My mother always said that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
Wait a minute. She never said that. Instead, my mother said: “Using spellcheck instead of committing to learn the basic rules of phonics is really going to come back and bite you in the ass one day.”
With that in mind (the nice thing, not the phonics thing), I bring you the Fourth Tier Law schools — according to the U.S. News law school rankings. Check out the full list of fourth tier law schools here.
When we discussed the third tier, many commenters argued that going to one of those schools and graduating in the top of your class still allows you to access many of the glories of Biglaw, without crushing educational debt.
Does that argument hold up for fourth tier schools?
Let’s take a look at goals after the jump.
One common rallying cry that I’ve heard from graduates of third and fourth tier schools is that “I could kick your Ivy League educated ass in court.” Of this I have no doubt. The same logical holds true when it comes to bar fights.
So you have to remember the goals that one has coming into a fourth tier law school. A lot of top tier graduates don’t want or expect to practice law as it is shown on television courtroom dramas. But many people do, and a fourth tier legal education prepares you to do that. If you want to play college basketball, receive great exposure, and have a shot of winning an NCAA championship every year, you go to Duke. But if you just want to turn professional as soon as humanly possible (and makes some money on the side while waiting for your pro pay-day) USC will do just fine.
The problem — if any — faced by fourth tier graduates is summed up by this commenter:
It’s hard to escape your credentials. really f***** up business.
There are some employers, rightly or wrongly, who simply won’t give you a shot if you went to a fourth tier school.
I think the problem is that laypeople, purchasers of legal services, know very little about what makes a good lawyer “good” and what makes a bad lawyer “bad.” My doctor is good. How do I know? I’m still alive. My investment consultant is good. He makes me a lot of money. But most people don’t really understand what lawyers actually do, and it makes it almost impossible for them to grasp subtle differences in quality and skill. Lawyers are essentially selling the ability to think better — more clearly, more logically, whatever — than the other lawyers down the street. That is a really hard thing to prove.
So they (and thus “we” as a profession) default to things like “prestige.” I’m a good lawyer. Why? Because I went to a T-14. But the guy who went to Suffolk just won the case. Doesn’t matter, my brief was better and the judge got it wrong. How do I know? Because I went to a T-14.
It’s a neat little bit of totally circular logic. There is very little objective proof, only perceived competence.
Some of these fourth tier grads are going to be fabulously wealthy. Others are going to be very happy with their work. It rarely actually matters what law school you went to.
But when it does, it matters a lot.
Earlier: Open Thread: 2010 U.S. News Law School Rankings (1-5)
Open Thread: 2010 U.S. News Law School Rankings (The Third Tier)