The 2009 Maclean’s Law School Rankings

Are a law school’s professors significant contributors to the intellectual life of their discipline? And do a law school’s graduates land the most sought-after jobs in government, the private sector and academia?


090915_gradschool_lawschoolIn its third annual ranking of Canadian law schools, Maclean’s assessed each institution against recognized measures of faculty quality and of how well graduates do in the workplace. In all, we sought to answer two questions. Are a law school’s professors significant contributors to the intellectual life of their discipline? And do a law school’s graduates land the most sought-after jobs in government, the private sector and academia?

For the third year in a row, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law takes the top spot. McGill Faculty of Law also maintains its second-place position for the third year running, but this year it shares that spot with Osgoode Hall Law School, which last year ranked third.

All of the data used in the Maclean’s law rankings are publicly available. All focus on law school outputs. Fifty per cent of the overall ranking is determined by faculty quality, and 50 per cent by graduate quality. The four measures of graduate quality look at the success each law school has had producing graduates able to land the most competitive jobs. The indicators are:

Elite Firm Hiring: Maclean’s calculated how many of each school’s graduates are serving as associates at law firms on Lexpert’s list of the largest firms in nine Canadian regions, or at one of the five leading New York firms, according to the employment website Vault. This was done by examining the online biographies of thousands of lawyers at dozens of law firms. To scale this measure to each school, the tally was divided by first-year class size, averaged over the past three years. This measure is worth 20 per cent.

National Reach: This indicator, based on the Elite Firm Hiring measure, is worth 10 per cent. It measures the proportion of each law school’s grads at leading firms who are working at firms other than the three that hired the most grads from this school. It’s a measure of the extent to which leading firms outside a school’s region hire its graduates.

Supreme Court Clerkships: A measure of how many of a school’s graduates have served as clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada. There are 27 clerks each year; it is one of the most competitive positions open to graduates. Maclean’s looked at the last six years’ worth of clerks. As with the other measures of graduate quality, the tally was divided by each school’s average first-year enrolment.

Faculty Hiring: Worth 10 per cent, this indicator looks at how many of a school’s graduates are professors at Canadian law schools, with extra weight given to grads hired by faculties other than their alma mater.

Faculty Journal Citations: In this measure of faculty quality, worth 50 per cent, Maclean’s employed the HeinOnline database of legal periodicals. The search included citations in international publications as well as Canadian journals in order to reflect the reality of a globalized academy. The number of citations recorded by each faculty member was measured; the tally for each school was then divided by the size of its faculty.

There are 16 common law schools and five civil law schools in Canada. Common and civil law schools are ranked separately, but evaluated according to the same criteria.

Law School Rankings

The methodology behind the Maclean’s law school ranking was created in co-operation with professor Brian Leiter, the John P. Wilson Professor of Law and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago. The data were compiled by researchers Sally Brown and Emily Heppner. Ranking on each indicator and overall rank was determined using the statistical percentile method that Maclean’s has long employed in our annual university rankings. Our statistician was Hong Chen, of MacDougall Scientific Ltd. Statistical Consultants.

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The 2009 Maclean’s Law School Rankings

  1. this should really include articling placement rates, percentage-wise, for the graduating class the year prior. this, i think, should be the true litmus test of a school's quality.

  2. Elite Firm Hiring is the only criteria that needs an immediate change. Can't you do better than that?

  3. elite firm hiring is an absolute joke

  4. Supreme Court Clerkships seems like an odd measure… why not all clerkships? Many students do not want to move outside of their city or province for a clerkship, so the fact that Ottawa, for example, ranked highly does not depict the quality of the school in any way.

    No disrespect is meant to UofO in my example.

    • also, the SCC is notorious for disliking certain schools b/c they require their clerks to be bilingual, a quality not found in the majority of students outside of Quebec.

  5. agree with everything above. whats up with the elite firm and SC clerkship criteria????

    first off, elite firms is totally dependent upon whether or not you have a student body that intends to go into corporate law. for example, Osgoode has about ~200 students who take part in OCIs, where as Windsor has about ~100 students who take part, both schools place about 30% of participants during OCIs – so for schools with a stronger focus on social justice, they are technically being punished for having their students look into alternative legal careers. (source: friends talked to their respective career service offices and told me the numbers). A much better gauge is on article numbers, and what percentage of the graduating class lands one.

    as for SCC, it is obvious that schools with a bilingual nature will land much more students at the SCC because knowing both english and french is a requirement to get a posiiton. its not a coincidence that the schools rounding off the top are in french speaking areas and are major urban centres which attracts more bilingual students. and to reiterate what someone else stated, why not look at all government clerkship's if you really feel it is necessary to use this as a criteria??

    i dont really have a problem with the other tools used in this.

    I believe that this ranking does a huge disservice to all law schools, the legal field and those people who look beyond corporate law and the supreme court. i know very smart people who turned down these kinds of jobs to do work in social areas, NGOs, DOJ, MAG, mid sized firms, small towns, legal aid, etc, which is very meaningful and important work – meh, i guess this just goes to show that we will always measure success with $$$ and hierarchy.

    • You clearly don't know what you're talking about. Clerkships, even for the SCC, do not require bilingualism, so you're mistaken about that. While it's possible and true that there are very smart law students who are capable of gaining employment at biglaw firms, it's unlikely that ANY are turning down downs in corporate law and SCC clerkships to work for an NGO. If they wanted social justice type work, they wouldn't have gone through the OCI process for a biglaw position, nor would they have gone through the extensive requirements and application process for the SCC. By the way, no one who has been offered a SCC clerkship has turned it down for more than a decade now. So, again, you are full of it. There are valid arguments to be made for excellent students doing other kinds of work because they have no interest in the more traditional routes for top students, but you failed to make a good argument here, and instead only succeeded in showing your ignorance of the process.

