Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Top Ten Most Mormon Friendly Law School Point System Explained

Below is an explanation of the point system used to create the 2010 Top Ten list.

Neither Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark School of Law or the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law were considered for the top ten most "Mormon Friendly" law school list. This was not done as a slight to either school but simply to make the list more exciting. If BYU and the U had been included they would have ranked #1 and #2 respectively.

The top ten list was created to help "Mr./Mrs. Mormon Pre-Law Student" develop a better sense of what law school might be interested in attending. For the purposes of the top ten list it is assumed that the law student is married with one child.

How is "Mormon Friendly" defined? Taking the totality of the circumstances into consideration what would be the best law school for "Mr./Mrs. Mormon Pre-Law Student" to attend?

Why include the cost of living and tuition in the Top Ten list? After last year's top ten list was published several commenters expressed their opinion that the cost of attending a law school shouldn't have anything to do with how "Mormon friendly" it is. I disagree. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has taught the benefits of frugality and the heavy burden of debt for decades. In fact this is one of the reasons that tithing funds are used to subsidize the cost of tuition and some housing at Brigham Young University. This leads to my premise; the cheaper the cost of tuition + the cheaper the cost of living = less debt = Mormon friendly.

The first element measured was the number of law students REGISTERED (on the official JRCLS website) as J. Reuben Clark Law Society Members at a particular law school. Each Mormon law student was worth 2 points. George Washington School of Law had the most law students registered at 76.

The second element measured was the cost of living. The lower the cost of living the more points a particular law school received up to a maximum of 100 points. Any school that cost less than $12,000 received all 100 points. The more expensive the cost of living the less points the law school received down to 0 points. Any school that had a cost of living more than $22,000 received 0 points.

The cost of tuition was the third element measured. The less expensive the law school the more points they received up to a maximum of 100 points. The more expensive the law school the less points they received down to a minimum of 0 points. Any school that cost less than $24,000 per year received all 100 points. Any law school that cost more than $42,000 per year received 0 points. For every two thousand dollar increase in tuition a school lost 10 points.

The fourth element measured was the distance of the nearest LDS Temple to the law school. Each school started out with 100 points and lost 1 point for every mile they are from the nearest temple. For law schools more than 100 miles from the nearest LDS Temple they received 0 points.

The fifth element measured was the law school's US News and World Report Ranking. Each law school started out with 100 points and then lost 1 point for its distance from the first place. For example the law school ranked 25th in the US News and World Report Ranking would receive 75 points. Why include the US News and World Report Ranking? For good and bad the law school ranking can have a very big impact on how many job offers a graduating law student has and in what income bracket.


  1. I'm still waiting to see Suffolk on this list!

    If the average law student is assumed to be married with one child, it's also important, I think, to look at how friendly the area, in general, is to LDS couples.

  2. Interesting list. While I agree that $ is an important factor when considering law school, I still think the best advice for pre-laws (Mormon or not) is to go the best school you can get into. Almost all the top schools have strong Mormon contingents and many are very close to temples (e.g., Harvard, Chicago, Columbia, NYU, Boalt, GULC, UCLA, USC). Even if you pay more in cost of living and tuition, your job prospects go way up if you can get into these schools. If you can't get into a school in the top 25 or so on the U.S. News list, I would definitley recommend looking at the better state schools. In my opinion, it would be crazy to spend private tution to go to a lower ranked school. And, of course, BYU and Utah are both great options for relatively low tuition and good job prospects.

  3. What about the "Ms" Mormon Pre-Law students - those who have no "Mr" are still an important part of the legal community.

  4. Yes, you are absolutely correct that single female Pre-Law students/law students/ and attorneys are a very important part of the community. Also, single males are very important to our community. I didn't mean for the criteria to slight single students in any way. From my experience most (more than 51%) of LDS law students are married and have at least one kid, so I wanted the cost of living numbers to be geared toward a family instead of a single person. Simply because the cost of living for a family is much more than for a single person.

  5. This is an interesting ranking but needs work.

    1. The JRCLS site is often inaccurate. Many LDS students never register with the website, even active JRCLS members. My school had 17 LDS students and only 8 registered. This indicator is not useless, but I seriously question having it be the first indicator measured (assuming by "first" it is given the most weight, not just done first chronologically).

    A better indicator, though not perfect, is to use a list provided by BYU that the school sent me when applying to law school. I assume it is available to others and that it is produced every year. It shows the number of BYU graduates that applied to every law school in the nation, the 25%-75% range for LSAT/GPA of the students applying to each school, the number and percentage of those students accepted to each school, and the 25%-75% range for LSAT/GPA of those BYU students accepted. I understand not all undergrads attend BYU and that a law school's rating of BYU as an institution and its opinion of BYU graduates is not necessarily an indication of "best" schools for LDS students. Still, BYU is roughly 97% LDS, churns out a lot of law students, and the list is likely a much better indicator of where you'll find LDS law students than the JRCLS site. Plus, the list reveals some interesting info: the 2005 data show that Yale Law admitted zero BYU applicants, compared to significantly higher numbers at Harvard, Chicago and Stanford (numbers I can't remember off hand). Vanderbilt accepted almost 50% of BYU applicants - much higher than its average. Minnesota had a similarly high number.

    2. You said "Any school that costs less than $12,000 . . ." which sounds like a tuition measurement. I assume you meant cost of living in the school's metro area? Anyhow, a city's cost of living is important, especially for those with children. Tuition is only part of the debt. You should average the results from at least two different cost of living calculators. I used Homefair and CNN.

    I'm also curious how much weight cost of living is given vis a vis tuition. Cost of living in DC is enough to double the debt burden of a student with a child or two.

    3. Penalizing expensive schools in the manner described is over-simplistic. It almost automatically disqualifies the best law schools in the country. I agree with Anonymous above. Graduates of top schools tend to get jobs at firms that pay a lot of money. Their income to debt ratio is often much better than a graduate of a less expensive school. You could tweak your algorithm to include % of students employed within 6 months of graduating and their average salaries.

    Further, tier 1 law school students (taking out the top 14 schools) graduate on average with LESS debt than tier 2, 3, and 4 law school graduates, even though the tuition at tier 1 schools is significantly higher ( Much of this is due to scholarships. Does a school with a $40k tuition price tag that gives at least $15k scholarships to 50% of students deserve a lower rating than a school with a $33k price tag that gives $10k scholarships to 20% of its students? Scholarships make a big impact and skew the relative importance of published tuition figures.

    Instead, why not you use average debt of students and the % carrying debt? ( Seems this would better provide you with the data you want.

    Also, how you deal with public verses private tuition? Ignoring this factor either unfairly prejudices private or public schools.

    4. Our church teaches us to be frugal, but it also teaches us to excel. Which gets greater weight? Top schools are consistently top for good reason. LDS students should not shy away from the challenge, quality of education, and opportunities presented at top law schools.

    For these factors, I think these suggestions will provide better results.

  6. Ridiculous rankings. The best law school for Mormons is no different for non-Mormons, perhaps even more so. In many LDS families, the wife (or husband) stays home with the children, resulting in a single-earner home. As such, the rankings should take into consideration the likelihood of obtaining a salary that can support a family on a single income. You can't honestly tell me that someone going to Texas Tech has a better possibility of supporting his/her family than someone going to Harvard or Columbia. Rather, the Harvard student will land the top job in Texas and be able to comfortably support his/her family on a BIGLAW salary, whereas the Texas Tech graduate will be struggling to get by on $9 / hour at Taco Bell.