Welcome Texas!

As you are all know, the University of Texas School of Law has moved into the “top 14″ in this year’s U.S. News law school rankings. It’s a bit of cheat for U.S. News: Texas is technically tied for 14th, which means that the magazine has actually managed to cram 15 schools into its top 14. I’d complain more, but I’m a fan of a Big (We Can’t Count To) Ten school.

While we all know that Texas is in the top 14, very few of you remember the significance of the top 14 in the first place. The top 14 isn’t as arbitrary as it sounds. Since U.S. News started publishing these law school rankings, no school that ranked in the inaugural top 14 has ever been ranked outside of the top 14, and no school that did not rank in the top 14 that first year has ever cracked that list. Until now.

The top 14 has been a way to distinguish elite institutions that are nearly interchangeable with one another from really good law schools that are just a cut below. When viewed that way, Texas’s inclusion was probably long overdue.

Let’s take a look at some of the other movement in this rarefied group of law schools….

To refresh your memory, here are the schools that ranked #7 to #14 in the 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings:

7. Michigan
7. Penn
9. Berkeley
9. UVA
11. Duke
12. Northwestern
13. Cornell
14. Georgetown
14. Texas

This list looks like it is supposed to, which is probably why the list looks like it does. The power of circular thinking and self-fulfilling logic should never be underestimated.

Do you think any of these schools belong in the elite group of the top six? Who gets bumped? Do you think Penn would bump NYU if Penn were located in New York City instead of Happy Valley West Philly?

In this group, the big mover isn’t Texas, it’s Michigan. Michigan went up two spots, while Berkeley fell two spots. Why? Well, to be honest, I haven’t the faintest idea. I do know that if you get into Berkeley and Michigan and choose to go to Michigan based solely on its higher U.S. News ranking, you are an idiot. You want a more relevant number to base your decision on than U.S. News rank? How about this one: 61. That’s the average temperature (in Fahrenheit) for Berkeley, California, in March. You want to know Ann Arbor’s number? 45 degrees. If that’s not worth two U.S. News spots, you need to get out more.

I don’t have anything bad to say about any of the law schools on this list. They all could be cheaper, but they all put you in a good position to actually get a return on your massive investment in legal education. If you are choosing between schools on this list, you’ve got good problems. Just try to make your decision based on personal factors, and not the small difference in ranking between these institutions.

Your thoughts on these fine institutions are welcome, in the comments to this open thread.

Earlier: Open Thread: 2012 U.S. New Law School Rankings (1 – 6)


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