By at least one measure, Northwestern University’s School of Law is the best law school in America. But what is that measure? And what does it mean? Should would-be Harvard, Columbia, and Chicago students suddenly reverse course?
You may have already heard the “Northwestern ranked as best law school” sound bite in the last week and scratched your head. “Really?” Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the National Law Journal is a highly respected publication that put out a legitimate ranking that had Northwestern had the top of the heap. No, in the sense that this ranking measures one thing — and one thing only — and has nothing to do with academic excellence, peer reputation, class profile, or any other metric that we’re used to analyzing. And no in the sense that the one thing it does measure might be a pretty misleading statistic.
The NLJ survey focuses purely on the number of graduates from each school that land jobs at “NLJ top 250” law firms. That’s it. The school with the highest percentage wins and for Northwestern, that percentage (55.9%) is enough to edge out the likes of Columbia (54.4%), Stanford (54.1%), and Chicago (53.1%). Since the NLJ is very good at determining what the top firms are, this is surely a pretty credible finding, right?
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