Are Law School Rankings Relevant for LL.M. Programs?

Are Law School Rankings Relevant for LL.M. Programs?

What law school rankings can tell prospective LL.M. students

Unlike MBA program rankings that hold heavy sway in applicants’ program choices, the closest you can get to LL.M. rankings are the more general law school rankings, which rank the school as a whole, or focus on undergraduate programs.

However, even non-LL.M. law school rankings can still give you a sense of a school’s reputation, as well as important factors like graduates’ employability, student satisfaction and the value a school can add to a student.

For example, it’s possible that a school that’s ranked strongly in the area of Intellectual Property Law would be a wise choice for somebody pursuing an LL.M. in that field. A prospective student can make certain inferences based on existing rankings.

Here we break down the methodology behind some of the major law school rankings, and what information there is to be gleaned from them.

US News & World Report’s “Best Law Schools” ranking

US News publishes an annual ranking of US-based law schools, as well as rankings for a wide range of specialties, including Dispute Resolution, Environmental Law, Healthcare Law, and Intellectual Property Law.

Specialty rankings are based solely on the votes of legal educators who select up to 15 schools in each field.

US News’ ranking of top US law schools recently extended its coverage of schools beyond the traditional top 100, to now include the top three-quarters of schools surveyed. In 2016, the ranking lists 196 law schools.

In order to be ranked, a law school must be accredited and fully approved by the American Bar Association.

The US News ranking uses a number of measures that come under the umbrella of quality, and this makes up 40 percent of a school’s overall ranking.

A school’s quality is determined by a peer assessment score that asks deans, faculty chairs and other recently-appointed faculty members to rate a school’s programs. Additionally, there is an assessment by lawyers and judges, including hiring partners at legal firms, which helps to determine a school’s quality through the eyes of employers.

The next factor focuses on how students are selected for a law school’s programs, covering median LSAT and GPAs of undergrads entering full-time and part-time JD programs (note that this does not include LL.M. students). This also covers the acceptance rate – what proportion of applicants were accepted by a school, as a measure of what caliber of students a school is able to attract.

Next, the ranking looks at the placement success of its graduates JD: the bar pass-rate for first-time test takers, as well as the employment rate at graduation, and again 10 months after graduation. While none of these factors directly surveyed LL.M. graduates, the data can still give you an idea of what caliber of students a school attracts and what value it adds to their career.

The rates of employment are weighted depending on which types of jobs graduates get, and this factor also assesses whether it’s a short or long-term job, and whether it’s a job that required passing the bar exam.

Finally, the US News law school ranking assesses a faculty’s resources, looking at its expenditure per student, its student-faculty ratio, and its library resources – this is the total number of volumes and titles in a school’s library.

In addition to being able to sort schools by various factors on the US News ranking website, they also provide information on tuition and fees, as well as enrolment figures, although these are not part of the ranking.

Top 5 in most recent rankings (the 2017 edition) were: Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and the University of Chicago, in that order.

The Guardian’s University Guide – league table for law rankings

The Guardian newspaper publishes a set of law school rankings as part of its University League Tables. The ranking only covers schools in the UK.

The 2017 ranking uses eight statistical measures of input and output to depict a university’s performance in a certain subject, such as law. So the measurements used are not specific to law schools, but rather used against many different subjects and faculty.

First of all, the Guardian ranking uses data from the UK’s National Student Survey to measure final year students’ satisfaction with teaching, assessment and feedback. Although student impressions are important, when looking at these scores it’s worth remembering that students at schools with bigger reputations may have very high expectations, whereas schools that have been ranked lower in the past may exceed students’ lower expectations.

The next factor is the value-added score, which follows students from enrolment to graduation, comparing their qualifications at entry with their awarded grad at the end of their program.

The Guardian ranking also covers student-staff ratios, where a low ratio is favored in the ranking, and expenditure per student. This measure excludes staff costs, as this is covered by the student-staff ration.

Next, the ranking takes into account the entry scores of first-year, first-degree students entering full-time programs. This only includes students aged under 21 at the time of entry, and seeks to measure the quality of students a school is able to attract.

Finally, the Guardian ranking looks at graduates’ career prospects six months after graduation. This is based on graduates who have recently completed undergraduate programs.

For the 2016 league tables, the Guardian’s law school top 5 were as follows: Cambridge, Oxford, London School of Economics, King’s College London and Queen Mary.

Alternative law school rankings

Aside from these two major rankings, there are some alternatives.

In the UK, The Times newspaper publishes the Good University Guide, which includes a league table for British law schools.

Also in the UK, the independently-published Complete University Guide uses data from the public domain to determine its rankings.

Both of these focus on undergraduate programs but can, again, give you an idea of a school.

In the US, the National Law Journal publishes a career-focused guide that ranks schools based on the number of associates a school supplies to the US’s biggest law firms. It should be noted that these graduates would have studied for JD qualifications, not an LL.M.

Meanwhile, the Internet Legal Research Group publishes two sets of law school rankings: one based on employment rate and the other based on median salary, using data from the US News rankings.

LLM GUIDE’s own rankings

LL.M. Guide publishes its own LL.M. rankings by popularity, based on unique page views for each of the schools profiled on our site.

We offer a worldwide top 100, as well as rankings by region, including the US, UK & Ireland, Europe, Asia, and more.


Image: Trophy Men by Gregory Blake CC BY 2.0 (cropped)

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