U.S. News and World Report’s top 100 law schools is perhaps the definitive ranking of law schools around the country, and a school’s place on that list can have a tremendous impact on both its operations and its general perception in the legal community. Though this report holds a tremendous amount of importance for law schools, law students, and lawyers in general, the numbers on the list can never tell the entire story of a particular law school, and any type of quantitative ranking can never truly reveal the quality of a law school. Data however, is useful, and the team behind U.S. News’ rankings have taken the data used to compile the top 100 law school rankings and applied it to another component of what makes a successful law school, namely the law school’s efficiency.
Robert Morse, the leader of the U.S. News data team, compiled a list ranking American law schools by efficiency. The rankings were determined by taking the total operating budget of the school, dividing that amount by the number of students to create the cost per student, which is then divided by the school’s overall score on the U.S. News 2014 law school ranking. The less a law school spends per student relative to their own ranking determines their efficiency as a law school.
Topping the list of efficient law schools is the University of Louisville (Brandeis), which was ranked at 68 by U.S. News’ list of the best law schools, and spent $28,151 per student. The second most efficient law school was Rutgers, ranked at 91 and spending $26,858 per student, and third was George Mason University, ranked at 41. The school spends $38,684 per student.
Only the 25 most efficient law schools are included on U.S. News’ new list, but of those, University of Virginia, which is ranked as the 17th most efficient law school, ranked highest on U.S. News’ list of best law schools at number 7, and is one of only two top 14 ranked law schools to be featured on the efficiency list. (The other is Georgetown.) Unsurprisingly, these two schools both had the highest amount of money spent per student, with University of Virginia spending $69,704 per student, and Georgetown spending $64,734 per student.
The two schools with the lowest amount spent per student were the two schools at the top of the efficiency list, Brandeis and Rutgers.
The efficiency list also underlines the point that, the more each school spends per student, the higher its ranking in the US News 2014 Top Law school list. Since the primary determinate of efficiency is U.S. News’ own rankings, the list is inherently skewed toward the results of the list, which also incorporates the amount of money spent per student in its rankings.
Morse says that he and his team wanted to compile the efficiency list in order to focus on schools across the country that are managing their resources well, and says that many of the schools that rank well on the efficiency list are likely to have lower tuition and better financial aid options.