ABA Journal


Law Schools

Is your law school outperforming its US News academic reputation ranking? Or falling short of it?

Dec 17, 2013, 11:00 pm CST


I personally don't know a single person who thinks the U.S. News ratings are a genuine reflection of anything but a law school's PR and entrenched name.

By Anonymous on 2013 12 18, 2:16 pm CST

Hear hear! We have two schools in my midwestern state; one usually ranks in the top third, one is always ranked below 100. Knowing graduates from both, the "better" school folks usually have a harder uphill pull on practical knowledge after school, and a number of graduates from the "better" school have commented to me on how our "lower tier" school better prepared us for real practice. Our state supreme court and other judges are a mix of people who graduated from both schools (and other schools in smaller proportions). The rankings are, as many people know, simply bull-honkey.

By RecentGrad on 2013 12 18, 2:33 pm CST

This is a great question, because it's like the glamour investment consultants sell. If your investments only lose 6% while "the benchmark" was to lose 8%, you should be happy and pay some jackwagon for that result. WOO HOO!!!!

By B. McLeod on 2013 12 20, 9:04 am CST

A 2010 deans' report published by the Law School Admissions Council stated what any thoughtful person should be able to discern on their own: “None of us has adequate knowledge about more than a tiny handful of law schools so as to permit us, with confidence, to compare them with each other.”

By Tom Field on 2013 12 20, 11:51 am CST

@agreed. What does "performance" mean anyway? Because someone is earning $1M a year versus someone doing public interest work at $65K a year? Because of political connections and one lands a judicial appointment, or gets elected because of some 'hot button' issue in a year the electoral turnout is 15%?

By The Jet on 2013 12 20, 2:42 pm CST

Law schools should be assessed on how well they train students to be lawyers. The notion of the law school as an academic institution in the research sense misconceives the central purpose of the institution, and disregards what the students are or ought to be paying for.

By John on 2013 12 20, 3:08 pm CST

I went to what some would describe as a "third tier" law school at night when I was well into middle age. I worked a blue collar job during the day. I did not know any lawyers, except for a few guys I went to high school with many years before. I passed the bar exam on the second try. Since 2001, I have put on 52 trials, and won most of them; far more than anybody in my law school section. I have been appointed as a hearing officer by the Bar Supervisory Board of my state, and no, I did not have a political sponsor or "know" anybody of influence. There is a law school in our state that is state accredited only, and the graduates of that law school pass the state bar exam as much any others. And many of the graduates of this "State accredited only" law school have become fine lawyers! Once you are sworn in, unless your law school is an Ivy League school with a bullet proof network, you're on your own, and it becomes: "By their fruits shall ye know them."

By JohnSmith on 2013 12 20, 3:35 pm CST

I'm thinking of setting up an experiment with the US News rankings if I can get the ABA to give me provisional accreditation for an experimental law school based entirely on statistics. We will only admit one student per year, and assuming we can snag someone with top will credentials who is willing to pioneer the concept, we will have a fabulous median for undergraduate grades and LSAT scores with nobody to weigh down the curve. If we convince a few thousand people to apply by making it cheap to do so on line, and only admit one of them, our selectivity scores will be off the charts. By creatively using the application fees, we should also be able to keep tuition low for the person who actually gets in, or at least provide them with substantial financial aid if that scores us more points in the rankings.

In terms of faculty, if we just hire one qualified person to teach each course on a contract basis, our faculty/student ratio will be a multiple rather than the usual fraction, and as long as we rent a nice conference suite with lots of electronic goodies and access to the internet and on-line research, we should be able to report that our student body and faculty are well supplied with generous space and modern technology. Maybe I could just rent the classroom and faculty office space in a major bar library building, in which case we could get over the issue of how many volumes we had available for our lone student, which is one place where we might have a problem establishing or credentials in the ranking.

The real proof of concept would have to occur in the placement department, which would essentially require me to get a friend in the profession to commit to hire one graduate each year and help me "outplace" them so they could stay employed for the requisite measuring periods to assure that we had a 100% rating for employment in the legal profession. With a virtual guarantee of employment, our retention and graduation rates would also be 100%, and starting with one high caliber student a year and giving them personal attention (as we would never have more than three at a time), our bar pass and admission rates should also be 100%.

Of course, while the idea of a "micro" law school would give us definite statistical advantages, I haven't had a chance to fully delve into those statistical anomalies which might unfairly downgrade us at the expense of the larger and more established schools. The lack of historical data will definitely be an issue, and with no alumni and only a few students admitted, I don't think that we will be able to amass a major endowment unless we hire a development officer from one of those shadowy Eastern European internet companies that knows how to accumulate electronic wealth quickly and convert it into an exchangeable currency without raising too many questions. However, I am confident that by carefully studying the parameters used by US News, and if needed, and hiring as a consultant the kind of mathematical genius who helped the ratings agencies figure out how to get investment grade securities out of junk mortgage portfolios, I could quickly create the most prestigious law school in the history of America.

Look out Harvard, here comes the future!

By Old Dog on 2013 12 20, 3:58 pm CST

Half of the DA's in my county went to a local, uncredited school for their degree. Graduating from a top-20 school has its perks. But if you're a degenerate, big-headed jerk you're not going to excel in face to face negotiations or a courtroom setting. You'll draft the best motions of all time, and then have the judge throw his gavel at you while you try to argue them.

By You call this coffee!? on 2013 12 20, 6:23 pm CST

I cannot understand why the ABA pays any attention to the bogus ratings of this magazine.

By Judge Chuck Edelstein(Ret.) on 2013 12 20, 8:46 pm CST

Great mention for Cumberland!

By Cumberland Alum on 2013 12 20, 11:06 pm CST

@JohnSmith...if you are willing to share....exactly how old were you when you decided to go to law school? Been toying with the idea but think I've missed my "peak".

By Gypsywoman on 2013 12 21, 1:29 am CST

I was 49 when I started law school - and not the oldest in my section by a long shot!

By John Smith on 2013 12 21, 2:19 am CST

KU and Washburn are both good schools. Neither has an advantage over the other in terms of "better preparing" a student for practice. What the heck does that mean, anyway?

By Pogo on 2013 12 24, 7:15 pm CST

Which one of those is "usually ranked top third"?

By B. McLeod on 2013 12 24, 11:10 pm CST

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