Anomalies in the purported new US News rankings of law schools.--

There is something strange about the purported new US News rankings of law schools. The two schools with the highest placement rates at graduation (Berkeley 99% and Columbia 98.9%) are also the only two schools on the first page (top 59 schools) with identical placement rates for “employed at graduation” and “employed 9 months after graduation.”

What a coincidence!

I work with enough data that when I see a coincidence like this, I recheck how the data or variables were constructed – and I almost always find that the underlying data are wrong. Is the pdf of the officially unreleased new US News rankings an elaborate hoax? If the pdf is indeed real, then I think that there is a significant possibility that either Berkeley or Columbia – or perhaps both – unwittingly reported false data to US News.

While the odds of being employed at graduation are 99 to 1 at Berkeley (and 90 to 1 at Columbia), the odds at the other top 8 schools are much lower: 58 to 1 at Stanford, 27 to 1 at Harvard and Chicago, 26 to 1 at NYU, 25 to 1 at Yale, and 20 to 1 at Penn.

Usually, there is a big jump in employment between graduation and 9 months after graduation, but there is none in the data reported by Berkeley and Columbia to US News. For example, by 9 months after graduation, the relative odds of employment jump 911% at Yale (from 24.6 to 1 at graduation to 249 to 1 9 months later), 270% at Chicago, 169% at Penn, 152% at NYU, and 93% at Harvard, but only 13% at Stanford, 0% at Berkeley and 0% at Columbia.

Even if Berkeley weren't reporting suspiciously identical placement rates at graduation and 9 months later, I would still find it unlikely that Berkeley would have the highest placement rate at graduation (99%) among American schools because (unlike Columbia) it does not have the special advantage of being in one of the top 2 legal markets. And I also find it hard to believe that 99% of Berkeley graduates are employed 9 months after graduation when its bar passage rate in California is only 85%.

In the future, when a law school reports the same placement rates at graduation and 9 months after graduation, US News should treat such reports as probably erroneous data, leading to requests from the law school for more detailed information.