ABA Journal


Law Schools

Yale tops blog’s alternative law school rankings; focus is on schools delivering quality jobs

May 2, 2013, 01:03 pm CDT


I wish someone would do a list of rankings for the "other half" - i.e. the majority of law students who aren't in the running for a SCOTUS clerkship. The problem I have with ATL's rankings is that it basically pre-supposes that anyone who isn't in the running for big law or SCOTUS clerkship is going to fail at life and not be able to pay off loans. I know a lot of small firm and solo practitioners who make a solid living and can, eventually, pay off their loans. Some of them are doing VERY well, actually. Seeing rankings for the rest of the world would be a refreshing change, not a repackaging of the "which elite school is best" methodology. Especially because the "new" ATL rankings, as many commentors on that site pointed out, don't include federal clerkships other than SCOTUS, state Supreme Court clerkships, and similar jobs as "quality jobs." My state has two law schools - one which made the ATL list and one that didn't. I graduated from the one that didn't, but I was just as competitive for those jobs in state, and MANY (possibly even most) of those jobs went to students from the NON-ATL RANKED SCHOOL. My analysis: the "new" method of ranking isn't that different from the old method, and people need to also look at WHERE they want to practice - the big national school might not do you much good if the jobs in your state capitol (where you want to practice) tend to go to people who graduated from the local school.

By RecentGrad on 2013 05 02, 1:34 pm CDT

It is not that YOU or any other law graduate of school not listed above is less competent. It simply emphasizes the point: you got to go top ten if you want to survive.

Same cases; same casebooks. Same teaching method. Profs from same law schools.

The entire legal education model must be reformed.

By @ 2 on 2013 05 02, 6:33 pm CDT

@ 2: " The entire legal education model must be reformed."

True. But changing educational methods is only part of the the issue. You can be the smartest student in the ivy league and still be too socially deficient or immature to be trusted with clients. Encouraging potential employers to value something besides school ties, fraternities, and g.p.a.s will take some doing.

By BMF on 2013 05 02, 8:01 pm CDT

It's simply a terrible time to go to law school right now. Years of unsustainable growth (in hiring and salaries) from many of the larger law firms have finally come to a head, and the legal market is awful.

That said, the idea that you have to go to a Top Ten law school to survive is just plain silliness. Enjoy your $250,000 in student loan debt, or choose carefully and find a good law school in the 20-50 range in the U.S. News rankings.

By UGA on 2013 05 03, 10:11 am CDT

There is so much of the work new lawyers do that paralegals can do better and cheaper that the use of paralegals should increase. A competent paralegal working under the direction of an attorney can effectively do research, preliminary drafting, interview clients and be an extraordinary asset for a law firm.

Educated paralegals have deserved reputations for handling the nitty gritty detailed work of law firms such as management of huge quantities of document through computer applications, estate accounting and management, detailing involved in bankruptcy cases and developing facts in cases all under the direction of attorneys. What is most significant paralegals can rapidly be productive because the paralegal education is based on learning the tasks required to be effective in support the work of the law.

It is often more practical for a firm to higher paralegals rather than law students who well be more expensive and not productive as quickly as the educated and dedicated paralegal.

Paralegals are valuable assets to law firms that are often preferable to have as employees as compared to lawyers.

By larry on 2013 05 03, 11:07 am CDT

Of course there's little difference in the outcomes: hiring decisions reflect exactly the same misguided view of rank embedded in years of USNews publications and the same largely unwarranted faith that published rank equals quality.
"Above the Law" is in essence discarding as "unreliable" a myth and replacing it with the "more reliable" testimony of the myth's adherents.
Perhaps these folks could stand a little quality legal education themselves (unless they're above that)--or maybe just a little common sense.

By Andrej Starkis on 2013 05 03, 11:34 am CDT

Finally, a ranking system that's different and makes sense? Why are results so much like U.S. News? Since I didn't go to one of those top schools, I can't figure it out.

