Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a seemingly endless stream of law school rankings. For example:
- the best law schools overall, according to U.S. News & World Report;
- the best law schools for getting rich (i.e., ranked by graduates’ median compensation);
- the best law schools according to law firm hiring partners; and
- the best law schools according to Cooley Law School (hint: Cooley is one of them).
If you thought that rankings fatigue would set in at some point, think again. Every new set of law school rankings, no matter how arbitrary or methodologically suspect, generates buzz and massive web traffic. The message that readers are sending to publishers: MOAR LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS.
Publishers are hearing it, loud and clear. U.S. News, the kings of the rankings game, just released a new rank-ordered list: the 10 most popular law schools.
How do they define “most popular law school”? And is your law school or alma mater one of them? Some of the schools on the list might surprise you….
U.S. News measured popularity by ranking schools by the statistic known as “yield,” i.e., the percentage of students admitted to a school who decide to attend that school. When ranked by yield, the top institution is Yale Law School — which also tops the overall U.S. News rankings. In 2010, over 80 percent of the applicants admitted to YLS decided to go there — about 12 percent points higher than the #2 school.
And which school was that? Not Harvard, not Stanford, but BYU Law School (aka J. Reuben Clark Law School). This might seem surprising, since BYU is only #42 in the overall U.S. News rankings — but it really shouldn’t be surprising, when you think about the statistic of yield. Because of BYU Law’s affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is the school of choice for many students seeking a legal education in the Mormon tradition, who turn down higher-ranked schools in favor of BYU.
(In addition, there’s a good argument that BYU is underrated in the general law school rankings. In Malcolm Gladwell’s reconfigured rankings, which place greater emphasis on factors such as value for the money and student LSAT scores, BYU comes in #2, behind Chicago.)
Which schools are most popular after Yale and BYU? Here are the top five, according to U.S. News:
Seeing Harvard Law School at #3, just a shade behind BYU in yield, makes sense. But the next two most popular schools, Southern University Law Center and Liberty University School of Law, are in the dreaded “Rank Not Published” tier (i.e., in the bottom quarter of U.S. law schools).
What might explain their popularity? Well, like BYU Law, they have very distinctive characters and missions. SULC states that its mission is to “to provide access and opportunity to a diverse group of students from underrepresented racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups.” Liberty explains its mission as follows:
Liberty University School of Law is a law school committed to academic and professional excellence in the context of the Christian intellectual tradition. We are a law school where what is taught comports with history, objective reality, morality, and common sense.
Oh please — reality, morality and common sense are grossly overrated. Take it from me; I’m a Yale Law School graduate.
(Another possible reason for the high yields of SULC and Liberty Law: the applicants they admit might not have many other options in terms of law schools. Yield doesn’t measure how many schools an applicant turns down; it just measures how many admitted applicants decide to matriculate. And if your choice is between going to Liberty Law or working a deep-fat fryer, you might as well go to Liberty, right?)
We’ve talked about the top five most popular law schools, but U.S. News ranked the top ten. You can check out the full list — did your school make the cut? — over here.
Earlier: The Best Law Schools — For Dog Lovers
The Best Law Schools — For Getting Rich
The Best Law Schools — Ranked By Law Firm Recruiters
Latest Cooley Law School Rankings Achieve New Heights of Intellectual Dishonesty
The 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings Are Out!