Ranking Canada’s law schools

They're all hard to get in to. But which law school will you get the most out of?

TONY KELLER September 22 2008

Ranking Canada’s law schools

They're all hard to get in to. But which law school will you get the most out of?

TONY KELLER September 22 2008

Ranking Canada’s law schools

They're all hard to get in to. But which law school will you get the most out of?

TONY KELLER

This is the second year that Maclean’s has ranked Canada’s law schools, and this year’s methodology follows the same approach as last year—with a few improvements. The goal remains the same: to objectively assess each school against recognized measures of faculty quality and graduate employment quality. Are a law school’s professors significant contributors to the intellectual life of their discipline? Do a law school’s graduates land the most sought-after jobs in government, the private sector and—new this year—academia?

The methodology behind the Maclean’s law school ranking was created in co-operation with professor Brian Leiter, the John P. Wilson Professor of Law and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago. Leiter is also America’s most prominent critic of that other, well-known law school ranking: the U.S. News and World Report ranking of American law schools. Leiter has long criticized U.S. News’s methodology as misguided and open to gaming. One of his blogs, at www. leiterrankings.com, features his own alternative rankings of law school quality, focusing on outcomes rather than inputs, and using data that cannot be manipulated by institutions. That’s why, in 2007, we asked Leiter to work with us to build a Canadian law school ranking based on his criticisms of and alternatives to the U.S. News approach. “My central motivation for undertaking this task,” says Leiter, “was to show that it’s actually possible to evaluate law schools in ways that are meaningful.”

All of the data used in the Maclean’s law rankings are publicly available. All focus on law school outputs. Fifty per cent of the over-

all ranking is determined by faculty quality, and 50 per cent by graduate quality. The four measures of graduate quality look at the success each law school has had producing graduates able to land the most competitive public and private sector jobs. The four indicators are:

Elite Firm Hiring: We calculated how many of each school’s graduates are serving as associates at law firms on Lexpert’s list of the largest firms in nine Canadian regions, or at one of the five leading New York firms, according to the employment website Vault. This was done by examining the online biographies of thousands of lawyers at dozens of law firms. To scale this measure to the size of each law school, the tally was divided by the size of each school’s first-year class, averaged over the past two years. This measure is worth 20 per cent.

National Reach: This indicator, based on the Elite Firm Hiring measure, is worth 10 per cent. It measures the proportion of each law school’s grads at leading firms who are working at firms other than the three that hired the most grads from this school. It’s a measure of the extent to which leading firms outside a school’s region hire its graduates.

Supreme Court Clerkships: A measure of how many of a school’s graduates have served as clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada—there are 27 clerks each year; it is one of the most competitive positions open to graduates. We looked at the last six years’ worth of clerks. As with the other measures of graduate quality, the tally was divided by each school’s average first-year enrolment.

Faculty Hiring: This new indicator is worth 10 per cent. It looks at how many of a school’s graduates are professors at Canadian law schools, with extra weight given to grads hired by faculties other than their alma mater.

Why does the Maclean’s ranking focus on the most competitive jobs, when by definition most law grads will not end up landing one of these positions? “Elite employers have their pick of new law school graduates, and their decisions tell us something about the reputation of schools and the quality of edu-

cation they impart to their students,” says Leiter. “What they tell us about law school reputation and education matters to every law student, regardless of what professional trajectory they want to pursue.”

Faculty quality was assessed by the Faculty Journal Citations measure, worth 50 per cent. We employed the HeinOnline database of legal periodicals and, in a break from last year, our search included not only citations in Canadian journals, but international publications as well. The inclusion of international journals was recommended by many Canadian

academics, and reflects the reality of a globalized academy. “That was one point on which feedback from Canadian law professors was uniform,” says Leiter. We measured the number of citations recorded by each faculty member; the tally for each school was then divided by the size of that school’s faculty.

Why does the Maclean’s ranking not take into account such things as the different courses, clinics, styles and approaches offered by each

law school? These matter, says Leiter, and are worth considering, but “none of them really compensate for the scholarly excellence of a faculty and professional opportunities.” M

All data was compiled by researcher Jonathan Heppner. Ranking on each indicator and overall rank was determined using the statistical percentile method that Maclean's has long employed in our annual university rankings. Our statistician was Hong Chen of MacDougall Scientific Ltd. Statistical Consultants.

ON THE WEB: For more detailed rankings data, and more on the methodology behind the Maclean's rankings of Canadian law schools, visit www.macleans.ca/oncampus

Common Law Schools ranking

Canada's law schools were evaluated according to four measures of student/graduate quality, worth 50 per cent, and one measure of faculty quality, worth 50 per cent. All measures were calculated relative to the size of each school. Elite Firm Hiring is worth 20 per cent; National Reach—a measure of how widely employed a school's graduates

are—and Supreme Court Clerkships are each weighted at 10 per cent. Faculty Hiring is worth 10 per cent and looks at how many grads were hired as law faculty members, with extra weight given to those hired by faculties other than their alma mater. Faculty Citations is a measure assessing how often academics cite each school's professors.

OVERALL RANK GRADUATE QUALITY FACULTY QUALITY Rank Elite Firm National Supreme Court Faculty Faculty Journal Last Year Hiring Reach Clerkships Hiring Citations 1 Toronto (1) ......2...... T 2 McGill (2) 1 3 Osgoode (3) 12 3* 7* 4 UBC (9) 4 6* 10* 5 Victoria (8) 13 1 4 6 Dalhousie (6) TT 12 7 Ottawa (4) 14 9* 11* 8 Queen's (5) 9* 3* 10* 4* 8* 9 Alberta (7) 6* To* 10 8* ^10 Calgary (15) 9* 14* 16 12 *10 Manitoba (11) 9* 14 7* 13* 8* *12 New Brunswick (12*) 3 15 5 11* 14* *12 Saskatchewan (10) 13 10* 4* 14* *12 Western (12*) 2 14* 8 13 15 Windsor (14) 15 11 16 13* 11 16 Moncton (16) 16 16 7* 13* 16 ‘Indicates a tie

Civil Law Schools ranking

Sixteen of Canada's law schools are common law schools, the law of the Anglo tradition and of most provinces. Five schools are civil law schools. Civil and common law schools were evaluated according to the same criteria. Ottawa is the only civil law school located outside

of Quebec; the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law offers two distinct streams, civil and common. McGill offers both common and civil law training, in one program. The Université de Moncton, though operating entirely in French, is also a common law school.

OVERALL RANK GRADUATE QUALITY FACULTY QUALITY Rank Elite Firm National Supreme Court Faculty Faculty Journal Last Year Hiring Reach Clerkships Hiring Citations 1 Montréal (1) 1 1 1 2 Ottawa (2) 2* 4* 3 Laval (3) 3* 2* 2 4 UQAM (5) 5 2* 3 5 Sherbrooke (4) 3* 2* 4*