1 Law School Rankings The U.S. News Law School Rankings: Why and How they are done. Plus comments on the current state of law school rankings Robert J. Morse, Chief Data Strategist U.S. News & World Report The George Washington University Law School Communicators Media Conference Washington, D.C. / June 19, 2015
2 U.S. News Education rankings U.S. News: Academic Rankings and Data Projects Most recent 12 months in 2014 & 2015 Best Colleges: September 2014 Best Colleges for Military Veterans: September 2014 Best Global Universities- 10/28/2014 Arab Region Universities Rankings 11/4/2014 Best Online Programs: January 2015 Best Graduate Schools: March 2015 Best High Schools & Best STEM High Schools: May 2015 Best Online Programs for Military Veterans: May 2015 Community Colleges Directory and Search: June 2015
3 U.S. News What s going on? U.S. News stopped publishing a print news magazine at the end of U.S. News is still publishing 3 newsstand guide print issues: Best Colleges, Best Grad, Best Hospitals U.S. News is primarily publishing digitally for our website usnews.com
4 usnews.com traffic Record Traffic and Exposure on Education section at Best Colleges launch (September 9, 2014) 1.47 million unique visitors; 13.6 million page views to the Education section Traffic up 2x over launch in September 2012 Full Year 2014 Education section on USNWR.com had generated over 63 Million unique visitors and 460 Million page views 2015 thru mid-may 2015: Education section of usnews.com: * Over 28 million unique visitors * 191 million page views Best Graduate Schools thru mid-may 2015 * 50.5 million page views and 10.1 million unique visitors
5 usnews.com law portal
6 The Editorial Philosophy Behind the U.S. News Law School Rankings Consumer oriented mission: Provide prospective law school students, their parents and others parties in the legal ed field with key comparative information that they need in order to make an informed choice about which law school to attend. This choice has very important career and financial implications. At some law schools 3-year sticker price tuition + room and board is over $200,000
7 The Editorial Philosophy Behind the U.S. News Law School Rankings 2015 job market for new JD grads remains very tough compared to a few years ago. Much harder to get the $160,000 starting salary jobs at the Big Law firms to pay law school loans since Big Law hiring far fewer new JDs.
8 The Editorial Philosophy Behind the U.S. News Law School Rankings ABA Releases Law Graduate Employment Data for Class of 2014 (4/29/2015): The nation's 204 ABA-approved law schools reported that roughly 10 months after graduation, 31,160 graduates of the class of 2014, or 71 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time positions where bar passage is required or a J.D. is preferred. The 2014 figures break down as follows: 26,248 graduates of the class of 2014, or 59.9 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time positions that require bar passage. 4,912 graduates of the class of 2014, or 11.2 percent, were employed in long-term, full-time "J.D. advantage" positions where a law degree is preferred. 9.8 percent of the class of 2014 were unemployed and seeking employment 2013 class stats: bar passage required 57.0%, law degree preferred 10.1% and unemployed & seeking 11.2%
9 The Editorial Philosophy Behind the U.S. News Law School Rankings These current law school employment & economic realities -fewer high paying jobs with more J.D. debt- result in prospective students becoming more dependent on rankings to determine the comparative position of law schools. U.S. News is helping prospective students determine if law school is worth the investment.
10 Law School Rankings Our annual rankings of 198 accredited law schools are based on a weighted average of 12 factors. We also rank 9 different specialty areas: Clinical Training Dispute Resolution Environmental Law Health Law Intellectual Property Law International Law Legal Writing Tax Law Trial Advocacy Placement Success 20% Faculty Resources 15% Weights Student Selectivity 25% Peer Assessment 25% Assessment by Lawyers & Judges 15%
11 Law school academics reputation-25% It is measured by an annual survey of the law school dean, the dean of academic affairs, the chair of faculty appointments and the most recently tenured faculty member at each law school. Each school gets opportunity to have 4 votes Schools are marked on a scale of 1 (Marginal) to 5 (Distinguished). There is a Don t Know option that is automatically selected if no school is marked. In the Fall of surveys were mailed. Approximately 58% of them were returned.
12 Lawyers and Judges ratings-15% It is measured by an annual survey of a selection of law firm hiring partners, state attorney generals, state chief justices, and a selection of federal judges. The law schools in summer 2014-supplied U.S. News all the names used in the survey. U.S. News asked each school to supply U.S. News with 10 names of those who hire graduates from their law school. Same process will be used in summer of 2015.
