game and professor at Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington, talks about how students should not only look at the ranking number when using the U.S. News rankings, they should also consider the raw score U.S. News assigns to each school. Although two schools might be far apart in rankings numbers, their raw scores might be 10 or less points apart, signaling a similarity in quality that a rankings might otherwise not make apparent. He also discusses the potential differences in the student experience at a highly-ranked school versus a school of a lower rank.

Elie Mystal, writer and editor at Above The Law, says that although the importance placed on rankings is often more than is merited, these rankings still play a large part in the legal world. Prestige helps run the legal business, he suggests, and so attending a highly-ranked law school is often considered a better choice. However, he cautions applicants and asks them to remember the U.S. News & World Report rankings are based on criteria important to U.S. News, and not necessarily what an applicant might deem important.

Our final guest, Dean of St. Thomas University School of Law Al Garcia, publicly spoke out against the rankings in May 2010, saying that schools focus too much on what they can do to improve their rankings rather than looking to improve the school as a whole. He has since boycotted the rankings, and considers them imperfect.

Guests:

Bob Morse – Director of Data Research at U.S. News & World Report
Jeffrey Stake – Author of The Ranking Game and Professor at Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington
Elie Mystal – Editor at Above The Law
Al Garcia – Dean of St. Thomas University School of Law

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  1. This is an interesting take on the way we look at the law school ranking that US News puts out. It is important to note US News puts out these rankings, so it is their interpretation of the best schools. Many people agree that getting great grades in a good school is better than getting mediocre grades in a tier 1 law school. These rankings are useful, but like you say in this article, there are many other factors to consider.

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