Top Ten Ranking Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings

 ¶  Brian Leiter's Educational Quality Ranking vs. U.S. News, 2000-02
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The main difference between the EQR and U.S. News is that the EQR focuses exclusively on academic criteria, while academic criteria account for less than half of the U.S. News ranking.

For example, U.S. News assigns weight in the final rank to per capita expenditures, a criterion which rewards inefficiency and systematically favors small schools over large schools, since the latter enjoy obvious economies of scale.  (This is the only reason U.S. News consistently fails to rank Harvard #1, even in years [like 1999], where its reputation scores were higher than Yale's!)  As a result, this factor correlates poorly with academic quality.  Similarly, U.S. News assigns weight in the final rank to spending on financial aid, a factor which seriously prejudices all state law schools, which charge lower tuitions in the first place and thus spend less on financial aid. Yet low tuition is a factor nowhere credited by U.S. News.

U.S. News employs only subjective measures of reputation, which often reflect hearsay and out-of-date information; U.S. News assigns no weight at all to teaching quality.

The EQR does omit job placement rates, which U.S. News includes. Unfortunately, there is simply no way--as even U.S. News admits--to verify the accuracy of the placement data schools report: U.S. News relies on an "honor" system, yet all the incentives invite dishonorable conduct.  Anyone who accepts the employment data printed by U.S. News at face value (especially from private schools which are not subject to public disclosure laws) is gullible at best.  According to U.S. News, for example, NYU has 100% job placement, while Columbia has only 99% and Harvard 98%.  More strikingly, according to the data printed by U.S. News (again, all self-reported by the schools), Albany Law School  and Washington University in St. Louis report 99% placement rates, ahead of not only Harvard, but also Georgetown, Berkeley, Chicago, Penn, Texas, and Virginia.  Such suspicious "results" counsel against employing putative placement data in ranking law schools.  (In fairness, it should be noted that data for public law schools, which are generally subject to public disclosure laws, are more likely to be accurate than data for private schools, since the latter are very hard to catch in a lie.)

Some schools are obviously prevaricating about the employment rates, but others have found creative ways to "lie."  So, for example, schools will classify as "self-employed" all the graduates who could not find work and who are presumed to have "hung out a shingle."  Northwestern, which reported a much-improved rate of 99% (another one that beat Harvard and Chicago!), is reported to have hired unemployed graduates in low-paying research assistant positions in order to boost the numbers.

All the schools that provide a quality legal education--as measured by the criteria identified above--are schools that, without exception, enjoy a high success rate in placing their graduates.  The top 15--the traditional "elite" law schools--all place nationally.  The ABA publishes employment data, and this is likely to be more reliable, but because the rates at which schools ascertain the employment rates of their graduates vary, even these figures are hard to interpret.  Some very good schools report surprisingly high rates of "unemployed graduates seeking work"--for example, Harvard (2.4%) and Michigan (3.9%)--while weaker schools report lower rates to the ABA (for example, Duke [.5%] and North Carolina [.5%]).

In short, by concentrating exclusively on the factors central to a good legal education--quality of the faculty and student body --and by omitting irrelevant, unreliable and prejudicial criteria, the EQR provides a more traditional ranking of law schools based on academic criteria.

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