Harvard, Yale Battle for Top Spot in Two U.S. News Law School Lists

BY JENNY PAUL

Harvard Law School bested Yale for the No. 1 spot in a U.S. News & World Report survey of top law firm recruiters, but Yale held on to the top spot in the magazine’s traditional law school rankings that were released March 15.

In the recruiting survey, hiring partners and recruiters at law firms that clinched a spot in U.S. News’ 2010 Best Law Firms rankings were asked to rate schools on a five-point scale. Harvard garnered a 4.9 average reputation score, while Yale and Stanford tied for second with a 4.8 average. 

“It’s nice to be recognized by a ranking, and it’s consistent with what we see here on a daily basis, i.e., that Harvard students are very talented, hard working and exceptionally bright and that the top law firms in the country have always liked to recruit at and hire from Harvard Law School,” Assistant Dean for Career Services Mark Weber said in an email.

Harvard, with an average class of about 550 students, has many more students than Yale or Stanford, whose graduating classes are typically under 200 students. One law firm recruiter, Craig Primis of Kirkland & Ellis, told U.S. News in a March 7 article that the difference in class size could be the reason for Harvard’s popularity among recruiters. Weber agreed.

“I would think that with more Harvard graduates in the workplace, [the larger class size] certainly helped,” he said. “Moreover, Harvard’s larger class size translates into a very strong and substantial talent pool from which law firms can more effectively meet their recruitment needs.”

In the overall March 15 rankings, Harvard took the No. 2 spot, with Yale nabbing the top spot and Stanford pulling in at No. 3. These rankings incorporated a variety of factors, including a peer assessment score from other law school deans and assessment scores from lawyers and judges. The schools were also measured by their selectivity using the median GPA and LSAT of entrants and the 2010 acceptance rate. Job placement rates and the schools’ bar passage rates and faculty resources (e.g., expenditures per student, the student-to-faculty ratio, and the total number of volumes and titles in a school’s library) were also factored into the rankings.

Weber said the methodology used favors smaller schools, such as Yale, because it puts weight on expenditures per student and does not take into consideration the economies of scale associated with larger schools. Weber also cautioned that students shouldn’t place too much emphasis on any sort of ranking system.

“Important decisions shouldn’t be made solely on the basis of a ranking,” he said. “With any rankings, students — or applicants — need to focus on the factors that are most relevant and important to them.” 

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