US News logo.JPGThe next group of schools in the U.S. News law school rankings have the legal education drivers clumped together more closely than cars in a NASCAR race.

To refresh your memory, here are the law schools ranked 6 through 15:

6. UC Berkeley
6. University of Chicago
8. Penn
9. Michigan
10. Duke
10. Northwestern
10. UVA
13. Cornell
14. Georgetown
15. UCLA
15. UT-Austin

We’re doing a series of open threads around the U.S. News rankings to allow you, oh glorious readers who are at or graduated from these schools, to opine on how you decided between them. We hope your wisdom will help future law school applicants in choosing between the schools in the future… unless they’re just rank slaves who choose by U.S. News slot alone. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The first question is probably the most obvious: What is the difference between a school like Chicago or Berkeley and the schools in the top five? If you want to live in Illinois or California, aren’t you much better off going to a school in the region than going to Columbia or NYU? If you got into the top five, but chose a school from this bunch instead, tell us why in the comments.

Alternatively, if you were dissed by the top five — or you chose to dis them by not applying — but you were considering multiple schools from this bunch, how did you choose?

Chicago Law students consistently feel wronged by being left out of the top five. We invite them to argue their position — or the need to increase their position — in the comments.

At least Chicago Law administrators didn’t seem to take this round of rankings personally. Take a look at how Dean David E. Van Zandt of Northwestern reacted, after the jump.


This year, Northwestern dropped to tenth in the rankings. The school is tied with Duke and UVA. In response, Dean Van Zandt sent around an email to the law school students praising Northwestern’s standing in a number of specialty areas (as ranked by U.S. News). But when it came to addressing the school’s overall ranking, the Dean had this to say:

Our reputation among academics and practitioners as measured by U.S. News is not commensurate with the increasing quality of our students, the scholarly impact of our faculty, and the expanding national and international employment of our graduates as measured by other rankings. As we have seen, reputations often lag objective results. This is especially true in a conservative field such as ours. We are clearly the most innovative of the top law schools; it takes time for innovation to be accepted and adopted by the profession. As more of our graduates have a chance to positively impact the industry throughout the world and as our faculty’s discipline-based scholarship pushes academic research and influences public policy, I am confident that our innovative model, based on feedback from the marketplace, will be recognized as the standard in legal education.

Are Northwestern’s “objective results” really so much better than those of Duke or UVA?

Arguing that you’re innovative but that the U.S. Newsers are too dense to recognize it sounds a bit petulant. But Van Zandt may be justified in making that claim. This year, Northwestern brought us the two-year JD program and it came up with one of the most “innovative” approaches to the deferred graduates problem. If the school keeps taking steps to help its graduates during these tough economic times, maybe being tied for tenth won’t seem that important.

There is another tie at 15, but that seems to have a lot more to do with Georgetown’s ability to hang onto its coveted “T-14″ spot than anything else. UCLA is a huge school with national reach. UT-Austin has brought in a Yankee Dean on fundraising steroids. But Georgetown remains.

One way of looking at the question is whether or not you want to be affiliated with an institution that is up and coming over the last decade, or one that has always been there. Georgetown’s reputation will probably resonate in the layperson’s consciousness even if UCLA or UT are able to gain two U.S. News points on them over the next couple of years.

At least on the East Coast.

But if you want to practice law where the weather is nice, maybe Georgetown hasn’t been in your “top-14″ for a little while now?

One last thing: did anybody go to Cornell? We expect the UT and UVA kids to express their pride, Berkeley and UCLA to have a surf-off or something, and the relentless Penn trolls to annoy everybody else. But sitting there at 13, again, is the little “Big Red” law school that just seems to keep on providing an excellent legal education without pissing anybody off. Are Cornell students just nicer, or is it that they don’t have internet access in Ithaca?

Earlier: Open Thread: 2010 U.S. News Law School Rankings (1-5)


comments sponsored by

465 comments (hidden for your protection) Show all comments