The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


This law school ranking system is much better than U.S. News


Back in 2004, I* wrote:

My own advice to [prospective law students] trying to determine a school's overall "ranking" is to look at the quality of students it attracts, as determined by LSAT scores (a much more objective measure than GPA). A huge amount of information is encapsulated in the actual revealed preferences of students who decide to attend or not to attend a law school, because most of these students will have done some research before choosing a school. Such information includes desirability of geographic location (clearly a big factor if one compares, e.g., U.S. News rankings to LSAT rankings), local reputation, job placement, quality of life, tuition costs, bar passage, faculty quality and commitment to teaching, student satisfaction, national reputation, and, of course, U.S. News ranking.

Thirteen years later, Christopher Ryan and Brian Frye utlilize a similar idea in a new paper:

This article assumes that the purpose of ranking law schools is to help students decide which school to attend. Accordingly, it describes an approach to ranking law schools based entirely on the revealed preferences of students. Law schools admit applicants based almost entirely on their LSAT score and undergraduate GPA, and compete to matriculate students with the highest possible scores. Our de gustibus approach to ranking law schools assumes that the "best" law schools are the most successful at matriculating those students. This article concludes with a "best law schools ranking" based exclusively on the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of matriculating students.

You can read the paper for the full results, but here is the authors' summation:

First, the T-14s are disrupted, with Texas falling on the outside of the coveted territory. Also, several public universities in the South tend to perform better by this ranking than their peer review score would indicate, such as Alabama, William & Mary, and Georgia, all of which would make the top-25. However, Washington U. and Boston U. both slid outside the top-25. Often rated in the middle tier, BYU, SMU, and George Mason all benefit from this ranking system, landing among the top-35 law schools. Perennial top-40 schools Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Illinois all slid outside of the top-40, while Washington & Lee fell the farthest to 65. Surprising additions to the top-50 include Nebraska, Northeastern, and Pepperdine. Florida International and Belmont-which is not ranked by U.S. News- made their way into the top-100. While Texas A&M made significant strides to check in at 82, American slid precipitously back to 87. Notable schools that fell outside the top-100 include Chicago-Kent, Brooklyn, Loyola Chicago, Syracuse, and Louisville.

*Our old buggy software now attributes this post to Sasha, but I wrote it.