January 12, 2009
Judging the Law Schools
Harvard Law School made it six consecutive years atop the ranking of the nation’s law schools, according to the 10th edition of the nationally known publication, Judging the Law Schools. Created in 1999 by then-Thomas M. Cooley Law School President Thomas E. Brennan, and now prepared annually by Brennan, a former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and current Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc, Judging the Law Schools compares all accredited law schools based on a wide variety of objective criteria identified as significant to consumers by the American Bar Association’s Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the organization that does the accrediting.
According to the ABA’s Council, the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools “is designed to provide prospective law school applicants with basic information in a simple format that will facilitate comparisons among schools.” The ranking in Judging the Law Schools is based solely upon the ABA’s basic information, and it is now available online and can be used interactively. Viewers can search the current version according to school or state, or by any of the 32 factors used in the rankings, such as enrollment numbers, tuition, library data, the number of applicants, LSAT scores, and minority enrollment. The online version can be found at http://www.cooley.edu/rankings.
Georgetown University continued to rank second, while New York University moved up to third (sixth last year), and the University of Virginia repeated as the fourth-ranked school. The University of Texas ranked fifth (third last year) and the University of Michigan moved up to sixth place from its ninth-place rank last year. Northwestern University placed seventh (fifth last year), Columbia University placed eighth (seventh last year), and Yale Law School ranked ninth (eighth last year). George Washington University moved back into the top ten after placing 11th last year.
The second half of the Top 20 were: (11) University of Minnesota (tied for ninth last year), (12) Thomas M. Cooley (16th the past two years), (13) Fordham University (15th last year), (14) University of California-Los Angeles (13th last year), (15) American University (11th last year), (16) University of Pennsylvania (12th last year), (17) University of California-Hastings (19th last year), (18) Stanford University (19th last year), (19) University of Maryland (29th last year), and (2) University of California-Berkeley (17th last year). Brooklyn Law School ranked in 23rd place last year, slipping slightly from its 20th-place finish last year.
This year’s Top 20 (with last year’s ranking in parentheses) were:
1. Harvard University (1)
2. Georgetown University (2)
3. New York University (6)
4. University of Virginia (4)
5. University of Texas (3)
6. University of Michigan (9)
7. Northwestern University (5)
8. Columbia University (7)
9. Yale Law School (8)
10. George Washington University (11)
11. University of Minnesota (9)
12. Thomas M. Cooley Law School (16)
13. Fordham University (15)
14. University of California-Los Angeles (13)
15. American University (14)
16. University of Pennsylvania (12)
17. University of California-Hastings (18)
18. Stanford University (19)
19. University of Maryland (29)
20. University of California-Berkeley (17)
Rounding out the Top 50 were:
21. Loyola Law School (23)
22. Temple University (25)
23. Brooklyn Law School (20)
24. University of Wisconsin (21)
25. Boston University (22)
26. University of Miami (27)
27. Duke University (24)
28. Washington University (30)
29. Chicago-Kent College of Law (28)
30. University of Houston (26)
31. University of Chicago (38)
32. Emory University (44)
33. University of Connecticut (36)
34. University of Iowa (32)
35. Suffolk University (39)
36. Indiana University-Bloomington (37)
37. SMU Dedman School of Law (40)
38. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (43)
39. Boston College (31)
40. Ohio State University (33)
41. University of Alabama (51)
42. Seton Hall University (35)
43. Vanderbilt University (57)
44. University of North Carolina (38)
45. Cornell Law School (34)
46. Catholic University (59)
47. Tulane University (42)
48. University of Illinois (41)
49. University of Denver (63)
50. University of San Diego (49)
The Top 30 schools remained the same, albeit in different order. Four schools joined the Top 50 — University of Alabama, Vanderbilt University, Catholic University of America, and University of Denver, and four schools fell from the Top 50 — Rutgers University-Newark, St. John’s University, University of Buffalo, and New York Law School.
Justice Brennan said, “I began this publication because, like just about everyone else in legal education, I was sick and tired of the U.S. News and World Report’s annual opinion poll on American law schools and the inordinate impact it was having on the choices young people were making about where to go to law school.” President LeDuc noted that the law schools’ deans are increasingly dismayed with the influence of the commercial exploitation and flaws in the U.S. News ranking and that some have begun to call for competitive ranking systems, including those that, like Judging the Law Schools, rely exclusively upon the ABA information.
“U.S. News uses a system that lacks objectivity because it is commercial. Their rankings reflect elitist values, like exclusivity in admissions and the inherent prejudice that comes from heavy reliance on reputation, which is introduced without consideration of knowledge about the law schools among those assessing their reputations,” LeDuc added. He stated that the system used in Judging the Law Schools has its own subjectivity, such as ranking large schools higher than small schools and inexpensive schools higher than expensive schools, but he pointed out that all of the data is objective and made public by the American Bar Association, that no factor is given more than 3 percent of the weight in the rankings, and that no consideration is given to opinion about a school’s reputation. “We’ll defend the Top 20 schools identified by the system we used in Judging the Law Schools against any rankings by others, including that done by U.S. News,” President LeDuc asserted.
LeDuc noted that the American Bar Association has refused to release current information on some of the factors, data that was previously treated as consumer information, like the square footage of facilities. “It is hard to justify keeping confidential information about the number of hours a school offers library reference service, the number of serial subscriptions its library has, and the size of a school’s physical plant,” LeDuc said, “but that information that was once available to the consumer no longer is.”
Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the country. Founded in 1972, it operates J.D. programs across Michigan in downtown Lansing, Auburn Hills and downtown Grand Rapids. Today, Cooley Law School has more than 13,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and also offers joint degree and master of laws programs. Cooley offers enrollment three times a year; in January, May and September. Additional information about Cooley can be found at www.cooley.edu.