Over 200 US law schools have been approved by the American Bar Association and each of these has plenty to offer postgraduate students. The faculty members are dedicated professionals, and the basic courses on offer are very similar to one another. You’ll find interesting seminars that challenge your personal views, activities to hone your skills of interpretation, and the chance to network with talented people from around the world. US campus life can be enjoyed your way, from quiet rural locations with the personal touch, to large city facilities with a vibrant air. This can make it very difficult to choose the right law school, but when you have your heart set on a postgraduate experience in America; the annual US law school rankings can be a useful starting point. Here are a few ways that these league tables can help you make the right choice.
According to Forbes, most people in the US believe that law school rankings have more of an influence than they would with other universities. These tables can enable a student to pick out the institutions where they are more likely to get a well-paid job quickly and have a better quality of life after graduating. Bar exam pass rates also generate much interest from ambitious law students, so exact metrics like this are highly valued. Nevertheless, it pays to take a balanced view, as rankings can only reveal part of the picture. To find out more about university life, campus culture, and student welfare, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Each organisation has a different methodology when it comes to collecting data on law schools; they also grade the various aspects of a university in different ways. Four key sources of law school rankings are Start Class, US News, The National Law Journal’s Go-To Law Schools Report and the Princeton Review.
Start Class: Start Class is a relative newcomer to the rankings line-up and this educational website gives students various ways to gather information on where to study. Their charts contain far more detailed data than some alternatives, with an emphasis not only on final grades, but also which places are hardest to be accepted into, which deliver great value, and which take applicants with lower LSAT scores. The website also has many resources where you can read more about their researcher’s findings and the source materials used.
US News: The oldest rankings outlet is the US News. This site polls university staff, legal professionals and faculty members in twelve areas, then brings the information together in two sections. The first deals with the top 145 universities and the second with all other law schools. US News is mainly concerned with pass rates, resources and placement success. The same top 14 law schools have been in place for 25 years, although they may alter position from time to time.
The National Law Journal’s Go-To Law Schools Report: This system collates information from 250 law firms, focusing on the progress of students after they leave, in terms of pay. This is a great way to find out about the potential you could have for career success after leaving university, even at a school which scores poorly in other areas.
The Princeton Review: This review looks at 172 law schools and questions nearly 20,000 students in the process. You can find out about the kind of lifestyle people have on campus, which colleges are hardest to get into and which are most popular with older students. Refine a search by region, or look within the entire list.
The problem with general rankings is that it’s hard to find out about the success rates of individual courses at first glance. However, by filtering the entries on a large league table provider like US News, you can produce many insightful results. The Vermont Law School is ranked 1st for Environmental Law, but comes in at a more modest 132nd overall. So despite a low general rank, it would be worth considering if Environmental Law is your specialism. Similarly, the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland is ranked at number 11 for International Law – just behind Yale, Berkley and Duke – but overall it is ranked at 57th by US News and likely to be overlooked by many graduates. Therefore one important element to bear in mind when you are using law school rankings to help select your law school is to make sure you are assessing the rankings in conjunction with the area of law you are planning to specialise in.