The latest law school rankings by U.S. News & World Report are out, and Yale Law School has maintained its stranglehold on the top spot.
There were few changes among the top 10 schools, although Harvard Law School moved from the No. 3 spot to tie Stanford Law School at No. 2, and the University of Chicago Law School rose up one spot to tie Columbia Law School at No. 4.
The real story was a high number of large jumps up or down the list by schools in the No. 50 to No. 144 range. Eighteen law schools saw their rankings change by 20 spots or more, compared to four last year. Fully 39 schools moved up or down the list by 10 spots or more, although only one of those moves occurred among the top 50 schools. (The University of Illinois College of Law nearly fell out of the top 50 after declining by 12 spots to land at No. 47, after losing 12 spots the previous year following an admissions scandal.)
Among Georgia law schools, Emory University was No. 23; the University of Georgia No. 33; Georgia State University No. 54; and Mercer University No. 105. The rank of Atlanta's John Marshall School of Law was not published.
Bob Morse, director of data research at U.S. News, attributed much of the churn to a revised methodology involving the weight given to schools' success at landing their graduates in jobs. That portion accounts for 20 percent of a school's overall score.
In the past, U.S. News counted graduates in any type of job equally. This year, the magazine gave greater weight to graduates in permanent, full-time jobs that require bar passage or in which a J.D. is an advantage. It assigned a lower weight to graduates in part-time or short-term jobs, or jobs for which a law degree is not a requirement or preferred. The change was possible because the American Bar Association last year began requiring law schools to report far more detailed graduate employment information.
"It was an important change and an important adjustment, because we think [full-time lawyer jobs] are the type of jobs prospective law students have a goal of obtaining," Morse said. The new methodology better indicates which law schools send the most graduates into the jobs prospective student most often aspire to, he said. Morse declined to detail how the magazine weighed the different types of jobs, saying that information might allow law schools to "game the rankings."
The new placement formula did not appear to have affected the top schools much, given that they send a high percentage of their graduates into full-time lawyer jobs, Morse said. Outside the top 50, it was a different story. Schools in the Midwest and Southeast tended to see the largest gains, while the biggest drops almost universally hit schools in the East and on the West Coast.
For example, the University of Nebraska College of Law moved up 28 spots to land at No. 61. The University of Arkansas School of Law and the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law both gained 21 spots to tie at No. 68.
The University of Mississippi School of Law saw the largest gain overall, moving up 33 spots to No. 102. The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law moved up 26 spots to No. 109. Samford University Cumberland School of Law gained 29 spot to nab No. 113, in a tie with the University of Montana School of Law, which moved up 32 spots.