U.S. News Law School Rankings for 2010

Back in October, we linked to an important announcement made by U.S. News & World Report that the magazine would be ranking part-time law schools for the first time in 2009. We endorsed the decision, noting that it would affirm both part-time programs and the ranking system itself. Less clear was whether U.S. News would be folding part-time matriculation numbers (mainly average GPA and LSAT) into its general rankings, which was another topic of discussion on this blog. Well, the magazine has gone all the way, adding part-time numbers to its rankings, which is big news indeed.

Part-Time Programs

The whole “part-time stats” situation is important because the fact that such numbers were not included in the law school rankings in the past presented an ongoing scenario whereby schools could game the numbers to soar up the charts. By admitting students with substandard academic profiles into the part-time program, schools could keep enrollment up while protecting the class profile that was used for purposes of ranking the various institutions.

Robert Morse of U.S. News was up front about the reasons for adding part-time numbers then and he and co-author Sam Flanigan shoot from the hip again in yesterday’s announcement.

In the article, Morse and Flanigan write:

This year, we modified our main law school rankings methodology. We used the combined fall 2008 class admissions data for both full-time and part-time entering students for the median LSAT scores, median undergraduate grade-point averages, and the acceptance rate in calculating the school’s overall ranking. U.S. News’s previous law school ranking methodology used only the full-time entering student data for those three admissions variables. This change improves the methodology because U.S. News is now comparing each law school’s entering class against every other’s based on the entire student body, which produces the most complete comparisons

“Part-time program” is about to become a very buzz-worthy phrase in the law school space over the next several days and weeks, as the change to the rankings elevates the profile of part-time programs. In fact, U.S. News ran an accompanying article today by Nikki Schwab that highlights some of the virtues of part-time law school and you can be sure that some of the highest ranking part-time schools will take full advantage of their suddenly official place at the top of a list. That list is likely to be DC-heavy, as the nation’s capital placed four of the top five part-time programs: Georgetown (1), George Washington (2), American (4), and George Mason (5).

New Rankings

Of course, all of the talk of part-time programs was just an undercard for the main event, which is the new rankings, including the top 20 schools for 2009:

Current rank [Previous rank] School Name (Rating) [Previous Rating]
1 [1] Yale (100) [100]
2 [2] Harvard (95) [91]
3 [2] Stanford (93) [91]
4 [4] Columbia (88) [88]
5 [5] NYU (87) [85]
6 [7] Chicago (84) [80]
6 [6] Berkeley (84) [81]
8 [7] Penn (82) [80]
9 [9] Michigan (81) [79]
10 [12] Duke (80) [77]
10 [9] Northwestern (80) [79]
10 [9] Virginia (80) [79]
13 [12] Cornell (78) [77]
14 [14] Georgetown (75) [74]
15 [16] UCLA (74) [71]
15 [16] Texas (74) [71]
17 [15] Vanderbilt (73) [72]
18 [18] USC (72) [68]
19 [19] Washington U. (69) [67]
20 [21] Boston (66) [64]
20 [22] Emory (66) [63]
20 [23] Minnesota (66) [63]

There isn