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Super Cum Laude: Our First Annual Law School Ranking

Super Cum Laude: Our First Annual Law School Ranking

 Today Super Lawyers announces the release of our first annual ranking of U.S. law schools. The 2010 Super Lawyers U.S. Law School Rankings is unique in that it ranks law schools based on the number of graduates who are selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers across the country. Only 5 percent of the lawyers in each state are selected to Super Lawyers lists (click here to see our selection process).

We’ve been rating lawyers for nearly 20 years. This puts us in a unique position to shed light on how well schools fulfill the ultimate mission of producing great lawyers.

Most law school rankings look at things like bar passage rates, professor-to-student ratios and the number of books in the library, but they ignore the end product — the quality of lawyers produced. We think it’s like ranking football teams based on athletic facilities, player size and equipment without considering who wins the games.

In the real world — the world of clients and juries and judges — no one cares about your GPA or LSAT score. All that matters is how good and ethical a lawyer you are. That’s the focus of Super Lawyers.

Schools are ranked according to the total number of graduates named to the state and regional Super Lawyers lists in 2009. In the event of a tie between schools, the cumulative peer evaluation and research scores of graduates are used as tie-breakers.

Our approach is simple. We take a snapshot of the top lawyers in the country and ask, “What schools produced these lawyers?” Then we report the results. Our rankings fill an informational gap. It throws a new and unique indicator of quality into the mix. It’s another data point for students to consider before making a big, expensive and life-changing decision.

This methodology produces a list that is very different from other law school rankings: The top three schools on this year’s Super Lawyers list are Harvard Law School, the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Texas School of Law.

Because the attorneys named to Super Lawyers are highly experienced and graduated from law school years ago, the Super Lawyers law school ranking is a trailing indicator of quality. While it’s true that past performance does not guarantee future results, it is an important factor that up until now has been largely ignored.

Regional law schools have also been left out of rankings. U.S. News & World Report, for example, ranks only 100 law schools and places the rest of the schools in the country in either tier 3 or tier 4 without ranking them.

Not everyone is accepted to or can afford to attend a national school. These students need to know how regional schools compare to one another. The Super Lawyers ranking provides this information.

We recognize that schools with smaller graduating classes may be at a disadvantage in our ranking. We considered taking into account class size, but decided not to this year for several reasons: First, we found that class size was not as big a factor as you might think. There were very large schools that ranked low and small schools that ranked high on our list. The quality of graduates, not the size of the school, is what ultimately determines where schools land on our list.

Second, this first year we wanted to keep our methodology simple so that people could easily understand what we are doing. We reward schools that produce the greatest number of outstanding attorneys, period. Our approach is similar to the way baseball crowns a homerun king based on total homeruns without employing a weighted average based on plate appearances.

And finally, there is the practical problem of factoring in class size. The lawyers on our list graduated 10, 20 or 30 years ago. How do you accurately determine the graduation class sizes of nearly 200 schools through the years? Nevertheless, we are open to suggestions on how to improve our list for next year. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear from you.


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