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Is BYU’s Law School No. 2 in US? Malcolm Gladwell Puts It Behind Chicago

Posted Feb 17, 2011 12:09 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Why doesn’t U.S. News & World Report include price in law school rankings?

Author Malcolm Gladwell thinks it’s the wrong approach, TaxProf Blog reports. In a critique at the New Yorker (sub. req.), Gladwell devised a law school ranking that puts the University of Chicago in first place and Brigham Young University in second. It is based 40 percent on value, 40 percent on LSAT scores, and 20 percent on faculty publishing.

Brigham Young is also ranked second on a list of best value law schools published this fall by the National Jurist.

“U.S. News thinks that schools that spend lots of money on their students are nicer than those that don't, and that this niceness ought to be factored into the equation of desirability,” Gladwell says. Indeed, the magazine rewards colleges and law schools that devote lots of money to educating their students.

Gladwell also has a beef with U.S. News’ reliance on surveys to determine school reputation. He recalls the time some years ago that former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Brennan asked about 100 lawyers to rank the quality of 10 law schools. In the middle of the pack was Penn State, which didn’t have a law school at the time. Gladwell sees the U.S. News rankings as a self-fulfilling prophecy; schools' reputation will rise when they rise in the rankings.

Gladwell used a website created by Indiana University law professor Jeffrey Stake that allows users to rank law schools based on the criteria of their choosing. Gladwell ran the law schools through a couple different scenarios, including the one based on value, LSATs and faculty publishing. The top 10 were:

1) Chicago

2) BYU

3) Harvard

4) Yale

5) Texas

6) Virginia

7) Colorado

8) Alabama

9) Stanford

10) Pennsylvania

U.S. News & World Report puts Yale's law school in first place, followed by Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and Chicago.

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