By sambuhls on 2013 05 03, 12:47 pm CDT

The legal profession needs to take care of its own. Most who go to the top schools deserve it - others get admitted by less than honest means and sterling intelligence. To exclude a new lawyer from any job because of where he/she went to law school is absurd really. I know a number of extremely intelligent, competent, lawyers who went to schools of which I was unaware even existed. @ larry - Maybe paralegals are cheaper - hard to believe given the crappy starting salaries some firms offer new licensees - but surely they know more and could be more useful. I would hope they would know the word for being offered employment is "hire," not "higher." But, I suppose if the partner responsible for recruiting isn't smarter than that, it really doesn't matter if they hire paralegals or new lawyers - their work product is likely to be the same.

By whoknows on 2013 05 03, 1:14 pm CDT

I offer some comfort to those who can't hang a diploma from a distinguished school on the walls of their office: first, there are much better uses to put the wall space; the diplomas will look like amateurish displays and pretentious; second, in a then secondary legal market but with a fast emerging law firm of reputation and rapid growth, the first resumes that hit the trash were from Yale, Harvard, and Stanford; it was a long standing joke that what ever was being taught was useless and whoever was attending the classes seemed slight prospects for success, and finally and most telling, the local business paper once listed the forty most powerful and influential individuals in the state (by now we are no longer a secondary market, having pretty much outstripped most all others) and maybe one was one was an attorney with a modest résumé with the rest sporting no school, if not local, you would recognize or much regard or any at all, having jumped from high school or a few courses in community college to power and prominence. I guess I could hang my Princeton degree but I have long ago lost it.

By Bruce May on 2013 05 03, 2:15 pm CDT

Rankings? Again? Can't we find any other means of convincing ourselves and others that we're superior from the rest of you schlubs and rubbing it in your noses? I passed the bar, didn't I? I kick your buttocks in court, don't I? I got you sanctioned for misconduct in court, didn't I? I get paid more that you, don't I? And yet you're still better than me because you went to a "better" law school?

By LawJake on 2013 05 03, 2:36 pm CDT

And what a dramatic historical impact these Top Ten Hits have had. The Supreme Court has for the past 40 years (at least) been bolstering the power of the corporations and the State against the individual, refusing to do away with the worthless death penalty, restricting fundamental rights and slowly corroding the expansion of rights from the past. Maybe it's time to break the spell of the Ivies in Washington.

By P.J.Lyon on 2013 05 03, 3:19 pm CDT

Here, Here @ LawJake!! Testify!!

By whoknows on 2013 05 03, 3:35 pm CDT

Perhaps I misunderstood the comments of Bruce May #9, but Princeton doesn't have a law school.

By G. Joseph Pierron on 2013 05 03, 3:53 pm CDT

You did miss the point by a wide margin. Yes, Princeton does not have either a law school, business school, medical school nor many others at the graduate level. As I understood it, Princeton was and remains a college devoted to the quality of the undergraduate education, and at the time it evaluated what it could contribute at the graduate level, concluded that other schools of excellent reputation and resources had filled those needs. There were other select disciplines to which it could add value and further enhance the undergraduate programs, and those it chose to pursue.
My comment may have been too flip: it was merely intended to express further, after 30 years of successful practice, what little a diploma signifies hanging on an office wall. For those tempted to offer comments, I ask that you resist. I have a busy day, and it was foolish to join in this dialogue.

By bruce may on 2013 05 03, 4:54 pm CDT

So, let's summarize the comments:

1. Anecdotal: I know like ... lots... of people who ____ and didn’t even go to a well ranked institution.
2. Populist: Elites! Exclusivity! Meritocracy! Revolution! (with a smattering of "Hey, did you know that they arent actually even all that smart?")
3. Paranoid: It’s the SYSTEM mannnn.... THINK about it... rankings, SCOTUS, BigLaw… They’re all in on it together mannnnn...
4. BruceMay: Name dropping your elite school is for pretentious losers who no one cares about. Trust me, I went to PRINCETON. (where they taught us that punctuation is subjective and unnecessary, and that run on sentences strengthen internally inconsistent arguments)

Awesome. None of you sound like people trying to rationalize thier own shortcomings in an anonymous public space at all... [chants] lets go confirmation bias, lets go!

By YSH175 on 2013 05 03, 5:19 pm CDT

@5 Iarry: I understand your point about paralegals, but-- Prior to getting my law degree I obtained my paralegal certificate. When I interviewed I was told that really my position would be that of a secretary. If I wanted to call myself a paralegal I could, but the duties would be secretarial with some paralegal thrown in. When I tried outside my immediate area, which would entail a 1-2 hour commute I was told that they had sufficient candidates without a commute to interview. So eventually I went to law school. Now as an attorney, I have to agree, much of what any paralegal would do would be secretarial work in my current firm. The problem is simply. Attorneys are just not that valuable. Much of what we do can be completed by a reasonably intelligent individual.