13 Lawyers and Judges rating-15% The format is identical to that of the Peer Assessment survey filled out by deans and other law school faculty. In fall 2014, nearly 1,000 survey respondents contacted for online survey. Rankings were based on most recent three-year total of response and ratings. Schools are marked on a scale of 1 (Marginal) to 5 (Distinguished). There is a Don t Know option that is automatically selected if no law school is marked.
14 Student Selectivity-25% There were three factors involved in the student selectivity section using Fall 2014 entering class: The combined median LSAT score of all full-time and part-time entering students (weighted by.50). LSAT score in ranking calculations is based on the national percentile of LSAT test takers table. The combined median undergraduate GPA of all full-time and part-time entering students (weighted by.40). The combined acceptance rate for all full-time and part-time program entering students. (weighted by.10). The additive inverse of the acceptance rate is used in the ranking calculations.
15 Placement Success-20% There were three factors involved in the placement success section for 2013 graduates. They are: The weighted average employment rate of 2013 graduates at graduation -weighted by 10%. The weighted average employment rate of 2013 graduates nine months after graduation -weighted by 70%. This is the ratio of the bar passage rate of a school s graduating class to that jurisdiction s overall state bar passage rate for firsttime test takers in winter and summer 2013 weighted 10% National Conference of Bar Examiners provided U.S. News data on first-time test taker pass rates by state
16 Placement Success As a result of current American Bar Association rules, a great deal more information is available about the many types of positions law students take after they graduate. Each year law schools report to the ABA how many of their most recent grads had jobs lined up by nine months after graduation. The new standards require law schools to go into a lot more detail by reporting 43 different job types and durations, noting, for example, whether each graduate's employment was long term (defined as lasting at least a year) or shorter term, was full time or part time, whether it required passage of a bar exam and whether the employment was funded by the law school or university.
17 Placement Success U.S. News collected these same ABA reported 9-month statistics when we surveyed the schools for our annual rankings. Plus U.S. News also collected the same data fields on those members of the class who were employed at graduation. U.S. News incorporated this rich data into our computation of the employment measure for the class of 2013 at graduation and nine months later.
18 Placement Success Placement success was calculated by assigning various weights to the number of grads employed in 43 of these different types of post-j.d. jobs, employment statuses and durations. Full weight was given for graduates who had a full-time job lasting at least a year where bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage that were not funded by a law school. Less weight went to full-time, long-term jobs that were professional or nonprofessional and did not require bar passage, to pursuit of an additional advanced degree, and to positions whose start dates were deferred. The lowest weight applied to jobs categorized as both part-time and short-term.
19 Placement Success Starting with the 2016 (published in March 2015) edition USNEWS discounted the value of jobs that were funded by the law school or university even if they were full-time, at least a year long and required bar passage or were jobs for which a JD was an advantage. Other types of school funded jobs were discounted more than in the past. Why was this change made?
20 Placement Success All these weighted figures were then divided by the total number of 2013 J.D. graduates. These weighted employment rates at grad and at 9 months-which are not an actual employment rates are only used in the ranking formula and are not published. Actual rates for the other types of positions appear in the profiles of each school's latest graduating class on usnews.com. All these employment data are only available via a U.S. News Law School Compass subscription.
21 Fuller Data
22 Faculty Resources-15% There are 4 factors involved in the faculty resources indicator. Expenditures per student: This is the average expenditures per students for the fiscal years. The average instruction, library and supporting services salaries adjusted for cost of living. (65%) Expenditures per student fiscal average all other items including financial aid (10%) Student-faculty ratio: This is the ratio of students to faculty members for 2014, modeled after an American Bar Association definition from previous years (20%) Library resources: This is the total number of volumes and titles in the school s law library at the end of the 2014 fiscal year (5%)
23 Part-time Law Rankings To some going to law school part-time is their only choice because of family and financial reasons. Part-time means in 4-years. This year, U.S. News ranked 85 accredited law schools offering parttime programs. For a school's program to be considered in the part-time rankings, it must have reported at least 20 parttime students enrolled in fall 2014 and reported fall 2014 applications and acceptances for its part-time program. The rankings of 85 part-time law school programs are based on a weighted average of three measures. Part-time focus 23% Selectivity 27% Weights Quality Assessment 50%
24 Nine Law School Specialty Rankings Methodology Legal educators nominated up to 15 schools in each field. For 2016 edition (published in March 2015) the names legal educators that were surveyed by U.S. News for each of the 9 specialty rankings were supplied to U.S. News directly by each school in a summer of 2014 survey. Previously AALS directory was used. U.S. News had a much higher response rate than before using names collected from the schools. U.S. News plans to collect 9 names from each school to be used in the specialty survey again in summer of Those schools that received the most nominations appear. It takes 7 nominations to make bottom of list.
