Biglaw, Law Schools, Vault rankings

Because the World Needs More Law School Ranking Systems: Say Hello to the Vault Top 25

Vault Top 25 Law Schools Vault Law School Rankings Above the Law blog.jpgThere are already about a half-dozen major law school ranking schemes out there. So why not create one more?
The folks over at Vault, already famous for their super-influential law firm rankings, have tried their hand at ranking law schools. Not surprisingly, given Vault’s focus on the world of large law firms, even their law-school rankings are Biglaw-centric. From the press release:

Vault solicited employers’ points of view by surveying law firms across the country on which schools produce the best associates. With 58% of law school graduates entering private practice, and no other firm-determined rankings, Vault’s law school rankings fill an important gap with their emphasis on employability.

Nearly 400 hiring partners, associate interviewers and professional recruiting staff rated law schools on a scale from 1-10 based on how well their graduates are prepared to achieve success in the firm environment.

The Vault top 10 law schools, plus links and commentary, after the jump.

Here are Vault’s top 10 law schools (with each school’s 2008 U.S. News ranking in parentheses, for comparison [FN1]):

1. Stanford University Law School (2)
2. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Law School (8)
3. New York University School of Law (4)
4. University of Virginia School of Law (10)
5. University of Chicago Law School (6)
6. Harvard Law School (2)
7. Columbia Law School (5)
8. University of California, Berkeley – Boalt Hall School of Law (8)
9. Northwestern University School of Law (12)
10. Yale Law School (1)

In case you’re wondering, the two members of the USNWR top 10 that aren’t in the Vault top 10 are U. Penn. (#6) and Duke (#10). Penn and Duke appear on the Vault list at #13 and #12, respectively.
To see Vault’s entire top 25, click here. A tipster quips: “All I know is that it sucks to be paying tuition at either Harvard (#6) or Yale (#10) right about now.” [FN2]
Here’s the reaction of one reader who’s a little skeptical:

Lot of stuff going on in this list. I think the big thing is the fall of Harvard, Columbia and Yale. Also, Michigan bumped to number 2 is weird, especially since it’s always been considered well below the usual suspects. The NYU thing is bogus….

And here’s a response from a reader with more enthusiasm for the Vault rankings (but some reservations as well):

My initial reaction was, “Why the hell do we need another set of rankings?” But after thinking about it I realized that unlike other alternatives to the USNWR rankings, such as Cooley’s, Vault is reputable; it’s like the US News of firm rankings. Firms care about Vault because they want to know where they stand and how law students and clients perceive them. Law students care about Vault because they want to know how their firms stack up.

To say the least: Vault’s law school rankings can’t be brushed off as bulls**t the way some other rankings can. Basically, I think if US News started ranking firms, people would pay attention. Likewise, people will eventually pay attention to the Vault law school rankings (more so than they pay attention to Leiter’s or Cooley’s).

All that being said, any rankings that put too many factors above GPA and LSAT averages of the incoming class seem pretty sketch to me. If the students a school accepts are dumb, the lawyers the school puts out will also be dumb. It follows that the smartest and most able lawyers would come out of the schools with the highest LSAT and GPA averages. The Vault rankings do not reflect that at all.

In the end I think schools like Wisconsin, UNC, Iowa, and Indiana (that otherwise aren’t really “players” in the US News rankings of top schools) should at least be using these as a selling point on their websites.

And much more importantly, I think this once and for all settles the BU/BC debate!

[Ed. note: Boston University School of Law is #21 on the Vault list. Boston College Law School does not appear.]

ATL readers, the floor is yours. Are the Vault law school rankings fundamentally sound or ultimately dubious? Students / graduates, did your law school get a fair shake from the Vault crew? Denizens of Biglaw, do you agree that the schools on this list produce the best associates?
Please discuss, in the comments. Thanks.
[FN1] The 2009 U.S. News rankings will be appearing very soon, on or about March 29, 2008.
[FN2] Truth be told, we’re actually impressed that our alma mater cracked the top 10, since this list is focused on which law schools best prepare graduates for law firm life. When it comes to training future law professors, Yale Law School can’t be beat. But future law firm partners? Not YLS’s strong suit.
Of course, many Yale Law grads have gone on to become partners at top law firms and leaders in their fields. E.g., David Boies, Floyd Abrams. But it can’t be denied that YLS skews more towards the academic than the practical.
Top 25 Law Schools [Vault]
Stanford Students #1 Firm Favorites [Centre Daily Times ( press release)]

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments