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Many students opt for law school after completing graduation. And each student would like to get into the top law school. What is a top tier law school and who decides the rankings? There exist in the US a number of different law school ranking systems; the one that’s most widely referred to is the US News and World Report’s system. It bases its rankings on a number of criteria:

Quality of the law school as assessed by peer institutions and practicing lawyers and judges;

  • Selectivity or LSAT scores, mean undergrad GPA and the percentage of students accepted to the program;
  • Placement Success in jobs following graduation and the number of students that successfully pass the bar examination.
  • Faculty Resources as expenditures per student, the overall student to faculty ratio and the library resources available to students.

According to A. Harrison Barnes, owner of, one of the most significant factors for determining the ranking of a law school is the percentage of minority students enrolled in the institution. The law schools play a significant role in integrating and bringing into the forefront, the minority section of the society into the public and commercial life of America. Like wise the number of faculties from the minority section of society also reflects admittance to the top of the legal career.

Performance of the students at the under graduate level is an important factor that can effect the over all ranking of the law schools, avers A. Harrison Barnes. The common belief is that persons with higher marks at the graduation level will fare better in law schools than those with lower grades. The percentage of students receiving grants and aids are also an important determining factor.

The quality of the faculty, teacher-student ratio, availability of books in the library, internet facilities are considered while ranking a law school. The total number of successive subscriptions in the school library speaks volumes about the quality of the library. More the number of successive subscriptions, the students have greater access to updated materials.

The number of students who get into jobs through campus interviews also determines the ranks of the institutions, says A. Harrison Barnes. The students usually get placements within nine months of completing their graduation. Another factor that is important for ranking an institution is the number of students who clear the bar examination.

The schools which meet all the above parameters are grouped into the grade one category, as per the CEO of, A. Harrison Barnes. The top 100 schools around the world fall in this category. The rest are grouped into the second, third and fourth tiers. A school must be recognized and accepted by the American Bar Association. Most of the students in these law schools must be American.

Harrison Barnes points out that students passing out of elite law schools tend to get better placements. Anybody who dreams of getting into these elite institutions must try for an admission into the Ivy League schools.

The ranking system in law schools has been subjected to criticism from various institutions. The American Bar Association (ABA) is completely against the system of grading. The Law School Admission Council is also completely against the system of grading. There have been several complaints filed by The Association of American Law Schools against the system of gradation. The system has been criticized for being ambiguous, unrealistic, generating profitable ventures that contradicts the US News and World Reports, says A. Harrison Barnes.

The US News responded to these criticisms by coming up with explanations about their methodology for ranking together with the gradations. Law professors William Henderson and Andrew Morris criticized many aspects of the gradation system including their refusal to adopt better evaluation methods than the prevalent ones used by the US News. The professors further allege that the law schools obtain their US News ranking by acting on the employment data of their PG courses or on the selective nature of the applicants. They even go to the extent of saying that the ABA or The American Bar Association must exercise more power to advocate greater transparency in schools.

Harrison Barnes has constantly emphasized the point that more than the academic grades and law school ranks, what counts is the work experience that you have gained over the years. Though grades are very important in the initial stages of a legal career, after working for 1 to 3 years, grades and rankings are relegated to a secondary position and what matters is the work experience gained.

A number of law students have also criticized the gradation system in law schools. A. Harrison Barnes points out that most students find the grading system extremely unrealistic and misleading. For instance, according to National Law Journal surveys, the career placement options facing Vanderbilt, UCLA, and University of Texas graduates is just slightly inferior to Georgetown’s. The law students even seem to consider the top 18 schools equal to the bottom 14 schools.

In sum, true success in your career depends on your ability and efficiency in work rather than law school rankings.

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