It’s always a little underwhelming when the Princeton Review Law School Rankings come out. Unlike U.S. News, Princeton Review ranks schools by categories instead of an all-in numerical ranking. So it’ll tell you which law school has the “best career prospects” or the “best classroom experience,” but it won’t tell you which law school is the G.O.A.T once you factor in everything.
More annoyingly, the rankings are based in large part on student surveys. Do you particularly care that students at Vanderbilt rate their career prospects slightly better than students at Harvard? ‘Cause I don’t — which is perhaps the only thing I have in common with a Supreme Court justice.
This year’s rankings seem more useless than ever before. In the initial press release, Princeton Review announced that Brown had the best law professors in the land. Brown. Apparently Princeton Review is now being written by John Grisham. Faculty Lounge captured a screen shot of the initial inaccurate release (now corrected).
But rankings are rankings, and it’s always fun to discuss them. I mean, Princeton Review has U. Penn Law rated as the law school with the best career prospects. I’d ask Penn grad Marin what she thinks about that, but she’s busy pushing a shopping cart full of cans to the grocery store to augment her ATL pay.
Let’s take a look at some of these lists. Hilarity is sure to ensue….
Paul Caron at Tax Prof Blog gives us a peek at the top five schools from a number of categories (the full Princeton Review list is here, but it’s behind a subscription wall). Here are some highlights from the lists people care most about:
Best Career Prospects: Based on the Career Rating.
That’s the list people should care most about. But there will always be people who focus more on this next list before going to law school, because they think it’s like summer camp:
Best Quality of Life: Based on student assessment of whether there is a strong sense of community at the school, how aesthetically pleasing the law school is, the location of the law school, the quality of the social life, classroom facilities, and the library staff.
4. St. Thomas (Miami)
My favorite lists this year shed light on a debate that Lat and I had a little while ago. We asked if law schools are too liberal (and if so, whether it’s a problem). This year, I was particularly interested in Princeton Review’s lists for the most liberal and conservative student bodies:
Most Liberal Students: Based on student assessment of the political bent of the student body at large.
2. District of Columbia
Most Conservative Students: Based on student assessment of the political bent of the student body at large.
1. George Mason
4. Ave Maria
It’s somewhat comforting that none of the top schools merited top five placement among the most liberal or conservative student bodies. Education, especially elite education, has a lot to do with diversity of thought and processing ideas and information from people with whom you may disagree. I might spend a lifetime disagreeing with Justice Scalia, for instance, but there’s no doubt that he is a great jurist everybody can learn from. Let CUNY and BYU cater to only groups of like-minded students. At schools like Yale and Chicago, they know that admitting law students from the other side of the political aisle benefits all students. And somebody needs to be laughed at and shunned at parties, right?
Tell us what else you noticed from the rankings. Or tell us more about your experiences at Brown Law.
P.S. If Princeton Review hadn’t fixed their press release and a bunch of legal bloggers pretended that Brown had a law school, and if we could get U.S. News in on the joke, how many students do you think would apply to the class of 2014 at Brown Law School? One thousand? Two thousand? How many students would apply to an Ivy League law school that does not exist, based on nothing more than some commercially produced rankings and a few fleeting internet references? The fact that you can’t rule out this possibility tells you everything you need to know about prospective law students, legal education, and why things are so terrible right now for young lawyers.
Law School Rankings [Princeton Review]
Princeton Review Ranking: Brown University Law School Profs Are #1 [Faculty Lounge]
Princeton Review’s Best 172 Law Schools (2011 Edition) [Tax Prof Blog]