      • The emphasis on big firm hiring is the thing that I hate the most about law school. Those of us who have absolutely no interest in working on Bay Street are treated as though we are somehow second class students. My school sent me all kinds of emails last summer giving tips on how to behave at articling week in Toronto with an eye to getting people jobs at Bay Street firms. This was despite me not applying anywhere in Toronto and already having an articling position lined up. Those of us who wanted to work in criminal law (for example) were told that we were on our own to go find a job and the school would do little to help us. And this is Ottawa, a school that is well known for its emphasis on social justice and public interest oriented legal education and is full of people who do not want to work on Bay Street and would indeed turn such jobs down if they were offered (I absolutely know that I would).
        These kind of nonsense rankings do nothing but contribute to the idea that Bay Street (and incidentally, a miserable life) are the be all and end all of being a lawyer. I would argue that the actual public (who we are supposed to be serving afterall) would be far better served if more people went to the small firms, local firms, NGOs and government jobs that are completely ignored by these rankings. Disputes between large commercial concerns about whose insurance company will pay for executives manipulating stock prices have very little impact on the lives of regular people and that is exactly the kind of work that "elite" national firms do.

      • I do not think you fully understood what the above poster wrote – the fact that this ranking punishes schools for having students who are more inclined to take jobs in NGOs or social justice areas. look at the Oz and Windsor stats they provide – you say the poster fails to make a good argument – but you do an even more inadequate job of reading their argument to begin with.

        as for the clerkship, the OP is wrong, and you are right about bilingualism not being a necessity (but they do have a point where it is highly looked upon). Clerkships are largely reflective of regional selection, and on a provincial basis, ie. quota. so it is a strange way to rank nonetheless. some posts further down clarify the process even further, and the inherent bias and cycle in clerkship selections.

  6. The elite firm hiring methodology is an embarrassment to lawyers, statisticians and Maclean's.

  7. So working at the other firms in the Vault 100 in the US, London or Hong Kong doesn't count for anything? Very xenophobic Maclean's – law is increasingly a global practice where Canada's top graduates are thriving. You should look up the definition of the word elite.

  8. Another problem with the measure is that it discourages law schools from accepting students who are not expected to be hired in "elite" law firms and the SCC because of their gender, race, …..

  9. Anyone else thin 50% for faculty citations is too high? I doubt this is an accurate measure of the quality of the program…

  10. *or the quality of the faculty rather

  11. What if I don’t care about elite firm hiring, national reach (want to work in same province as law school), Supreme Court clerkships, or faculty citations? What if all I want out of law school is a good education, good training, and a job after graduation?

    • Then go to Windsor.

  12. What if I don't care about elite firm hiring, national reach (want to work in same province as law school), Supreme Court clerkships, or faculty citations? What if all I want out of law school is a good education, good training, and a job after graduation?

  13. You have to admit that despite its flaws these rankings are very comparable to the general reputation of these law schools among lawyers, law students and potential applicants. And I'd say that this was the case five years ago as well, even before a ranking of Canadian law schools was ever published.

  14. @ Tdot Lawyer · I agree with most of what you say, but you are WRONG about being bilingual as a requirement for a SCC clerkship. You only need to speak one official language. Some of the justices will only hire bilingual (probably the Quebec judges) but the rest have shown that they have no problem hiring an anglophone

  15. I think people are not looking at the elite firm hiring in the way in which it should be looked at. If person from School A has a significantly higher chance of securing a position at Elite Firm X than person from School B, then generally speaking that school should be looked at as being generally better. This same methodology is being applied to SCC. The reason for not including all clerkships or all articling positions is that it wrongly gives credit for being "just good enough". The difference in quality of an SCC hire a a hire to clerk at a significantly lower level court is normally quite substantial and if a school places signficantly more students at the SCC it should be rewarded for that. I think that there may be a slight geographic bias, but probably not much, ask almost any law student in Alberta, Sask, PEI if they would go clerk at the SCC for a year as opposed to their provincial court if given the opportunity, I would bet that over 90% would say yes

  16. Well, at least they disclose their methodology. But what an arbitrary group of criteria: 50% for faculty citations, and nothing for admissions selectivity, post-graduation placement rates, evaluations by peer faculties and industry leaders, international reach, participation of graduates in national life or public service, participation of faculty and graduates in pro bono work, or placement at elite law firms other than those that placed in the top five in a (similarly arbitrary) poll of US law students? This methodology is awful.

  17. A back-of the envelope calculation shows that a school's success in landing SCC clerkships is positively correlated with the number of judges that school has had on the bench over the last 15 years. Admissions selectivity is hard, given what has been established about the poor predictive power of LSAT and GPA. Perhaps an indirect measure would be to try to find out which schools beat which in two-way fights for applicants: their 'yield ratios'. But then that is vulnerable to herd effects, fashion, and possibly price elasticity. We have no good direct measure of selectivity (or faculty quality, or much else.) But these rankings are at least harder to game than the familiar US ones.

  18. just rank them based on starting salaries of graduates, and how many graduates get jobs with the first 6 months after graduation…

    • The law profession doesn't need people with your mind set; $$$$$$$$

    • The law profession doesn't need people with your mind set; $$$$$$$$

  19. Looks like Toronto has the big drop huh?

  20. A friend of mine startet at McGill last year, he said that the level is very good. I have not seen the ranking for 2010 yet but I'm curious if McGill will take the first Spot in 2011

  21. It appears that this calculation would discourage schools from accepting some students if it would hurt their ranking. This is just my opinion.

  22. I agree with that, however if you check the data then you see that the ranking is from 2009. As far as I heard it now has changed a lo and canadian law schools are quite high in the international ranking of law schools.

  23. 29k per year is too much (UT Law school)