It’s time for us to discuss the third tier law schools. Every year, U.S. News ranks the top 100 law schools, and then throws everybody else into the third tier morass (which is better than the fourth tier morass, I suppose).

We won’t list them all, but you can click here to check them out.

One could argue that the legal profession would be better if there were just 100 ABA accredited law schools (as opposed to 200). One could argue that we should have very different kinds of law schools: a top 100 that caters to Biglaw, big time clerkships, and elite legal work, and another “tier” of law schools that better prepares graduates for small law and the kind of low cost legal services we need more of.

One cannot credibly argue that the price of these third tier institutions should be similar to the first and second tier schools we’ve previously discussed.

But don’t try to get the administration at these schools to reduce the cost of the education just because the debts put their graduates in a bad financial situation…

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t necessarily have a problem with the existence of third tier law schools. The world needs plenty of lawyers. There are numerous under served people in need of legal help. And a few lucky third tier graduates will rise to the top and make Biglaw money.

Sadly, the fact that a lucky few students will earn Biglaw money doesn’t come close to justifying the ridiculous tuition for all. And the debt that many of these students put themselves in cuts against the social utility these schools could offer. Do these schools create an army of publicly minded lawyers who go out and work for poor clients or important causes? Or do they create even more med mal lawyers who have to scrap and grift in order to make ends meet while carrying a huge debt load?

I mean, check out the U.S. News reported tuition at some of these law schools:

Albany Law School: $39,050 per year
Mercer University: $34,330 per year
New York Law School: $44,800 per year
Quinnipiac University: $40,780 per year
University of St. Thomas: $34,756 per year
Vermont Law School: $40,420 per year

$40,000 to go to law school in Vermont, people! How the hell are you supposed to do good work for indigent sap tappers when you’re starting out $120K in the hole?

I know, some people one this thread will claim that they got into one of these schools with a full ride, graduated with no debt, and now work at a Vault 20 law firm. Good for you, you are special and awesome and far more intelligent than everybody else in the history of the world.

But what about the rest of your classmates? Because these schools seem to use the success stories of the few to fleece the many. I don’t care how many people claim they’ve successfully employed the rhythm method, it’s still a bad strategy, writ large.

If you have the opportunity to go to one of these schools while paying full freight, just know that you are taking a huge financial risk. It could pay off, I suppose it’s a marginally better investment than $100K worth of lottery tickets. Marginally.

Earlier: Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (1 – 5)
Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (6 – 15)
Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (17 – 28)
Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (34 – 48)
Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (52 – 72)
Open Thread: 2011 U.S. News Law School Rankings (78 – 100)


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