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In order for a school to appear on our ranking lists and receive "Students Say" text, it must: (1) meet our criteria for academic excellence and (2) allow us to conduct surveys of its students. We attempted to collect student opinions and statistical data from all law schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). We wrote "Students Say" profiles for all schools from which we collected student opinions. Those ABA-approved schools from which we didn't collect student opinions, but whose administrators reported their statistics to us, receive a data listing on our site and in our book. We also include data listings of some Canadian Bar Association and California Bar Association-accredited schools.
The Best 169 Law Schools: 2015 Edition has 11 ranking lists, and each one identifies the top 10 law schools in a specific category. The categories cover a range of topics we think prospective applicants might want to know or ask about during a campus visit, including academics, career prospects, and campus diversity. Ten of the 11 lists incorporate or are based entirely on student opinions that we collected through our law school student survey. A few of the lists also incorporate institutional data reported to us by administrators at the law schools. One list, "Toughest to Get Into," is based entirely on information reported to us by administrators. Note: we don't have a "Best Overall Academics" ranking list in the book because we think each of the 169 law schools featured in the book is an academic "Best." We believe that hierarchical ranking lists that focus solely on academics offer very little value to students and only add to the stress of applying to law school.
We don't believe that any one law school is the best overall. Instead, we believe there is a best law school for you. Moreover, the prestige of an academic program does not constitute the exclusive criterion by which a school should be (or is) judged. Among other factors (such as location, cost and size), the campus culture is very important; this is something that varies considerably from one school to another. Some law schools in our book and on our website may be ideal for some students but wrong for others, depending on the interests and needs of each individual student. We offer a range of ranking lists to help students choose the best school for them.
The profiles of law schools in the book and on your website have "ratings." What's the difference between the "rankings" and the "ratings?"
Our "rankings" are lists of top 10 schools in the book in various categories. Our "ratings" are numerical scores (on a scale of 60 to 99) that we give to all schools in the book from whom we received sufficient data to tally the scores. Every school that appears in The Best 169 Law Schools receives an Admissions Selectivity Rating, and the schools from which we received student surveys also receive Academic Experience, Professors Interesting, Professors Accessible, and Career Ratings. Only the top 10 schools in each of our 11 ranking categories appear on our ranking lists. Two of our ranking lists—"Toughest to Get Into" and "Best Career Prospects"—are based on the Admissions Selectivity and Career Ratings, respectively. You can learn what each of our rating scores are based on in the User's Guide to Our Law School Ratings. You can learn what each of our rankings lists is based on in the User's Guide to Our Law School Rankings.
Unfortunately, some law schools did not permit us to survey their students. Since law student opinion is essential to the "Students Say" narratives as well as to four of our five ratings, those schools at which we were unable to survey students also did not receive Academic Experience, Professors Interesting, Professors Accessible, and Career Ratings. Schools that reported admissions statistics, however, did receive an Admissions Selectivity Rating.
Ten of the 11 law school ranking lists either incorporate or are based entirely on law student opinions—so if the students at a particular school didn't have a high degree of consensus in their responses to a particular survey question, then their school won't appear on the corresponding top 10 list. Similarly, if a school doesn't have especially strong numbers in a given category that incorporates school-reported statistics, then it won't appear on that ranking list.
The other reason a school might not appear on one of the 10 ranking lists that incorporate student opinions is that we were unable to survey the students at that school.
It was conducted during the 2013-2014, 2012-2013, and 2011-2012 academic years.
We conduct the survey online using our online survey tool http://survey.review.com. We promote students' participation in our student surveys in various ways over a school year. We also work with administrators at the schools requested that they send an e-mail encouraging their Law students to participate in our survey. The e-mail includes a link to the online student survey.
The survey is divided into four sections: "About Yourself," "Academics," "Career Expectations," and "School Atmosphere." The survey is primarily a grid-based, multiple-choice questionnaire, though there are several open-ended questions to which students may write responses. We use students' responses to many of our multiple-choice questions to generate the majority of our ratings and ranking lists. In compiling these lists, we average students' responses to each question for each school and generate overall scores. In this way, we are able to compare each aspect of the law school student experience at different schools. We quote students' written comments when composing our "Students Say" narratives, and we qualitatively evaluate their written comments when determining what we will write about each school.
For the ranking lists in this edition, we surveyed more than 19,500 students.
You can complete a survey about your law school here. We will factor in your survey responses in the tallies for the ranking lists that will be in next year's edition of our book, The Best Law Schools.