Top Ten Ranking Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings
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 ¶  Ranking of Top 40 Law Schools by Student (Numerical) Quality 2009
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Posted October 10, 2009

Ranking of Top 40 Law Schools by Student (Numerical) Quality 2009

No feasible measure of student quality is particularly ideal, but LSAT scores are the best, crude proxy we have available.  GPAs can be hard to compare, without knowing about the undergraduate institutions the students are coming from, and the courses of study they pursued.  It would be useful to know about students in the incoming class with advanced degrees, or high quality work experience, but such data is not available, nor is it easily comparable.  Class size is a further factor complicating comparisons, since the midpoint of 500 is not like the midpoint of 200, though each provides pertinent information. 

Below is a ranking of the top 40 schools in terms of student quality as measured by the average of the 75th and 25th percentile LSAT scores for the class that entered in fall 2008.  Many academics and admissions officers, to be sure, favor 75th percentile rankings only, because they do not penalize schools for “alternative admissions” procedures which may drag down the numerical credentials of the bottom end of the class.  Others point out that the number of “top students” is more important than the “average.”  (How schools fare in placing their graduates in Supreme Court and appellate clerkships and law teaching jobs is also a good proxy for how strong the high end of the class is.)  On the other hand, some believe the “bottom” of the class matters more.

Class size (rounded to the nearest 50) served as a tie breaker:  the larger school with the same LSAT credentials was ranked higher.  (For estimating class size, both full-time and part-time student enrollment were counted.)  For Harvard to boast an average LSAT higher than schools half its size, like Stanford and Chicago, requires Harvard to recruit two to three times as many students as other top schools with those outstanding credentials.  That speaks both to Harvard’s attractiveness, and to the existence at Harvard of an enormous pool of highly credentialed students, a fact, needless to say, that prospective employers register.  There are, to be sure, more complicated statistical techniques for making comparisons between fractions of differently sized groupings, but the tie-breaker device is, we thought, the easiest to understand and involves the least intrusive manipulation of the data.

In both rankings, we have listed the corresponding average 75th/25th GPA.  Since it is clear that some schools sacrifice GPA in order to boost LSAT, we have factored in GPA as follows:  where schools are within 100 in class size, and have the same LSAT (or are only .5 apart in LSAT), the school with a GPA 0.1 or more higher than its peers is ranked first in that cluster.   (Differences of .1 or more are probably significant, though one would still need to know more about the undergraduate schools and the student majors to make a fully informed comparison.)   

It bears repeating that it would be a mistake to take small ordinal differences as meaning anything at all:  there are too many variables unrelated to strength of the student body  that could easily explain them.  No doubt the student body is stronger on average at #3 than #23, and at #23 than at #39, but a student would be foolish to choose between #3 and #6 on the basis of their ordinal placement here (or between  #23 and #28, and so on).

Rank by Average of 75th/25th LSAT

Rank

School

Avg. LSAT

Avg. of the 75th/25th GPA

Approx Class Size

1

Harvard University

173.0

3.855

550

2

Yale University

173.0

3.890

200

3

Columbia University

172.5

3.700

400

4

New York University

171.0

3.705

450

5

University of Chicago

171.0

3.680

200

6

Stanford University

170.0

3.850

200

7

University of Virginia

168.5

3.725

350

8

Northwestern University

169.0

3.605

250

9

University of Pennsylvania

168.5

3.670

250

10

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

168.0

3.730

350

11

Georgetown University

168.0

3.610

600

12

University of California, Berkeley

167.0

3.810

250

13

Duke University

167.5

3.700

200

14

University of California, Los Angeles

166.5

3.680

300

15

Vanderbilt University

166.5

3.690

200

16

Cornell University

167.0

3.540

200

17

University of Texas, Austin

166.0

3.620

450

18

University of Southern California

166.0

3.605

200

19

George Washington University

165.0

3.555

600

20

Emory University

165.0

3.565

250

 

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

165.0

3.555

250

22

Boston University

164.5

3.650

300

23

University of Notre Dame

164.5

3.600

150

24

Washington University, St. Louis

165.0

3.450

200

25

Boston College

163.5

3.630

300

26

Fordham University

163.5

3.520

400

27

Brigham Young University

163.5

3.695

150

28

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

163.5

3.500

200

29

University of California, Hastings

163.0

3.550

400

30

University of Washington, Seattle

162.5

3.685

200

31

College of William & Mary

163.0

3.570

200

32

University of Colorado, Boulder

162.5

3.600

150

33

Washington & Lee University

163.0

3.485

150

34

University of Maryland, Baltimore

162.5

3.570

300

35

George Mason University

162.5

3.550

200

36

Wake Forest University

162.5

3.500

150

37

University of Georgia

161.5

3.605

250

38

Cardozo Law School/Yeshiva University

162.0

3.505

300

39

Brooklyn Law School

161.5

3.380

500

 

Ohio State University

161.5

3.570

250

 

University of Alabama

161.5

3.525

150

 

University of Arizona

161.5

3.560

150

 

Runners-Up for the Top 40

 

 

 

 

Temple University

161.5

3.440

300

 

Villanova University

161.5

3.415

250

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