25 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy The law school rankings are not being done for law school deans or faculty. We listen to their critiques, but they are not impacting the results. The rankings should be viewed as part of the rapidly growing higher education accountability movement. This accountability movement is impacting law schools, too
26 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy Accountability issues some or all law schools are facing: The education policies and administrative actions undertaken by law deans, faculty and administrators are being looked at more closely than in the past Law schools budgets are far more scrutinized How much have new law school graduates learned is being questioned How well have new law school graduates been prepared to practice law and pass the bar is constantly debated.
27 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy Accountability issues some or all law schools are facing: More law schools are being asked Is the J.D. degree worth it? Many new J.D. grads leave with very high $ debts, but their current job prospects or earning power is low. Are there too many lawyers graduating given likelihood for getting real legal jobs is less than it was prior to the recession?
28 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy more Law schools: ABA adopted many standard definitions for consumer data questions. There has been increased data integrity. Law schools have targeted more resources toward their placement offices since career data is part of the U.S. News rankings. Prospective law school applicants and enrolled J.D. students have become active consumers and have been given much more information to make independent judgments.
29 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy more There has been many articles written about how the U.S. News law rankings influences admissions other academic policy decisions made by law schools. How real are these claims?
30 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy more They are real according to.. It is clear from these peer reviewed social science academic studies and articles that some law schools deans and top administrators are making decisions that take the rankings into account-for the purpose of trying to doing better in or to maintain their current position in the rankings.
31 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy more Is managing a law school to do better in the rankings good or bad for legal education? Good or bad for prospective students? From the students perspective, if their school rises and it stays at the new higher level, their degree can gain in value and it could help them in the job market. Rising in the rankings can boost the status of the dean and faculty and attract top talent to the school and maybe more funding.
32 U.S. News Law School rankings: Impact and Controversy more Could U.S. News and World Report work with legal educators/organizations to establish better communications and discuss the rankings? Unfortunately, at this point in time, the answer appears to be not yet.
33 U.S. News long standing offer to work with law schools U.S. News has a long standing public offer with the ABA, AALS, NALP and LSAC that we are eager to set up an advisory group (s) with law schools or representatives of their organization to discuss and communicate about our law school rankings. We work with groups Engineering and MBA and Institutional Research (AIR) for Best Colleges ranking. U.S. News pre-accepts the stipulation that such an advisory group would not mean that any member of the group or the organization itself is in anyway a supporter of the rankings. So far no group has taken us up on our offer. We hope some day that will change.
34 Current law school ranking controversies Publishing rankings in the internet age. U.S. News actions are watched very closely and ranking news spreads far more quickly compared when it was just print. Why? The rise of the vast legal blogosphere Academic blogs cover rankings: TaxProf Leiter Commercial Blogs/website: Above the Law Wall Street Journal ABA Journal National Law Journal Chronicle of Higher Education
35 Current law school ranking controversies U.S. News law school rankings have become the only ranking game in town or at least the one with the most impact This reality means that the annual release of the law school rankings has become increasingly high stakes for both law schools deans/faculty and the students. What are some of the implications of being the only game in town ranking? Jobs at stake. Big problems caused by reporting errors There are other law school rankings- Princeton Review, ATL, National Jurist, National Law Journal + others like Leiter
36 U.S. News Rankings Perspective Some call the law school rankings a case of extreme and unintended consequences. It s true that there have been some unintended consequences On the other hand, it can be argued that law rankings time has come and now they are in the forefront of higher education discussions in the U.S. The biggest issue in academia surrounding law school rankings is the still the most basic one. Can complex institutions like law schools be numerically ranked?
37 Future of U.S. News Law School Rankings Law school rankings are here to stay Controversy will continue Academic community will remain highly interested in Law school rankings. Primary audience will continue to be consumers: prospective law school students, parents and alumni Internet will grow as information source
38 Morse Code: Inside the College Rankings On June, 1, 2007 U.S. News and I started a blog, Morse Code: Inside the College Rankings Morse Code provides deeper insights into the methodologies and is a forum for commentary and analysis of law school, college, grad, other rankings and U.S. News future plans.
39 U.S. News Academic Insights Analytic dashboard that allows schools to visualize and analyze 25 years of U.S. News rankings and data. Managed by separate team within U.S. News. Create peer groups and conduct comparisons. Visualize data within the platform. Export data to.csv for internal use or as images. See past years archived methodologies. Only available to institutions.
40 U.S. News Academic Insights Demos and trials can be provided. Web:
41 Thank You! Questions? Questions, Comments? Morse Code Blog: Law School Rankings
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