February 4, 2011
Harvard Number 1, Cooley Number 2. Here’s How.
The 12th edition of Judging the Law Schools is released. Harvard Law School again tops the ranking at one, as it has since 2003. Cooley Law School now ranks second, up from 12th.
Judging the Law Schools compares U.S. law schools based solely on information included in the ABA·LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. The study, using the 2011 Official Guide data, ranks ABA-approved schools using 40 factors that are either directly identified in the Official Guide or are calculated from the data it contains.
The 40 factors ranked in Judging are those the Official Guide deems important in a prospective student’s decision-making process.
How did Cooley rank #2? Here’s how:
First, Judging the Law Schools eliminates the highly subjective criteria found in other well-known ranking systems from consideration. Eliminating subjectivity from the rankings means that:
"Reputation" of the schools based on the opinions of various individuals and the quality of scholarly publications by faculty are not included; and
No consideration is given to exclusionary admissions practices in these rankings, although the quality of incoming classes is considered.
Authors Thomas E. Brennan, former President of Cooley and former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, and Don LeDuc, Cooley’s current President and Dean, note that while total objectivity is not possible in any comparison and that the selection of criteria on which to base a comparison is itself subjective, Judging was designed intentionally to use only objective data in its comparison. Judging's rankings are based on the following premises:
That higher incoming credentials are better than lower;
That lower student:teacher ratios and smaller class sizes are better than higher ratios and larger classes;
That higher bar passage rates are better than lower;
That bigger is better than smaller;
That less expensive is better than more expensive; and
That more minority enrollment is better than less.
The overall premises of the ranking, the justification for the selection of the factors, and the subjectivity involved in deciding whether a factor is an indication of something arguably positive or negative are all clearly described in the report. Further explanation of the Judging ranking system can be found at http://www.cooley.edu/rankings/methods.html.
Second, Judging adds eight new factors in the 12th edition. Three factors relate to access and diversity, values highly esteemed by the American Bar Association that have proven to be very difficult to put into action in the law school setting. Another two were chosen to reflect the increasing significance of globalization. Two others relate to the actual cost of legal education, which has risen exponentially over the past two decades. The eighth was added to offer perspective on each school’s commitment to providing adequate library materials.
Third, because the Official Guide does not assert that any one factor is more important than another, Judging gives each of the 40 factors equal weight in its overall ranking. This method ensures that no one factor can affect the overall ranking of any school by more than 2.5%, and leaves it up to applicants to decide which factors are more important or less important.
Using the Official Guide factors and excluding Cooley from the ranking, here are the top 20 law schools:
1. Harvard University
2. Georgetown University
3. New York University
4. University of Virginia
5. Columbia University
6. Northwestern University
7. University of Texas
8. George Washington University
9. Yale University
10. American University
11. University of Michigan
12. University of Pennsylvania
13. Boston University
14. University of Miami
16. Fordham University
17. Washington University
18. University of Minnesota
19. Hastings College of Law
20. University of Wisconsin
President LeDuc takes aim at naysayers, noting, “like all rankings, this list omits schools that others would say “deserve” to be on it, and subjectively that may be so. But even when you eliminate the subjective criteria, as this ranking system does, the Judging the Law Schools list of the top 20 law schools is nearly identical to the U.S. News list.”
Here is this list with Cooley included:
1. Harvard University
2. Thomas M. Cooley Law School
3. Georgetown University
4. New York University
5. University of Virginia
6. Columbia University
7. Northwestern University
8. University of Texas
9. George Washington University
10. Yale University
11. American University
12. University of Michigan
13. University of Pennsylvania
14. Boston University
15. University of Miami
17. Fordham University
18. Washington University
19. University of Minnesota
20. Hastings College of Law
As the authors note, anyone thinking about law school should not rely solely on this ranking, nor do they contend that every factor that should be considered has been included. The intent is to provide an objective, data-based alternative to the subjectivity of the U.S. News and World Report rankings.
Visit cooley.edu/rankings/ to read about Judging the Law School’s approach to ranking the law schools and review the ranking of 193 of the ABA-approved schools. Use the ranking tool to compare any or all ABA-approved law schools by state, by individual schools, or by any of the 40 factors.
Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the nation. Founded in 1972, the private, non-profit law school operates J.D. programs across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. Today, Cooley Law School has over 15,000 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 cooley.edu.