Welcome back to our series of open threads on the latest batch of U.S. News law school rankings. Last time, readers weighed in on the law schools that ascended to the tippy-top of the rankings — the top 14 law schools. With the Harvard/Stanford tie, UC Berkeley’s dip, and the Georgetown v. Cornell switch-up, there was certainly a lot to talk about.
This time around, we’ll be taking a look at some additional top-tier law schools that sit just below the coveted “T14.” And much like the rousing game of musical chairs we saw play out among our nation’s most elite law schools, there were some pretty significant moves worth noting in this segment of the rankings as well….
As a refresher, here are the schools ranked #15 through #31, according to U.S. News & World Report. For your convenience, we’ve noted the difference between last year’s ranking and this year’s ranking parenthetically:
15. University of Texas-Austin (up 1)
15. Vanderbilt University (up 1)
17. University of California-Los Angeles (down 2)
18. University of Southern California (no change)
19. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (no change)
19. Washington University in St. Louis (up 4)
21. George Washington University (down 1)
21. University of Alabama (up 8)
23. Emory University (up 1)
23. University of Notre Dame (down 1)
25. Indiana University-Bloomington (up 1)
26. University of Iowa (up 3)
26. Washington and Lee University (down 2)
28. University of Washington (down 8)
29. Arizona State University (down 3)
29. Boston University (down 3)
31. Boston College (down 2)
31. University of North Carolina‒Chapel Hill (up 7)
First things first: let’s talk about the schools that moved into — and fell out of — the top 25. Congratulations to Alabama for moving up eight spots in this year’s rankings. Perhaps U.S. News took a cue from the National Jurist’s rankings, where ‘Bama was the No. 5 law school in all the land, and decided to use RateMyProfessors as part of its new methodology. No? Too absurd to even consider? Ugh, fine… ROLL TIDE!
As for the University of Washington, we think that the almighty employment data factored into that fall from grace. The school sank like a stone, dropping eight spots from No. 20 to No. 28, fresh off of a gain of 10 spots in last year’s rankings. And speaking of sinking in the rankings, Washington and Lee dropped out of the top 25, replaced by IU-Bloomington. (N.B. It looks like every school named after a “Washington” dropped in the rankings, except for WUSTL; congrats on beating your namesake brethren’s odds!)
This section of the rankings is also famous for its sports rivalries. On the West Coast, USC is continuing to gain ground on UCLA, while on the East Coast, where BU and BC were once separated by three spots, now they’re separated by only two, but further down in the rankings. Since we’re talking about sports, we’ll also give credit where it’s due to North Carolina (the predicted No. 7 seed in this year’s NCAA brackets). Last year, we lamented the law school’s drop in the rankings to No. 38, but now the Tar Heels are back where they belong.
All in all, it looks like there’s a moral to be had in the story of this year’s rankings. This is no longer about academic yardage; it’s all about employment outcomes (as it should be), and that lone factor is weeding out all of the competition. In the end, we’re left wondering whether these law schools are worth their sticker prices. They might not be as exalted as the top 14, but many of them charge about as much, and many of them are slipping in the rankings due to their inability to place graduates in full-time positions where a JD is required.
Is going to one of these schools an investment worth making? Leave your thoughts with us in the comments.