By Amy on 2013 05 03, 5:28 pm CDT

Oh, and it is not the responsibility of my law school to find me a job or to develop a job market. It is their responsibility to provide me with the best possible opportunity for education. Profs, library, clinics etc. They need to discovery what the legal markets are doing and what they want and provide the students with those materials. It was my job as a student to take full advantage of those opportunities.

By Amy on 2013 05 03, 5:55 pm CDT

"7.5 percent on the percentage of grads in the federal judiciary." Why? Seems to create a barrier for entry for lower ranked schools by judging them on past performance.

By Comment on 2013 05 03, 6:44 pm CDT

YSH175, those are fighting words. I don't believe for a moment that you are a product of a Princeton education. Please fax me a copy of your diploma at 602-495-5923. Too cowardly for that? Then tell me: What was your graduating class? Did you graduate with the class or not at all? What was your major? What was the topic of your senior thesis? Who was your advisor? Honors? Who are these professors who are given to those pronouncements concerning punctuation and the logic, or lack thereof, of run on sentences? Please explain in simple declarative sentences what you mean or are incoherent, ad hominem screeds the accepted method of discourse on the campus now? How could you possibly reach the conclusion that Mr. May's reference to his Princeton degree is the expression of a "pretentious loser"? His words seemed measured and offered with good intent. And yet you can't resist the temptation yourself to assert that you "went to Princeton" (on a high school trip?) Do you know Mr. May? A 'loser"? Again, I assume that, without the corruption of confirmation bias, you have some verifiable, factual basis. I take it that "confirmation bias" is the code or buzz word now--the ultimate retort to a reasoned argument.

Or, I think I get it now, your point is that each of the comments you critique is based on a "confirmation bias" that leads the commentator to believe that a Top Ten degree is not needed, with you free to so claim because you have one. Do you? Are you an attorney admitted before a recognized State or Federal Bar? Do you have a legal practice? I would hope not as fervently as I hope you are not a Princeton graduate. Would you have the courage to share an appropriately redacted brief with me to demonstrate that you are not what you seem to be? The commentators had to suffer your abuse. Prove yourself. Take me on. I don't think you will, and I can be left with the satisfaction of calling you out while you hide behind the curtains.

By Taking on the Challenge on 2013 05 03, 9:41 pm CDT

The challenges as they self-present:
1.Reading comprehension: I didn't attend Princeton. See "summarize."
2. False choice: Most people don't fax angry-internet-people personally identifying documents, cowards or otherwise.
3. Ad homenim: See "summarize." (And then remember that arguments attacking an individual as a proxy for thier reasoning constitute this type of informal fallacy, not pointing out poor writing mechanics)
4. Practicing attorney, am I one?: See 3. Ad Homenim... and "irony."
5. Satisfaction: See "trolling" and "I can't get no;"

Relax. Its the internet. No one cares that you didnt go to a top school, except perhaps maybe you.

By YSH175 on 2013 05 04, 5:18 am CDT

Comment removed by moderator.

By Taking on the Challenge on 2013 05 04, 2:35 pm CDT


1. "Rules of the internet that entitle": Literally - res ipsa loquitur.
2. Things you can't figure out, cont.: How not to out yourself online. A tip: when pretending to be a third party defending yourself "Mr. May... His words seemed measured" [comment 19] don't use amalgams of your own office fax and phone lines to taunt people.
3. Comment policy: (see link above) "Don’t use profanity or resort to name-calling, threats or personal attacks.... And don’t masquerade as someone you’re not." See "One word" "deadly" and "Game Over"
4. One word from the likes of whom?: Since I'm not planning on renting mall space for a Cinnabon in suburban Phoenix, I'm not super worried. Thanks for the warning.

Does ivy wither when you plant it in Oregon? Nothing like peaking in undergrad...

P.S. Kollwitz is wholly uninspired, invest in Richter.

By YSH175 on 2013 05 04, 7:06 pm CDT

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