From what I can tell, Harvard seems to hold the #2 spot unless Stanford has reasonably better employment at graduation/9-months scores and more spending per student that year. Those two things are sorta random year by year and are really just statistical noise, but in the rare years like this where Stanford outdoes Harvard by a fair bit in those two, I guess it ends up ahead. I doubt Stanford will keep the #2 slot next year.
Care to share the support for these findings?
This site seems to fairly accurately estimate the scores each school got in the various different categories each year:http://money-law.blogspot.com/2009/07/z ... n-law.html
That's just the 2010 year, but you can link to other years.
Here's my logic for why those two things affect the rankings of the two year by year:
Harvard seems to consistently rank above Stanford in Peer Assessment by a small amount and they are equal in Lawyer/Judge assessment. These factors seem to stay the same every year, so they can't be the reason for the change in ranking. Harvard consistently ranks above Stanford in GPA and LSAT medians, and this past year was no different. Change in those factors is not what causes Stanford to occasionally pull ahead. Stanford is always ahead in Student/Faculty ratio and Acceptance Rate, while Harvard is always ahead in Library volumes. These scores are not going to change year to year; they are very constant, so they cannot account for the variance in ranking.
All this leaves are the employment numbers and the spending numbers. These are the only factors that it is reasonable to believe would change significantly from year to year (and in fact, they are the only ones that seem to change year to year in the link above). This means they are the only ones that could logically explain a change in ranking. In the link above, it shows that in 2010, Stanford spent very slightly more per student and had very slightly better employment numbers, but they ended up behind still. This leads me to believe that Stanford must perform a significant amount better in those two relatively random factors in order to pull ahead, as the static factors seem to mildly favor Harvard. I know that Stanford's employment numbers this past year were better, and I assume their spending numbers might have been as well. This likely accounts for the flip flop in the rankings.
EDIT: I suppose bar passage rate is also a relatively random factor. Stanford seems to do better every year on this (I assume because it's compared to the state average and CAs average is really low), but not always by the same amount. So that is probably another random factor that could help Stanford pull ahead but I doubt it's decisive given how little it is weighed in the calculations.