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Harvard Tops First Ever Super Lawyers? Ranking of Law Schools

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  • Harvard Tops First Ever Super Lawyers? Ranking of Law Schools

    Ranking law schools and law firms. All of a sudden, everyone’s doing it.

    A universe that used to contain one member, it seems — U.S. News & World Report — has suddenly gotten a lot more crowded. Princeton Review now ranks the law schools. The American Lawyer, with its annual A-List ranking, provides a ranking of sorts for law firms. Vault uses prestige as the measuring stick for law firms; Chicago Law prof Brian Leiter provides his own law-school rankings, here. The list, particularly in regard to law schools, goes on and on.

    Well, let us add one more name to the parade. Law & Politics, the publisher of Super Lawyers and the cheeky magazines Minnesota Law & Politics (pictured) and Washington Law & Politics, will on Tuesday unveil its first ever ranking of U.S. law schools, based on one criteria only: how many Super Lawyers each produces. Roughly 5 percent of the lawyers in each state are selected to Super Lawyers lists each year. Click here for how those are chosen.

    “We’ve been rating lawyers for nearly 20 years,” says Super Lawyers publisher and founder Bill White. “This puts us in a unique position to shed light on how well schools fulfill the ultimate mission of producing great lawyers.”

    We asked White if the world really needs another ranking of law firms. In his opinion, it does. We chatted briefly on Monday with White, but a statement in a press release sums up White’s position:
    Most law school rankings look at things like bar passage rates, professor-to-student ratios and the number of books in the library, but ignore the end product — the quality of lawyers produced. It’s like ranking football teams based on athletic facilities, player size and equipment without considering who wins the games.

    In the real world — the world of clients and juries and judges — no one cares about your GPA or LSAT score. All that matters is how good and ethical a lawyer you are. That’s the focus of Super Lawyers.

    Okay, fair enough. So how’d the schools line up?

    The top 25 go like this: 1) Harvard; 2) Michigan; 3) Texas; 4) UVA; 5) Georgetown; 6) NYU; 7) Columbia; 8) Florida; 9) Berkeley; 10) Yale; 11) Hastings; 12) GW; 13) BU; 14) UCLA; 15) Penn; 16) Chicago; 17) BC; 18) Northwestern; 19) Stanford; 20) University of Miami; 21) Vanderbilt; 22) SMU; 23) Duke; 24) Minnesota; 25) Wisconsin.

    The bottom 10: 171) Thomas Jefferson School of Law; 172) North Carolina Central University School of Law 173) St. Thomas University School of Law; 174) Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law; 175) John Marshall Law School Atlanta; 176) Regent University School of Law; 177) Texas Wesleyan University School of Law; 178) Southern University Law Center; 179) CUNY School of Law; 180 ) Florida Coastal School of Law.

    Click over to Super Lawyers for the full rankings, which will be posted at 11:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday. We didn’t get to peek behind the curtain on the numbers that comprise the rankings, but we can tell you this: that 2,354 Super Lawyers in 2009 were Harvard (#1) graduates, while 492 were Wisconsin (#25 graduates).

    We’re not experts in statistics, rankings or methodologies. Nor do we really have a well-defined opinion on what makes a law-school “good.” But one glaring issue jumped out at us upon hearing of the Super Lawyers ranking: it doesn’t take into consideration class size. We know, for instance, that classes at Yale and Stanford are much smaller than classes at Harvard, Georgetown and Michigan, and it’s been that way a while. So there are simply more Harvard Law grads in the world than Yale grads — and a ranking that doesn’t take this into consideration is, in our opinion, an imperfect one.

    White conceded the point, but pointed out that there were some large law schools that didn’t fare too well, while there were small law schools (like Yale) that fared relatively well. “A large class size is not an advantage if you don’t produce great lawyers.”

    LBers, any thoughts?
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