Law Schools

It’s Official: Yale Law School Tops US News Rankings

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Updated: Bloggers who leaked an advance look at law school rankings were correct: Yale is still No. 1 in rankings by U.S. News and World Report.

Harvard and Stanford had tied for second place last year, but this year Harvard was second and Stanford, third. Duke was edged out of the top 10 last year, but advanced two spots to tie for 10th place in the latest rankings.

The National Law Journal story on the rankings begins this way: “U.S. News & World Report has released its 2010 law school rankings: Cue griping from a chorus of the publication’s detractors who maintain that the list undermines law schools’ focus on providing quality legal education.”

Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, is aware of talk in the blogosphere, but he says some of it is a positive reaction to the publication’s decision to combine data on part-time and full-time programs. The change was made, he tells the ABA Journal, to address concerns that law schools were gaming the system by funneling students with lower grades and admissions test scores into part-time programs.

He adds that combining the data didn’t necessarily spell doom for law schools.

“It was not the case that all schools with part-time programs fell,” he says. “As an example, Georgetown’s ranking didn’t change. … American University went up one place. University of Denver rose in the rankings. The University of San Diego rose. So there are some schools with part-time programs that rose.”

Here are the top 10 law schools, (actually the top 12 because of ties), and their annual tuition, according to U.S. News:

1) Yale University, $46,000

2) Harvard University, $41,500

3) Stanford University, $42,080

4) Columbia University, $45,674

5) New York University, $42,890

6) University of California, Berkeley, $30,944 in-state, $43,189 out-of-state

6) University of Chicago, $41,835

8) University of Pennsylvania, $44,330

9) University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, $41,500 in-state, $44,500 out-of-state

10) Duke University, $42,938

10) Northwestern University, $45,332

10) University of Virginia, $36,800 in-state, $41,800 out-of-state

Morse notes that U.S. News is using 2007 employment data in its calculations. As a result, the rankings don’t reflect job troubles associated with the economic downturn.

Yet the publication is aware of the tough legal job market. “There’s a fear: Will I have the earning power to pay off my loans? We’re fully aware of that,” Morse says. That’s why U.S. News lists tuition costs along with the rankings.

U.S. News has also put together a separate ranking for part-time law schools. Georgetown University was No. 1 in that ranking, followed by George Washington University and Fordham University.

TaxProf Blog published a list of law schools with the biggest drops or gains since last year. Gainers include Indiana-Bloomington, which rose 13 places to No. 23; San Diego, which rose 21 places to No. 61; Gonzaga, which rose 18 places to No. 100; and Suny-Buffalo, which rose 15 places to No. 85.

One law school, the University of Nebraska, seemed to be a big loser. It fell from No. 73 on last year’s list into the third tier on this year’s list, Morse told the ABA Journal. But after the school got an advance peek at the rankings, officials notified U.S. News that there had been a mistake in data it submitted on 2007 nine-month-after-graduation employment. U.S. News is recalculating the rankings and will let Nebraska know the outcome.

But the publication hasn’t made a decision on whether to correct the rankings. Morse notes that all schools verify submitted data as correct, and U.S. News hasn’t made corrections when errors cropped up in the past.

Story updated at 10:50 a.m. CT to include comments from Morse and at 11:28 a.m. for a write-through.

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