The top ten most underrated schools were:
6. George Mason
8. William & Mary
As you can see, George Mason scored very high on this survey, suggesting that we (or at least our graduates) are significantly better than our reputation suggests.
The Vault asked 512 legal recruiters to "name law schools that, based on their experience as hiring managers, are underrated. There was no limit to the number of law schools a hiring manager could name as underrated." To calculate each school's total score, the Vault used the following formula:
* 50% of the score is based on the number of votes a law school received from recruiters in its own region, when compared to the votes received by other law schools in the region.
* 50% of the score is based on the number of votes a law school received from recruiters outside its region, when compared to the votes received by law schools nationally.
As with the more general US News rankings of law schools, the Vault approach has its shortcomings. I am skeptical that most recruiters really know much about more than a fraction of the 190 AALS-accredited law schools in the country (which is also true of the law professors and practitioners surveyed by US News). This weakness is partially offset by the focus on recruiters from the school's own region (who are likely to know more about the schools in their area), but only partially. A second and perhaps more serious problem is that a school that is widely viewed as underrated may no longer actually be underrated precisely because so many people now agree that it is. The truly underrated schools are ones whose true qualities are not appreciated by recruiters and others in the field. Finally, it's important to note that this is a study of perceived underratedness, not a measure of absolute quality. The fact that GMU is No. 6 on the list and Illinois No. 7 doesn't necessarily mean that our graduates are better than theirs, but only that recruiters believe they are slightly more underrated.
That said, the Vault survey does still provide some useful information for legal professionals and aspiring law students. Particularly interesting is the fact that several schools that already enjoy strong reputations (e.g. - Vanderbilt and Emory) are still viewed by the recruiters as underrated (i.e. - they may be even better than their already strong reputations). And of course the Vault survey provides additional proof that George Mason deserves to rise further in the US News rankings:).