The methodology behind the law school rankings
A Q&A with Professor Brian Leiter
Tony Keller, managing editor | Sep 12, 2007 | 18:21:09
TO SEE THE BREAKOUT CHARTS BEHIND THE RANKING CLICK HERE
To create its first annual law ranking, Maclean’s turned to Brian Leiter, a professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin. Leiter is probably the most prominent and long-standing critic of the U.S. News and World Report rankings of U.S. law schools, and has long offered alternative, and more useful and accurate ways, of assessing law school performance.(For more on Leiter’s performance measures for U.S. law schools, see www.leiterrankings.com. For the full run down of all of Leiter’s blog, on a variety of legal topics, visit http://www.naymz.com/search/brian/leiter/793046).
This past spring, I approached Leiter, to ask him to work with us to create an assessment of Canadian law schools. The methodology that was ultimately adopted is simple, transparent and relies entirely on public data. It contains four measures, with a 50% weighting for Student/Graduate quality and a 50% weighting for Faculty quality:
• Faculty Quality(weighted at 50%), measures how often faculty members at each school are cited by other academics in 33 Canadian legal journals found in the Quicklaw journals database. Maclean’s did a citation search for each faculty member, with faculty defined as professors holding titles such as professor, full professor, associate professor and assistant professor, and excluding emeritus professors, adjunct faculty, law librarians, administrators who are not professors, and the like. The list of faculty was drawn from each law school’s website in August, 2007.
• Elite Firm Hiring(worth 25%)uses the Lexpert list of leading Canadian law firms as its basis. Because a small number of highly qualified Canadian law graduates also move to the US, we also counted hires by the five leading New York law firms, as measured by Vault. For a list of firms studied, CLICK HERE Maclean’s examined the website of each of these leading law firms, and counted the number of associates from each law school at each firm.(We counted only first law degrees, and for Ottawa we reached one grand total, rather than dividing its graduates up as Ottawa-Civil and Ottawa-Common). Young lawyers start out as associates and are usually either partners(or no longer at the firm)in seven to 10 years, so this measure captures hiring from the mid- to late-1990s to the present. To scale these figures to school size, the totals for each school were then divided by the size of the 2006 first-year class at each school. First year class-size numbers were taken from the Law School Admission Council website. Of 2103 associates found at the firms on the Lexpert and Vault lists, 47 had their first law degree from a non-Canadian law school, and 42 had no biographical information.
• National Reach(worth 15%): This measure looks at how widely spread are the graduates from each school. The idea is to get a sense of whether a law school is able to place its grads at leading firms beyond its region and beyond a small network of firms. The elite firm hiring count from the previous metric was examined to determine what percentage of a school’s graduates are at elite firms other than the three elite firms that have the most associates from that school. If School X has 100 associates at elite firms, and 45 associates at its top three firms, it would have a “reach quotient” of 55/100 = 0.55.
• Supreme Court hiring(worth 10%): Clerks are hired by the Supreme Court for a term that is usually one year; the clerks are selected by the judges and are generally chosen from the country’s top graduating students. We measured clerkship hiring over the past six years. Starting with the list of law clerks on Osgoode Hall’s The Court blog, at http://www.thecourt.ca/clerks-of-the-supreme-court, we researched which law school each clerk attended for their first degree. We were able to find first-degree information for 142 out of 162 clerks. For the University of Ottawa, we did separate calculations for each branch of the law school(common and civil). We tallied the number of clerks from each program, added the number of clerks with both civil and common law degrees from Ottawa to each of those tallies, then divided by the number of first year students in each respective law stream at U Ottawa. There were 20 clerks from Ottawa common law, two from Ottawa civil law, and three with degrees from both.