Approximately 10% of all law school students attend part-time J.D. programs. Many attend part time programs due to financial constraints, which necessitate their working while pursuing their degree. Therefore, US News has decided to rank such programs, and give prospective law school students the ability to determine the strengths and weaknesses of specific part-time legal programs.
In order to gather information for this new ranking, US News has added questions to the reputation peer assessment survey that it sends to top administrators at all school accredited by the American Bar Association. The new ranking of part time J.D. programs will supplement, not replace the annual law school rankings that US News publishes. However, at this time, US News is still studying the possibility of combining some data for full-time and part-time students, which would impact overall school ratings. A final decision will be made in January 2009.
The above summarizes the stated US News’ reasoning. Of course others are a little more cynical and suspect that this move is a response to schools’ attempts to game the rankings by encouraging students whose LSAT is a little less than desired to start at part-time programs and then switch to full-time. With this maneuver the ranked full-time program doesn’t have to report less-than-desired LSAT scores or include them in its average LSAT, a factor in the much-watched US News ranking. Stay tuned for further gyrations in, I mean modifications of, the rankings.
For the complete US News blog post by Robert Morse on the part-time law school ranking, please click on the link.