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Open Thread: 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (The Second Tier)

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 traditionally made up what used to be the alphabetically listed third tier. It was only very recently that the law schools that once constituted the “third tier” received the gift that keeps on giving (no, not herpes): numerical rankings.

Today, we’ll be talking about the schools that used to comprise the fourth tier, but now have a new name. These days, this segment of the U.S. News list is referred to as the “second tier,” and although they’re all ranked, those rankings aren’t published (presumably because no one wants to brag about going to the worst law school in the nation — as if being tied for 144th place is better).

Let’s use this post to discuss these schools, collectively or individually, and to compare and contrast….

Here are the second-tier schools, aka “Rank Not Published” (RNP), according to U.S. News & World Report:

Appalachian School of Law
Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School
Ave Maria School of Law
Barry University
California Western School of Law
Capital University
Charleston School of Law
Charlotte School of Law
Elon University
Faulkner University (Jones)
Florida A&M University
Florida Coastal School of Law
Golden Gate University
John Marshall Law School-Chicago
Liberty University
Mississippi College
New England Law Boston
New York Law School
North Carolina Central University
Northern Illinois University
Northern Kentucky University (Chase)
Nova Southeastern University (Broad)
Ohio Northern University (Pettit)
Oklahoma City University
Phoenix School of Law
Regent University
Roger Williams University
Southern University Law Center
Southwestern Law School
St. Thomas University
Texas Southern University (Marshall)
Texas Wesleyan University
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Touro College (Fuchsberg)
University of Dayton
University of Detroit Mercy
University of South Dakota
University of the District of Columbia (Clarke)
University of Toledo
Valparaiso University
Western New England University
Western State College of Law at Argosy University
Whittier College
Widener University
Willamette University (Collins)

And let’s not forget about the unranked schools: Catholic University, Inter-American University, University of California​‒​Irvine, University of La Verne (formerly RNP), University of Massachusetts​‒​Dartmouth, and University of Puerto Rico. Get ready, because it won’t be long until UC Irvine and UMass get real ranks!

Before we get into this discussion, a brief comment: yes, we often poke fun at graduates of lower-ranked law schools. But, in our defense, we only take shots at people who have done things that are worthy of a punchline. Graduates of all echelons of law schools are fully capable of doing stupid things, and when they do, we give them their what for. We’re equal-opportunity haters here at Above the Law; don’t forget that.

So what can be said about these law schools? Why should you bother attending a lower-ranked school?

Getting a degree from a second-tier school might not be as prestigious as getting one from a higher-ranked school, but to burst the elitist bubble: not everyone cares about prestige. Some of the people applying to and attending these schools just want to be lawyers, and others just want to stay close to home. Some of these schools do very well in regional job markets, and while Biglaw may not be an option for everyone, the rest are content to join small firms or do public service work. But here’s the rub when it comes to the “second tier”….

Law school isn’t a golden ticket anymore, especially if you’re a graduate of a lower-ranked school. Law school is a huge economic gamble, and even the most courageous of betting men would balk at the current odds (55 percent for the Class of 2011) of getting a full-time job as a lawyer after graduation. It’s actually quite scary.

If you’re not yet convinced, check out what we’re about to do. These five second-tier law schools appear in the top 10 on the U.S. News list of average indebtedness of 2012 graduates who incurred law school debt:

  • Thomas Jefferson School of Law: $168,800
  • California Western School of Law: $167,867
  • Phoenix School of Law: $162,627
  • Southwestern Law School: $147,976
  • Whittier College: $143,536

Now, you’d think that with all of that debt their job prospects would at least be decent, but you’d be wrong. Here are the employment rates for the Class of 2011 from those schools (courtesy of Law School Transparency):

  • Thomas Jefferson School of Law: 26.7% employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs
  • California Western School of Law: 39.3% employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs
  • Phoenix School of Law: 37.4% employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs
  • Southwestern Law School: 34.6% employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs
  • Whittier College: 17.1% employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs

… well, sh*t.

Being in debt up to your eyeballs is an awful situation; you’ll be digging yourself out from under it for the rest of your life. Going to a second-tier law school these days — or really, any law school at all — is like playing Russian Roulette with your financial future. If you’re willing to bite that bullet, then by all means, please do. But if you have reservations about embarking on a potentially ruinous economic course, then you should reconsider your plans to go to law school. That said, I’m still happy I went law school, crushing debt and all.

So, readers, what do you think? We’re asking all of the second-tier law school graduates (yes, we know you’re reading) to come out of the woodwork and comment on this open thread. Was it worth it for you to attend a lower-ranked law school? Would you do it all over again? Don’t be afraid to let us know how you really feel.

Earlier: Open Thread: 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (102 – 144)
Open Thread: 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (76 – 98)
Open Thread: 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (53 – 68)
Open Thread: 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (33 – 48)
Open Thread: 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (15 – 31)
Open Thread: 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings (1 – 14)
The 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings

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