September 8, 2009
New US News Law School Ranking: Judicial Clerkship Placements
U.S. News has published its first-ever ranking of which law schools are sending the largest proportions of their graduates on to local, state and federal judicial clerkships. The data was collected from each law school in fall 2008 and early 2009. From the ranking, here is the top 10 feeder schools sorted by the percentage of the 2007 J.D. graduating class that was employed as clerks by federal judges:
1. Yale: 41.4% (all clerkships), 37.0% (federal)
2. Univ. of North Dakota: 28.0% (all clerkships), 25.0% (federal)
3. Stanford: 24.0% (all clerkships), 23.0% (federal)
4. Harvard: 20.6% (all clerkships), 18.2% (federal)
5. Univ. of Wyoming: 19.0% (all clerkships), 16.7% (federal)
6. Univ. of St. Thomas, Minneapolis: 17.0% (all clerkships), 16.0% (federal)
7. Michigan, Ann Arbor: 14.2% (all clerkships), 14.0% (federal)
7. Brigham Young Univ.: 14.0% (all clerkships), 14.0% (federal)
9. Univ. of Maine: 13.0% (all clerkships), 13.0% (federal)
10 .Univ. of Virginia: 13.6% (all clerkships), 12.5% (federal)
10. New England School of Law: 12.5% (all clerkships), 12.5% (federal)
Ranking by Verified Actions, Not Law School Reported Data or Employer Opinions. The ranking "shows that some law schools have a culture of sending a relatively large percentage of their graduates to clerkships," claims US News rankings czar, Bob Morse on his blog, Morse Code. However this is a snapshot ranking of one graduating class and reporting gross numbers would be more informative because of the sometimes substantial differences in class size. See how Brian Leiter (Chicago) computes clerkship placements to give some indication of the relative success of schools in placing graduates as Supreme Court clerks taking into account law school class size over time at Supreme Court Clerkship Placement, 2000 Through 2008 Terms.
About relying on gaming law schools for the reported data as is the case with the general employment data reported by law schools and used by US News, one comment to the Morse Code post deserves being noted:
Factoring federal clerkships into the overall US News rankings of law schools could be valuable ... But relying on self-reported data from schools is a flawed methodology. As always with US News rankings, the lack of basic research rigor is laughable. And mystifying.
For example, did you survey the federal judges themselves about the law schools from which their clerks graduated? Did you audit the self-reported data in ANY way? At the very least, you could have flagged questionable data, contacted the schools to verify placements, and -- if necessary -- called the judges who supposedly hired those clerks to confirm the placements.
The magazine’s rankings czar says there are no plans to incorporate the clerkship ranking into the U.S. News overall ranking of law schools. "But some have suggested we do so," writes Morse. "Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit wrote us and suggested that 'incorporating the clerkship hiring decisions of federal judges into your ranking will provide you with what is, in a sense, a survey of the quality of law schools as reflected in the actions, not just the opinions, of a group of highly selective employers.'" Good idea, if the data is verified. [JH]
Update: See After the Fact Verification of US News Clerkship Ranking Data for corrected federal clerkship data reported by North Dakota and Western New England after the publication of the US News ranking.