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The ‘Best Value’ Law Schools of 2011, Now With Numerical Rankings and Grades

Back in August, we reported on National Jurist’s fifth annual list of the 60 Best Value law schools. The Best Value ranking system takes into account the following criteria: in-state tuition, average student debt, the percentage of graduates employed nine months after graduation, and bar passage rates.

Two months ago, the list was unranked, but the final tallies for the honor roll have now arrived. As in years past, in addition to the rankings, National Jurist has given letter grades to the rest of the schools on the list, ranging from A- to F. Wouldn’t you hate to be a student or an alumnus of a law school with a failing grade?

Check and see if your school made the grade, after the jump….

Before we get to the rankings and grades, we’re going to chat a little more about National Jurist’s rankings methodology. We noted last time that, due to the recession, some adjustments had been made to account for “fairness.”

But what exactly does “fairness” entail? National Jurist took into account averages for bar passage rates and post-graduation employment over the past two years. And even if a law school didn’t meet one of these important standards, the school wasn’t automatically excluded from consideration. That being said, it appears that some law schools got a Best Value trophy for mere participation in the sport of being a law school.

Here’s what National Jurist had to say about the Best Value rankings, in general:

To identify the law schools that provide the best value, National Jurist looked at the most important exit numbers: the percent of graduates who pass the bar and the percent who get a job. We did not factor in what type of job or salary. The Best Value study is not designed to identify the schools where students can get their greatest return on investment or where they will earn the most upon graduation.

Instead, this study is designed to identify a quality legal education at an affordable price. As such, we weighted bar passage and job placement figures with tuition and average indebtedness upon graduation. Our goal: to find the law schools where graduates have an excellent chance of passing the bar and getting a job, without taking on a ton of debt.

Without further ado, we present to you Top-20 Best Value law schools, according to the National Jurist (click to enlarge):

Click here to check out the law schools that received A- and B+ designations from National Jurist.

Keep in mind that the law schools honored with Top-20, A-, and B+ marks make up only 60 of the 198 law schools that were ranked by National Jurist. The rest of the law schools in the competition, all 138 of them, received slightly above average to less-than-bragworthy letter grades.

In fact, National Jurist “[gave] out Cs, Ds and even Fs, based on affordability and value.” Unfortunately, we can’t give you more information on these low-scoring schools right now. (That would require obtaining a print copy of the magazine, which is distributed at various law schools around the country.)

What we can tell you is that law schools that have been praised in U.S. News as some of the Best Law Schools in the country — law schools like Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia — are nowhere to be found in National Jurist’s top-60 rankings. That’s something interesting to think about when choosing which law school to attend.

So readers, did your school get ranked? If not, did your school make the grade? Do you see schools on the Top-20, A-, or B+ lists that shouldn’t be there — or a school not on those lists that you think should be recognized? Your comments are welcome.

Best Value Law Schools [National Jurist]

Earlier: The ‘Best Value’ Law Schools of 2011

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