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You Are More Than a Number… and So is a Law School

Talk to any law student and most will admit that where a law school placed in the rankings was a key reason he or she enrolled in a particular program – maybe even the biggest factor. At Kaplan, we’ve long told pre-law students that while they shouldn’t get hung up on whether a law school is ranked #15 or #21, as this won’t matter five years down the road.  On that note…April’s special edition of “The 180 – Live”, Kaplan’s live, online talk show about legal issues, featured ATL’s Elie Mystal, Brian Dalton and myself announcing and discussing Above The Law’s 2014 Rankings of the Top 50 Law Schools.

We all agree the rankings can serve a purpose — they are good aggregate sources of data around job placement stats, academic life and other considerations and can be one of many factors students look at. As you’re considering where to enroll, the more relevant, transparent and helpful information, the better. By focusing on the outcomes law school students (should) care about (like jobs in the legal sector and clerkships) and less on inputs (like LSAT scores and GPA), ATL’s rankings give us a different perspective on how law schools stack up against each other — useful insights as students consider where to spend the next three years of their lives.

In fact, findings from Kaplan Test Prep’s latest survey of pre-law students reinforce the notion that students should place more emphasis on outcomes such as job placement rates and bar passage rates – in keeping with ATL’s rankings methodology. (Remember you can’t do much in law without passing the bar! And if bar passage isn’t required for your desired career path, we’d ask you “why law school” in the first place.) Specific survey highlights include:

  • 84% of pre-law students say that where a law school places in the rankings is important in determining where they will enroll. Understandable. Studies by PayScale.com show that in general the higher a law school ranks, the higher its graduates’ starting salaries are.

  • Pre-law students surveyed were nearly unanimous in saying a law school’s academic quality (99%), bar exam passage rate (95%), and job placement statistics (94%) should have a lot of weight in determining where a law school places in the rankings.

  • Previous Kaplan research of graduating law school students found that what they said the biggest factors future law students should focus on were 1) a school’s job placement rate and 2) affordability/tuition. Make sure you can reasonably afford your law school…try to get scholarships. And how do you get’ em? A stellar LSAT score. That’s what we’re here for.

Final piece of advice: Ultimately each law school applicant should enroll in a JD program that is the best overall ‘fit’ for the individual’s professional, financial, and lifestyle goals and needs.  This will be one the biggest decisions of your professional lives (no pressure!), so be judicious – it’s a skill you’ll need for the long haul anyway, so start now.