Law School Rankings: What Do They Mean?


Law school rankings are often used by prospective students, employers, and academics to evaluate the quality and reputation of different law schools. However, law school rankings are not objective measures of excellence, and they may not reflect the best fit for every student’s goals and preferences. In this article, we will discuss some of the factors that influence law school rankings, and some of the limitations and criticisms of these rankings.

Factors that Influence Law School Rankings

Law school rankings are typically based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, such as:

  • Admission statistics, such as LSAT scores, GPA, acceptance rate, and yield rate
  • Faculty credentials and productivity, such as publications, citations, awards, and grants
  • Student outcomes, such as bar passage rate, employment rate, salary, and debt
  • Academic resources, such as library size, student-faculty ratio, and clinical opportunities
  • Peer reputation, such as surveys of law professors, judges, lawyers, and students

Different ranking systems may assign different weights and methodologies to these factors, resulting in different rankings for the same law schools. For example, the U.S. News & World Report ranking is widely considered the most influential and popular ranking in the United States, but it has been criticized for favoring prestige and selectivity over other aspects of quality. Other ranking systems, such as Above the Law, The National Jurist, or The Princeton Review, may emphasize different criteria or use different sources of data.

Limitations and Criticisms of Law School Rankings

Law school rankings have several limitations and criticisms that prospective students should be aware of before relying on them too much. Some of these are:

  • Law school rankings are not stable or consistent over time. Law schools may change their policies or practices to improve their rankings, or ranking systems may change their methodologies or data sources. This may result in significant fluctuations or discrepancies in law school rankings from year to year or from system to system.
  • Law school rankings are not comprehensive or nuanced enough to capture the diversity and complexity of law schools. Law schools may have different strengths and weaknesses in different areas of law, such as public interest, intellectual property, or international law. Law schools may also have different cultures and environments that suit different types of students. Law school rankings may not reflect these differences or preferences adequately.
  • Law school rankings are not predictive or indicative of individual success or satisfaction. Law school rankings may not account for personal factors that affect a student’s performance or happiness in law school, such as motivation, learning style, personality, goals, values, or interests. Law school rankings may also not account for external factors that affect a student’s career prospects or opportunities after graduation, such as market demand, geographic location, networking skills, or luck.

Law School Rankings: What You Need to Know

Attending law school is a major investment of time and money, and selecting the right institution is crucial for achieving your professional goals. With hundreds of law schools across the United States, it can be challenging to determine which one is the best fit for you. One resource many students turn to when making this decision is law school rankings. However, these rankings can be controversial and sometimes misleading. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of law school rankings and what you should consider when selecting a law school.

What are Law School Rankings?

Law school rankings are lists that rank law schools based on various criteria, such as the quality of education, employment outcomes, faculty quality, and reputation. The two most prominent law school rankings are published annually by U.S. News & World Report and Above the Law.

U.S. News & World Report Rankings

U.S. News & World Report is a well-known media company that ranks colleges, graduate schools, and law schools. Their law school rankings consider several factors, such as academic reputation, selectivity, employment outcomes, bar passage rate, and student-to-faculty ratio. The rankings are controversial because they are based on subjective opinions, such as reputation, and can incentivize schools to prioritize metrics that improve their rankings.

Above the Law Rankings

Above the Law is a legal news and commentary website that also publishes law school rankings. They take a more data-driven approach by examining employment outcomes, bar passage rates, student debt, and law school transparency. However, their rankings have also faced criticism for emphasizing outcomes that may not be relevant to every student, such as big law job placement.

Pros and Cons of Law School Rankings


  • Rankings provide a useful starting point for researching law schools and can help you identify institutions with strong reputations and employment outcomes.
  • Rankings can motivate law schools to improve their programs, such as investing in faculty or career services, to climb the rankings.
  • Rankings can increase the visibility of lesser-known law schools and highlight their strengths.


  • Rankings can be misleading or inaccurate because they are based on subjective or incomplete data.
  • Rankings can incentivize schools to prioritize metrics that improve their rankings, rather than providing the best education for their students.
  • Rankings can create a hierarchy of law schools, which can lead to elitism and perpetuate inequality in the legal profession.

What to Consider When Selecting a Law School

While law school rankings can be a helpful starting point for researching law schools, they should not be the only factor you consider. Here are some other factors you should consider:

  • Location: Consider where you want to practice law and select a law school in that area. Local law schools often have stronger connections to the legal community and can provide more opportunities for networking and job placement.
  • Cost: Law school is expensive, and student debt can be a significant burden after graduation. Consider the cost of attendance and the availability of scholarships and financial aid.
  • Curriculum: Different law schools offer different areas of specialization, such as intellectual property law or environmental law. Consider what area of law you are interested in and select a law school with a strong curriculum in that area.
  • Faculty: The quality and experience of the faculty can have a significant impact on your education. Research the faculty at the law schools you are considering and look for professors with expertise in your area of interest.
  • Student Life: Law school can be a challenging and stressful experience. Consider the student culture, extracurricular activities, and support services offered by the law schools you are considering.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, law school rankings can provide a useful starting point for researching law schools, but they should not be the sole factor you consider. Instead, consider a variety of factors, such as location, cost, curriculum.

Law school rankings are useful tools for comparing and evaluating different law schools based on some common criteria. However, law school rankings are not definitive or authoritative measures of quality or fit. Prospective students should use law school rankings with caution and skepticism, and supplement them with other sources of information and research. Ultimately, the best law school for each student is the one that matches their individual needs and aspirations.


About Author

Mikayla Dickson is the Managing Partner of PostingPapa – a multinational advertising agency focused on digital marketing that spans Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Pakistan.

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