Law School Almanac Rankings 2008

A ranking of ABA approved law schools based on five factors:

REP US News Combined Reputation Score
$$$ Institutional Endowment
ANNR Alumni Network National Reach (B)
LEVA Legal Education Value Added
LPVA Legal Placement Value Added

The first three factors attempt to measure the Three Rs: Reputation, Resources, and Reach. The last two try to capture how much schools boost the success of students beyond the level suggested by their entering academic indexes. The score for each factor is a percentile rank on a 1,000 point scale. Scores above 500 are better than most, and those below 500 are worse. All factors receive equal weight. The first table gives an ordinal rank of all schools by their total LSA score, based on a sum of the five factors. Below the list of all schools appear tables broken out by US News Tiers 1 - 4.







Stephen said...

Wow, George Washington and Washington & Lee sure took a hit.

Michael Shaffer said...

(Responses cross-posted from MoneyLaw)

Wow, George Mason and Washington & Lee took real hits in the rankings. As did Yale. Guess it makes me have more questions than answers.

Thanks for the comment, Stephen. I certainly understand and agree with that impression.

I should point out that the "overall" rankings were the last thing I did with the data I collected. In most ways I think they're also the least useful and enlightening. In fact as I worked on new things, I composed several versions of overall rankings over the past couple of years. And each time I did, I wound up feeling that they were not really worth the trouble.

I was also, to be honest, a little suprised and embarassed by Michigan's placement in the overall rankings. I almost decided not to bother with them for that reason alone, since I felt that might negate any credibility they could ever have. In the end I decided to throw them out there, only because I thought some people might have the desire to see how schools compare on all the factors combined.

The main value of the overall rankings may be simply getting all the numbers together on one page, to make it easier to browse them. I think that's the main lesson of them, and it's the reason for one of the rules I tried to follow in putting all the data together -- Disclose Detail.

What matters in my view is looking at what the factors altogether say about where a school may be strong or weak. They might be useful as a point of departure, but I'm not sure they're anything more than that. I have much more to say about particular holes in the data, and reasons to question all of the results, including these. But I'll go into all that in future posts.

Guess it makes me have more questions than answers.

I'm actually happy to read that you felt that way. I believe that the true purpose of any system of ranking or scoring, particularly of institutions as important as law schools, should be to leave the reader of them asking, "Why?"

If any of the rankings on my site do nothing more than give readers valid reasons to ask "why," then I would say that they have done as much as they should, and maybe as much as they could ever hope to do well. And if they did not do that, then I would think that they had failed.

Why does this school land in this spot? In what aspects is it weak or strong? Why does it seem strong on all of these factors -- or strong on none of them? Why these metrics at all? Why should I care?

Are the schools in the first quartile of these rankings Schools That I May Want to Check Out? Are those in the fourth quartile Schools That I May Want to Avoid? Maybe. Or maybe not. It all depends on why.

In the end, I hope that these rankings show, if nothing else, the value of taking the time to form some standard of value in legal education that means something to you, and of using the data available to examine how schools meet that standard.

I looked for data on those aspects of schools that meant something to me. And after I was done, I published them with the idea that maybe others who had similar values would find them of use. Those with other values ought, and I hope will, find ways to view these same schools which will serve their ends rather than mine.