1. Academic reputation (25% of the overall score). Not Manipulable. 25% of the overall score is a function of academic reputation, as measured by a survey done mid-fall of some 700 law school deans and faculty (about two-thirds fill out the surveys).
2. 15% of the overall score is based on reputation among lawyers and judges. Not Manipulable. These results reflect a survey of lawyers at large firms and federal and state judges. The response rate is low: less than one-third complete the surveys. Because U.S. News only surveys large firms, the survey is also dramatically skewed towards the Northeast (especially New York City): schools that have large alumni contingents in New York City perform, shall we say, suspiciously well in this survey by comparison to schools that are otherwise comparable. Schools have little control over the results of this survey.
3. 12.5% of the overall score is based on the median LSAT score. Highly Manipulable.
4. 12% of the overall score is the employment rate 9 months after graduation. Highly Manipulable. This data is entirely self-reported by schools, and should be treated as essentially fiction:
5. 10% of the overall score is based on the median GPA of the entering class. Highly Manipulable.
6. 9.75% of the overall score is average per capita expenditures for this year and the prior year for instruction, library, and supporting services. Highly Manipulable.
The preceding are the six major factors making up a school's overall score in US News. Together they account for 84.25% of the overall score. Four of these factors are highly manipulable, and three favor small schools. The remaining six factors in U.S. News (that account for just 15.75% of the overall score) are as follows:
7. 6% of the overall score is the employment rate at graduation. Highly Manipulable. See the discussion in (4), above.
8. 3% of the overall score is the student-teacher ratio.
9. 2.5% of the overall score is the acceptance rate for students. Highly Manipulable.
10. 2% of the overall score is the bar pass rate adjusted to reflect the avg. pass rate in the major jurisdiction where students take the exam. Not Manipulable.
11. 1.5% of the overall score is average per capita expenditures for the current and prior year on everything else OTHER than instruction, library & supporting services--so this includes utilities, financial aid, and the like. Highly Manipulable.
12. 0.75% of the overall score is the total number of volumes in the library. Not Manipulable.
Even putting aside the fact that this formula, with its various weightings, is impossible to rationalize in any principled way, the really striking fact about the U.S. News methodology is surely the following:
More than half the criteria-over 54%--that go in to the final score can be manipulated by the schools themselves, either through outright (and undetectable) deceit, or other devices (giving fee waivers to hopeless applicants, employing graduates in temp jobs to boost employment stats, etc.).
More than one-third of the criteria that go in to the final score favor small schools and penalize large schools.