Law Schools

Is your law school outperforming its US News academic reputation ranking? Or falling short of it?


Academic reputation isn’t everything.

According to TaxProf Blog, some law schools are ranked significantly higher on the U.S. News and World Report Law School Rankings than their academic reputations would suggest, while other schools are performing worse than expected.

In a Tuesday blog post, Paul Caron, a professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, listed 53 law schools that are overperforming and underperforming their overall rankings. Florida International University College of Law showed the greatest level of overperformance, which meant that its overall rank far exceeded its academic reputation. The school ranked 105th overall, despite ranking 159th in academic reputation.

Caron explained in a separate blog post that a school that significantly overperforms its reputational ranking is one that is doing well in other statistical indicators used in the rankings, including admissions selectivity, alumni giving, financial and faculty resources and graduation and retention rates.

Other schools that ranked among the top 25 overperforming law schools were Campbell Law School, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, and Penn State Dickinson School of Law. Of those overperforming schools, the University of Alabama School of Law was the only one whose overall ranking was in the top 25 (Alabama is tied for 21st in the latest law school rankings). Alabama obtained its lofty overall mark despite ranking 42nd in academic reputation.

“An overperforming school’s undergraduate reputation among its academic peers has not kept pace with what it has achieved in the underlying academic indicators,” Caron explained in a separate blog post examining the U.S. News rankings for undergraduate institutions. “This could be because academic reputation is a lagging indicator—it can take time for a school’s academic peers to understand the real progress of a university.”

On the flip side of the coin, Caron found that University of Oregon School of Law showed the greatest level of underperformance in that its overall rank was far lower than its academic reputation rank. Caron listed an additional 27 underperforming schools, including the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, University of San Francisco School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law. Of those underperforming schools, only one school had an overall ranking in the top 40 (UC Davis School of Law ranked 38th despite having the 23rd-highest academic reputational ranking). “Some flagship public universities may not be serving students as well as their reputations would suggest,” Caron wrote.

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