Santa Claus — aka Bob Morse, rankings czar at U.S. News & World Report — is letting us open our presents early (or at least before midnight). The U.S. News law school rankings were supposed to come out on Tuesday, March 15, but Morse and his colleagues at U.S. News kindly posted them sometime around 10 p.m. Eastern time tonight. Yay!

(You’ll recall the same thing happened last year, too. The rankings were supposed to come out on April 15, 2010, but they were made available online by April 14 at 10:30 p.m., when we wrote about them.)

Now, on to the latest rankings — technically the 2012 law school rankings, but “ranked in 2011,” as noted on the U.S. News website.

We’ll start at the top, with a look at the top 14, or so-called “T14,” law schools. For the first time in ages, there’s a newcomer among their ranks. Guess who?

Here are the top 14 law schools in the nation, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. We have noted how each school’s ranking differs from its ranking last year.

1. Yale: no change.
2. Harvard: no change.
3. Stanford: no change.
4. Columbia: no change.
5. Chicago: no change.
6. NYU: no change.
7. Michigan: Up 2. Penn: no change.
9. Berkeley: Down 2. UVA: Up 1.
11. Duke: no change.
12. Northwestern: Down 1.
13. Cornell: no change.
14. Georgetown: no change.
14. Texas: Up 1.

Some random observations:

  • No change whatsoever in the top 6 schools, so no change in the great rivalries: Yale remains ahead of Harvard, and Columbia remains ahead of NYU.
  • Michigan and Berkeley basically traded places, while U. Penn. remained steady at #7.
  • UVA, a top law school in terms of Confederate flag decor clerkship placement, rose one spot to #9.
  • Duke and Cornell didn’t move, but Northwestern dropped a spot. Dean David Van Zandt is already missed.
  • UT-Austin is now a “T14″ school. Welcome to the club, y’all!

UPDATE (11:30 PM): Here’s a big change to the entire rankings scheme, noted over at Constitutional Daily:

US News has also decided to expand their rankings beyond the top 100, to include 75% of schools:

“In response to interest from both readers and institutions in knowing where more law schools sit, we have extended the list of numerically ranked institutions from the top 100 to the top three-quarters of the schools. The remaining schools are listed alphabetically as the second tier….

Previously the top 100 were considered Tier I and II (Tier II being an unofficial status given to 51-100, not actually granted by US News). But, under the new rules, what? WHAT? No tier three?

Yup, that’s right: say goodbye to the term “TTT,” or “third-tier toilet.” Now these schools get individual numerical ratings, instead of being lumped into an undifferentiated “third tier.” And now Justice Clarence Thomas won’t have to defend his law clerks against allegations of TTT-hood.

(Of course, the term “TTT” has been recorded for posterity in Urban Dictionary. And it might still stick around, since “STT” — “second-tier toilet” — doesn’t have quite the same ring. Or flush.)

What interesting changes have you noticed in the latest rankings? How did your law school or alma mater fare? Check out the complete U.S. News rankings over here, then share your observations in our comments.

Of course, this is just the start of our law school rankings coverage. Look for our customary open threads in the days and weeks ahead.

UPDATE (3/15/11, 1:30 AM): Professor Dan Filler offers additional analysis of the new rankings over at The Faculty Lounge.

UPDATE (3/15/11, 10 AM): The U.S. News write-up of the rankings appears here — via the WSJ Law Blog, which highlights some notable moves:

[T]he big deal within the top 35 is the appearance of a newcomer to the Top 14. (Hello, Texas. How does it feel?) It’s the first time since the start of the rankings that a school other than the first 14 listed here has cracked that illustrious group.

Other schools that made jumps: Maryland (from 48th to 42nd) and UC Davis (28th to 23rd). Among the biggest fallers among the top 50: Emory, Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin.

Best Law Schools: 2012 (ranked in 2011) [U.S. News & World Report]
US News: Hello Unemployment, Goodbye TTT [Constitutional Daily]
2012 US News Law School Rankings Analysis Part I [The Faculty Lounge]
The 2012 U.S. News Rankings: Horns Hook into the Top 14 [WSJ Law Blog]

Earlier: New U.S. News Law School Rankings: They’re Official
Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (1 – 5)
Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (6 – 15)


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