Last month, we reported on the Best Value Law School Rankings produced by National Jurist. The initial list just mentioned the publication’s “honorees,” with a promise of numerical rankings later. That day has arrived, and the magazine is ready to tell us which is the very best value for law school in 2010.

I’ve already highlighted the many problems with this list. Click here for my take.

The National Jurist attempted to address some of these concerns (I think) with the publication of its numerical rankings and grades. You tell me if its arguments are convincing…

One particular issue I had with the rankings is the somewhat arbitrary decision to rank a law school like Connecticut but exclude a law school like Yale. I wrote:

Let’s say U. Conn. Law was charging $34K, while Yale was charging $36K? Which one do you think would be a better value? It insults the intelligence of prospective law students to say that there is an arbitrary tuition figure beyond which the law school isn’t a good deal. Don’t get me wrong — there might well be some point beyond which no law school, no mater how well-respected and prestigious, is a good value. In fact, for all we know, the cost of legal education might already be well beyond that point.

But if there is a price point beyond which legal education ceases to have value, it’s not an arbitrary point…

The National Jurist doesn’t directly address that point, but it comes up with a different reason for excluding Yale Law School from its value judgment:

For example, The University of Connecticut’s tuition is approximately $20,000, while Yale Law School, just down the road, is more than $48,000. The median private starting salary for each school ($120,000 for UConn and $160,000 for Yale) would suggest that Yale is a better return on investment. But that is only true if the student is interested in landing a job at one of the nation’s largest law firms.

But if the student’s goal is to work in the public service, then UConn’s median starting salary is $52,000 while Yale’s is $59,000 for public service. In that case, UConn is the better value law school.

I mean, well, there you go [exasperated, Elie slinks away from computer screen and proceeds to repeatedly bash head into brick wall]. If you want to work in public interest and you get into both Yale Law School and UConn, and you think UConn is the “better value law school” for your education dollar, you deserve everything that is going to happen to you.

Whatever, clearly this list isn’t designed for those who are able to get into Yale Law School (which is too bad, since we need a true “value ranking” for all students thinking of getting themselves into six figures of debt or more). Instead, this list was designed for students like this person:

Kara Wilder, also a first year, was accepted at nine law schools she applied to and thought she wanted to leave Georgia for New York or California. But then she experienced sticker shock. Her first year at one of the other schools could have cost her more than $70,000. She chose Georgia State University instead where she thinks she can save at least $30,000 a year in expenses. She also said Georgia State was ranked at about the same level academically as other schools she was considering.

Georgia State is ranked #60 by U.S. News. So we’re not talking about some third-tier… law school. A similarly ranked law school in New York would probably be Cardozo (ranked #52) or Brooklyn (ranked #67). Both of those law schools sport tuition over $40K a year, while Georgia State is under $12K in-state.

So, there’s that. And given the dubious proposition of going to any law school right now (especially those outside the top 15), it makes sense that if you are going to go, you might as well save as much money as possible.

Providing, of course, that you want to work in Georgia for the rest of your life.

And maybe you do. With those regional considerations in mind, take a look at the top-20 Best Value law schools, according to the National Jurist:

1 Georgia State University
2 Brigham Young University , UT
3 University of Louisville
4 University of Nebraska – Lincoln
5 University of Kansas
6 University of New Mexico
7 University of Mississippi
8 Florida State University
9 University of Memphis
10 Florida International
11 University of Tennessee
12 University of South Carolina
13 Northern Illinois University
14 University of Kentucky
15 University of Georgia
16 University of Alabama
17 Texas Tech University
18 Louisiana State University
19 University of North Dakota
20 University of Florida

Congratulations to the top 20. Click over to the National Jurist to see the full grades for all of the value law schools that it honored.

Best Value Law Schools [National Jurist]

Earlier: New Rankings List ‘Best Value’ Law Schools


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