On many law school discussion boards pre-law students, and law students alike, puff up their cheeks and argue 'til they're blue about which law schools are truly the "best in the nation."
Every March US News World Report ranks the top law schools. I've been aware of and attentive to the rankings since 1995.
Many experts and professionals far more accomplished and well-versed than I have already written numerous articles/opinions on this topic. I ought to stop holding you in suspense and mention upfront that I agree - US News ain't all that hot.
For law school applicants it can be useful in determining, "Which law schools do I have a shot at?" However, beyond this, I'm hesitant to say that the rankings are any more meaningful.
US News gives significant weight (25%) to LSAT score and GPA. So the school with the highest LSAT score and GPA is more likely to rank higher. Most law school applicants stop here and think, "High LSAT score and GPA equals higher rank, and higher rank equals better job opportunity." But this is exactly where the rankings get interesting and, to say the very least, controversial.
According to both Prof. Leiter's rankings and Ciolli's (a law student at UPenn) research, law schools with the best big law firm placements (the jobs most pre-law students are vying for) do not correlate with US News rankings. [BTW, Professor Leiter and Anthony Ciolli otherwise disagree with each other)
Besides biglaw firm jobs, pre-law students also strive for jobs in academia and public service (i.e. court clerkship, NGO, etc.). US News rankings don't correlate with these figures either.
But of course, "US News ranks schools by prestige!" - if prestige equals high LSAT score and GPA, then sure that's exactly what US News does. The last time I checked, however, prestige was based on factors more intangible than concrete LSAT score and GPA. Which is more prestigious, Princeton Law or Columbia Law? UCLA or NYU?
Princeton law will be most laymen's response to the former question. UCLA or NYU (despite their relative rankings) is up for grabs depending on weather you're from the west coast or east coast.
"Best" can be very subjective. Any intelligent pre-law student should realize this and understand that US News rankings are not the end-all conclusive revelation of truth, but a mere beginning to her journey in deciding the best law school for her.
A current law student at Boston University once told me that going to law school is like joining an exclusive club, so don't take other people's/publication's word for it, check it out yourself.
Oh yeah, and FYI, Princeton does not have a law school.