Let the boasting and the criticism begin. The U.S. News & World Report annual law school ranking of the nation’s 190 American Bar Association approved law schools was released on Tuesday by U.S. News Media Group, a month earlier than last year’s report.
The rankings typically receive criticism from school officials disappointed with their school’s numerical assessment and from members of the academic and legal community who think the methodology used to produce the rankings is flawed.
But, as the University at Buffalo Law School’s Vice Dean for Administration James Newton pointed out after last year’s rankings were released, for better or worse, U.S. News has cornered the market on law school ratings.
“The U.S. News rankings are an essential resource for anyone considering where to go to law school,” said Tim Smart, executive editor of U.S. News & World Report.
This year, UB went up in the rankings, from a disappointing third tier ranking of 103 in 2011 to an unusual 11 way tie for 84 in 2012.
This year’s ranking system is different in that it now ranks the top 145 schools and alphabetically lists a second group of 45 schools that aren’t ranked.
There was little change at the top of the 2012 list, as Yale, Harvard and Stanford remained on top.
Cornell Law School remained at 13.
Cornell Law School Dean Stewart J. Schwab said that although he was pleased with the ranking, the school is judged by its own standard.
“We are proud that Cornell Law School is ranked among the finest law schools in the country. But regardless of rankings, we continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards instituted by our founders, to educate ‘lawyers in the best sense.’
“There are many Cornell Law students today who will go on to be tomorrow’s leading lights in law. Ultimately, that is how we judge our law school: by the integrity, intellectual excellence and commitment to justice that is the hallmark of our students and graduates,” he said.
UB Dean Makau Mutua noted UB ranked in the top 50 schools in rankings conducted by Thomson Reuters and a ranking developed by Malcom Gladwell of The New Yorker.
“While we are happy with these accolades, let us not forget that no ranking system can fully capture the true character of our school,” he said. “As New York state’s public law school, we take our role of providing a world-class and affordable education seriously.”
Syracuse University’s College of Law dropped 14 spots in the rankings from 86 to 100. The school did not return calls for comment.
Among myriad criteria used in the rankings is a school’s graduate employment rate, which was changed this year to reflect the number of graduates working full or part time in a legal or non-legal job divided by the number of law school graduates.
Those not seeking employment are now counted in the total number of graduates for the first time.
The heaviest weighted criteria remained quality assessment consisting of peer assessment by deans and faculty and lawyer/judge assessment.
A full explanation of the methodology used in the rankings may be found at www.usnews.com/lawmeth.