More law schools offer value

Law students are getting a better value than just a year ago, according to The National Jurist, which tabulates a ranking of the Best Value law schools each year. This year, the number of schools on the magazine’s list grew from 53 to 64.

Rising employment scores and an increased use of scholarships helped several law schools improve their standings in the annual ranking, which will be published the National Jurist in September. The magazine will include grades for each school.

A majority of law schools saw their employment rates improve during the past year. Employment is the most important factor in the ranking, accounting for 35 percent.

The improving employment rates are, in part, because of smaller class sizes. Some schools have downsized, rather than let academic standards suffer. In healthier economic settings, it's easier for the market to absorb the smaller number of graduates. There's less competition. Schools have also worked to improve their career services departments. 

The ranking also assesses tuition, cost of living and indebtedness upon graduation. Many schools have increased scholarships to attract students as applications have dwindled. So, for the average student, law school is cheaper. The changes in legal education, while painful for some institutions, appear to be benefitting students.

Law schools new to the list this year include: Arizona State University, Northern Illinois University, University of Montana, West Virginia University, Michigan State University, Northern Kentucky University, Rutgers – Camden, Southern Illinois University, University of Missouri, Kansas City, University of Connecticut, Washburn University.

In addition, two private schools joined the list: Boston University and Emory University. They replaced two private schools that dropped off the list: Baylor University, which saw indebtedness and tuition increase, and Ohio Northern University, which saw its employment rate drop.

Only two public schools dropped from the list — University of Wyoming and University of Pittsburgh.

The magazine will recognize the best value law schools in the eight largest metropolitan regions, except for San Francisco. No law school was deemed a Best Value school in that region. Last year, Stanford University made the magazine’s list of best value private schools. But its tuition and indebtedness both increased this year. 

St. Mary’s University and Vanderbilt University also dropped out of the best private school’s list. New school’s to the best value private school list include: Oklahoma City University, Drexel University Kline School of Law, University of St. Thomas – Minn. and Washington & Lee University.