Last week, we received our 4,000th response to the ATL School & Firm Insider Survey. (Please take it here, if you haven’t yet). Approximately half of our respondents are current law students, and in the wake of the U.S. News rankings release and the resultant hullabaloo, we thought it would be interesting to compare how the vaunted T14 stack up based on our own survey feedback.

The ATL survey asks students to rate their schools in five different categories:

  • Quality of faculty and academic instruction;
  • Practical / clinical training for the practice of law;
  • Career counseling and job search help;
  • Financial aid advising; and
  • Social life.

After the jump, we’ll look at how the elite schools compare….

All of the rankings below are based on our own survey data and reflect the perceptions and opinions of the students themselves, without any external inputs or considerations. The numerical scores are the percentage of respondents who told us they were “Very Satisfied” or “Satisfied” with their schools in a particular area.

In the Academic Quality category, the T14 rated as follows:

Penn Law takes the top spot, with one current student raving about the school’s “incredible faculty” (although he snarks about his “fairly pretentious and over-privileged” classmates). But Penn’s performance is not what is striking about this list — that would be Yale’s bringing up the rear. Perhaps YLS students, having met the highest standards all their academic careers, are holding their institution to a slightly higher bar?

Northwestern Law’s reputation for the excellence of its clinical curriculum comports with our survey data. As one student puts it: “If you want hands-on experience, instead of wasting time in doctrinal classes, this is the best school for that.”

Columbia Law took the top spot for Career Counseling and Job Search Help. According to one CLS 2L: “While the standard career path for a Columbia grad is to work at a large law firm, there are a lot of options for public interest, and the debt program is excellent.”

Speaking of Columbia, do the students there get a bad rap? The school came out on top in the Social Life rankings, despite what people might expect. As one student informs us: “Columbia’s douchey reputation is unwarranted. People here are surprisingly great. Who knew?”

Finally, no one school really distinguished itself in the Financial Aid Advising category, with Penn having the highest of a set of generally “meh” scores.

The composition, if not the precise order, of the T14 has been close to invariable over the last decade (the notable exception being Texas, who crashed the party to tie at No. 14 in 2011.) However, there has been real volatility at number 15, with UCLA, Texas, and Vanderbilt all claiming at least a piece of that spot since 2009.

So tell us, which of these three schools should rightfully claim — and maintain — the fifteenth position? Wouldn’t it be nice to lose the awkward “T14” tier for something closer to a round number? Vote for a permanent number 15 (UCLA, Texas, Vanderbilt, or your write-in) HERE.


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