Gulags: the 10 worst ABA-accredited law schools


A school received one tally for each appearance in or otherwise very near the bottom 10 among all ABA-accredited law schools in each of eight categories. In several categories, cutting off at 10 schools proved unreasonably arbitrary. Thus, we found an equitable cutoff and made the “bottom 10 list” for those categories slightly longer or shorter than 10. Each of the schools on this list received at least five tallies. For schools with equal numbers of tallies, the tie breaker is a school’s comparatively worse employment scores.


The first numbers in GPA range and LSAT range represent admitted students at a school’s 25th percentile. The second numbers represent admitted students at the 75th percentile. For GPA range, schools received a tally if their 25th percentile was 2.76 or lower. There are 13 such schools. For LSAT range, schools received a tally if their 25th percentile was 147 or lower. There are 11 such schools. The data comes from the website

The figure in “Worst recent bar pass rate” category is compared to the state average where the school is located and generally represents first-time takers. Also, the number here represents the worst data point we could find for each school. For example, compared to the average bar pass rate in California, Golden Gate University had an average pass rate of -4.60% for 2003 to 2009, a rate of -18.00 percent in July 2010 and a rate of July 2011 -10.00%. The worst figure, -18.00 percent, was used in this ranking. The 2003-2009 data comes from the website July 2010 and July 2011 bar exam percentages come from various sources. Only the 10 lowest scores were used. Some state bars don’t make the data easily accessible, and some schools are better than others about candidly representing their students’ bar results.

Data for Employment score, Under-employment score, and Unknown employment score comes from the website You can find an elaborate explanation of methodology there. Obviously, though, it’s based on employment figures. Every school scoring below 32 percent in Employment score received a tally. There are 10 such schools. Similarly, every school scoring at or above 44 percent in Under-employment score received a tally. There are six of them. Several law schools with scores at or above 44 percent do not appear on this list because they do not otherwise appear near the bottom in any or many other categories. For Unknown employment score, schools with percentages higher than 5 percent received a tally. There are seven such schools. As an aside, these categories are where many law schools have fudged data in the recent past. Schools could still be doing so, thus making these presumably honest schools look relatively worse than they actually are.

Data for the “Cost of 2015 projection” category also comes from the website and it assumes the worst-case scenario: that students must borrow the maximum amount and pay full sticker prices for everything for three years. Every school with a cost projection above $208,000 received a tally. There are 12 such schools and this cutoff is by far the most arbitrary one. The projections take into account tuition, fees and room and board (for non-residents if a school is public). The projections assume a 3 percent annual tuition increase and 2 percent annual indirect cost increase each year. Interest calculations are based on semester disbursement periods and use a blended interest rate.

Data for the “2013 U.S. News peer reputation ranking” is essentially a conventional wisdom score and comes from the U.S. News website. Peer rankings are one aspect of the U.S. News best law schools rankings.

“In the fall of 2011, law school deans, deans of academic affairs, chairs of faculty appointments and the most recently tenured faculty members were asked to rate programs on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). Those individuals who did not know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark ‘don’t know.’ A school’s score is the average of all the respondents who rated it. Responses of ‘don’t know’ counted neither for nor against a school. About 63 percent of those surveyed responded.”

Note that there are several ties. Schools ranked 178 and below (out of 194) received a tally. There are 15 such schools, and six of them tie at 178. Why does U.S. News use data collected in 2011 for its 2013 rankings? Good question.

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