Law school deans, are you ready for your report card?

The U.S. News law school rankings are due out in a couple of hours. But Above the Law sources have given us a sneak peek at the Top 25, this time in order. And not just from anonymous sources. Mike Spivey of the Spivey Consulting Group claims he’s laid eyes on the list, confirmed what our tipsters reported, and has been tweeting about the thing for the past few hours.

Every year, law school deans and professors tells us how the rankings are flawed, and every year, we find out that prospective law students care more about the U.S. News law school rankings than any other factor.

But this year, U.S. News claims it will be taking into account the employment figures of recent graduates nine months after graduation. Is that going to be a big substantive change, or have law schools already mastered the art of self-reporting their own employment outcomes in a way that hides the truth?

Let’s take a look. These notes will be UNOFFICIAL until U.S. News confirms the news with their midnight publication, but we’re confident this is the new top 25.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m.): U.S. News just confirmed our report by moving up their publication schedule. These rankings are now OFFICIAL….

We already know that the same schools are in the Top 10 this year, as every year. And the top 14 schools have been the pretty much same 14 schools ever since the inception of the rankings (albeit in different orders). Despite the inclusion of employment stats, this year is no different:

  • 1. Yale University
  • 2. Harvard University
  • 2. Stanford University
  • 4. Columbia University
  • 4. University of Chicago
  • 6. New York University
  • 7. University of Pennsylvania
  • 7. University of Virginia
  • 9. University of California-Berkeley
  • 9. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  • 11. Duke University
  • 12. Northwestern University
  • 13. Cornell University
  • 14. Georgetown University

That’s it? U.S. News spent a month talking about its new respect for graduate outcomes and all we got was a lousy t-shirt with the same 14 schools ranked in pretty much the same order? Cornell is up one spot! HLS and Stanford are tied again! Berkeley plummets from tied for #7 to tied for #9. That changes everything!

Here’s the rest of the top 25, according to our sources:

  • 15. University of Texas-Austin
  • 15. Vanderbilt University
  • 17. University of California-Los Angeles
  • 18. University of Southern California
  • 19. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • 19. Washington University in St. Louis
  • 21. George Washington University
  • 21. University of Alabama
  • 23. Emory University
  • 23. University of Notre Dame
  • 25. Indiana University-Bloomington

So Washington & Lee fell out of the top 25, while IU Bloomington got into it (up from #26). Check back here after midnight for the full list (Full list is below, Alabama also moved into the top-25). Maybe we’ll notice the impact of employment scores further down the list. Or maybe the whole thing is useless and somebody needs to come out with true outcome-based rankings instead of having a party every time somebody with a 180 LSAT score chooses between HYS.

For better or for worse, these rankings set the presumptions of law school effectiveness for the next year. Students will overwhelmingly go to the best school that they can get into on this list, regardless of region or cost. Students who don’t go to the best ranked school they can get into will expect generous scholarship packages from lower ranked schools, meaning that students with worse starting credentials will end up subsidizing students with better credentials.

But as I said earlier: when law school deans start whining about these rankings, ask yourself if they are pissed because they are honestly doing something different and laudable that our U.S. News overlords haven’t noticed, OR are they just doing the same thing everybody else does, albeit less effectively than the schools at the top of the list.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m.): U.S. News has confirmed and released their full list. Let’s head over to the next page for a look beyond the top-tier schools, as well as a link to the complete rankings….


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