The rankings of 194 law schools fully accredited by the American Bar Association are based on a weighted average of the 12 measures of quality described here. Data were collected in fall 2012 and early 2013.
A law school official at each law school that responded to the U.S. News statistical survey—in many cases the dean—verified the data for accuracy.
Specialty rankings are based solely on nominations by legal educators at peer institutions.
Quality assessment (weighted by 0.40)
Peer assessment score (0.25): In fall 2012, law school deans, deans of academic affairs, chairs of faculty appointments, and the most recently tenured faculty members were asked to rate programs on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark "don't know."
A school's score is the average of all the respondents who rated it. Responses of "don't know" counted neither for nor against a school. About 63% of those surveyed responded.
Assessment score by lawyers/judges (0.15): In fall 2012, legal professionals, including the hiring partners of law firms, state attorneys general, and selected federal and state judges, were asked to rate programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark "don't know."
A school's score is the average of all the respondents who rated it. Responses of "don't know" counted neither for nor against a school.
In the fall 2012 lawyer and judge survey, U.S. News for the third year in a row surveyed hiring partners and recruiters at law firms who made the 2012 Best Law Firms rankings produced jointly by U.S. News and the publication Best Lawyers. Their ratings are included in the lawyer and judge survey score.
About 9% of those lawyers and judges surveyed responded. The two most recent years of the lawyer and judge surveys were averaged and weighted by 0.15.
Selectivity (weighted by 0.25)
Median LSAT scores (0.125): These are the combined median scores on the Law School Admission Test of all 2012 full-time and part-time entrants to the J.D. program.
Median undergrad GPA (0.10): This is the combined median undergraduate grade-point average of all the 2012 full-time and part-time entrants to the J.D. program.
Acceptance rate (0.025): This is the combined proportion of applicants to both the full-time and part-time J.D. program who were accepted for the 2012 entering class.
For the 2014 edition of Best Law Schools, U.S. News continued the same main law school rankings methodology that was used in the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 editions for admissions data. We used the combined 2012 class admissions data for both full-time and part-time entering students for the median LSAT scores, median undergraduate grade-point averages, and the acceptance rate in calculating the school's overall ranking.
Placement success (weighted by 0.20)
Success is determined by calculating employment rates for 2011 grads at graduation (0.04 weight) and nine months after (0.14 weight), as well as the bar passage rate, explained below.
As a result of new American Bar Association rules, a great deal more information can be had about the many types of positions law students take after they graduate. Each year, the schools report to the ABA how many of their most recent grads had jobs lined up by nine months after graduation.
The new standards require them to go into a lot more detail by reporting 35 different job types and durations, noting, for example, whether each graduate's employment was long term (defined as lasting at least a year) or shorter term, was full time or part time, and whether it required passage of a bar exam.
U.S. News collected these same statistics when we surveyed the schools for our annual rankings, along with the same data on those members of the class who were employed at graduation.
For this year's rankings, U.S. News incorporated this richer data into our computation of the employment measure for the class of 2011 at graduation and nine months later. Placement success was calculated by assigning various weights to the number of grads employed in 22 of these different types of post-J.D. jobs and durations.
Full weight was given for graduates who had a full-time job lasting at least a year where bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage.
Less weight went to full-time, long-term jobs that were professional or nonprofessional and did not require bar passage, to pursuit of an additional advanced degree, and to positions whose start dates were deferred. The lowest weight applied to jobs categorized as both part-time and short-term.
All these weighted figures were then divided by the total number of 2011 J.D. graduates and were used in the ranking formula only and are not published.
Employment stats displayed in the ranking tables reflect actual rates (out of the total number of 2011 J.D. graduates) for the full-weight jobs: full-time, long-term, and where a J.D. and bar passage are necessary or advantageous. Actual rates for the other types of positions appear in the profiles of each school's latest graduating class. All these employment data are only available via a U.S. News Law School Compass subscription.
Bar passage rate (0.02): This is the ratio of the school's bar passage rate of the 2011 graduating class to that jurisdiction's overall state bar passage rate for first-time test takers in winter 2011 and summer 2011.
The jurisdiction listed is the state where the largest number of 2011 graduates took the state bar exam. The state bar examination pass rates for first-time test takers in winter 2011 and summer 2011 were provided by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
Faculty resources (weighted by 0.15)
Expenditures per student: This is the average expenditures per student for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years. The average instruction, library, and supporting services (0.0975) are measured, as are all other items, including financial aid (0.015).
Student-faculty ratio (0.03): This is the ratio of students to faculty members for 2012, using the American Bar Association definition.
Library resources (0.0075): This is the total number of volumes and titles in the school's law library at the end of the 2012 fiscal year.
Data were standardized about their means, and standardized scores were weighted, totaled, and rescaled so that the top school received 100; others received their percentage of the top score.
Extended law school rankings: In response to interest from both readers and institutions in knowing where more law schools sit, for the third year in a row, we have extended the list of numerically ranked institutions from the top 100 to the top three quarters of the schools. The remaining schools, or the bottom 25 percent of those that are ranked, are listed alphabetically as Rank Not Published (see full explanation below of Rank Not Published).
Schools not ranked and listed as Unranked: University of California—Irvine, University of La Verne, and University of Massachusetts—Dartmouth are listed as Unranked because as of January 2013, they were only provisionally approved by the American Bar Association. Three other law schools—Pontifical Catholic University and Inter American University in Puerto Rico, and the University of Puerto Rico—did not provide sufficient data to be ranked.
To be ranked and listed on the overall ranking tables, a law school must be accredited and fully approved by the American Bar Association and must draw most of its students from the United States.
Specialty rankings: These specialty rankings are based solely on votes by legal educators, who nominated up to 15 schools in each field. Legal educators chosen were a selection of those listed in the Association of American Law Schools' Directory of Law Teachers 2010-2011 as currently teaching in that field. In the case of clinical and legal writing, the nominations were made by directors or members of the clinical and legal writing programs at each law school.
Those programs that received the most top 15 nominations appear and are numerically ranked in descending order based on the number of nominations they received as long as the school/program received seven or more nominations in that specialty area. This means that schools ranked at the bottom of each law specialty ranking have received seven nominations.
Rank Not Published: Rank Not Published means that U.S. News did calculate a numerical ranking for that school/program, but decided for editorial reasons that since the school/program ranked below the U.S. News cutoff that U.S. News would not publish the ranking for that school/program.
U.S. News will supply schools/programs listed as Rank Not Published with their numerical rankings, if they submit a request following the procedures listed in the Information for School Officials.
Schools/programs marked as Rank Not published are listed alphabetically. In law, we have numerically ranked the top three fourths of the law schools that were eligible to be ranked. The bottom quarter of the law schools are listed as Rank Not Published and are listed alphabetically.
Unranked: Unranked means that U.S. News did not calculate a numerical ranking for that law school. The school or program did not supply U.S. News with enough key statistical data to be numerically ranked by U.S. News. Schools or programs marked as Unranked are listed alphabetically and are listed below those marked as Rank Not Published.
Sources: U.S. News and the schools. Assessment data collected by Ipsos Public Affairs. N/A = data were not provided by the school.