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Law School Rankings Based on Value

The National Jurist September 2012 issue updates on law school rankings in “Best Value Law Schools.” Since 2004, The National Jurist has been ranking law schools where graduates have the best chance of passing the bar exam, and obtaining a legal position, without having to repay a lot of loans.

The law school that came in first was University of Alabama, where the tuition is $18,030, the bar passage rate is 95.95 based on a two-year bar pass average, and the weighted employment rate is 90 percent. Coming in second was Georgia State University at $14,770 tuition, 93.47 bar passage rate based on two-year bar pass average, and 83 percent weighted employment rate. Rounding out the top ten were:  Louisiana State University, University of Nebraska, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, University of Montana, University of New Mexico, University of North Carolina, and University of Wisconsin.

Some schools dropped in ranking because of employment data. For employment data, The National Jurist used ABA’s official employment statistics, which breaks employment into 12 categories. The National Jurist weighted each category from 100 percent to 0 percent to calculate a weighted average. The employment data gave more insight than in the past on whether graduates found legal jobs rather than just full-time jobs. The law school with the highest weighted employment rate was Stanford University Law School at 95 percent. Coming in second was Columbia University School of Law at 92 percent. However, neither of these two schools ranked in the top ten for best value because of their high tuition.

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According to author Brian Tamanaha of Failing Law Schools, tuition at law schools has increased in the past few years because rising costs of educating students. These costs come in the form of compensation for law faculties, research support, and merit scholarships. From 1985 to 2009, tuition increased by 375 percent at private law schools. Schools that did well in terms of low average debt for 2011 graduates were:  University of Tennessee, University of Texas, University of Houston, and University of Hawaii.

For bar passage, The National Jurist used a school’s two-year average, raw score, and compared it to the two-year state average. The bar exam connects law school education to legal practice. Each portion of the bar exam (i.e. essay, performance test, multiple choice) in most jurisdictions, tracks how a bar exam candidate deals with real life narratives.  Schools that scored high in bar exam passage included:  Brigham Young University, Florida International University, Southern Illinois University, University of Kansas, University of Iowa, and Temple University.

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