Rankings

Certain firms are, in my opinion, routinely underrated in the Vault 100 rankings of law firm prestige. One of them is Williams & Connolly, currently #16, which strikes me as a top 10 firm. Another is Munger Tolles & Olson, which is all the way down at #34.

Munger is an amazing firm. Its attorneys work on major matters, including great pro bono cases, and its lawyers boast incredible pedigrees, with more Supreme Court clerks than you can shake a gavel at (wooed by $300,000 signing bonuses). At the same time, MTO gets top scores for diversity. These commitments to diversity and pro bono helped propel Munger to the #1 spot in the American Lawyer’s A-List rankings, which measure overall firm fabulosity (based on revenue per lawyer, pro bono work, attorney diversity, and associate satisfaction).

In light of all this, I’m still wondering why Munger doesn’t fare better in the Vault rankings (for whatever the Vault rankings are worth, and you’re free to argue about that). Perhaps MTO is hurt by its relatively small size and tight geographic focus, with offices in just two cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Or perhaps prestige is tied partly to partner profit, and Munger doesn’t hunger enough for money.

How much do MTO partners earn? Financial disclosures for two younger Munger partners, both nominated to the Ninth Circuit, shed a little light on this question….

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* Former top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson previously told us he was done with public service, but when the president asks you to join the Cabinet, it’s kind of hard to say no. Plus this Paul Weiss partner is filthy rich, so he can secure our Homeland any day. [Washington Post]

* Earlier this year, Gibson Dunn appointed a seventh-year associate as the firm’s first ever global pro bono director. We wish her the very best of luck as she tries to make lawyers do work for free. That can be a really tough sell in Biglaw. [Am Law Daily]

* Law school rankings existed long before U.S. News was even conceived of, and they broke schools into two lists: those that matter, and those without the “slightest significance.” Sick burn. [National Law Journal]

* Arizona Law alumni really don’t need to worry themselves about the fact that the school’s servers were hacked. Come on, your credit couldn’t be much worse than it already is with all that debt. [KVOA News 4]

* Lady Gaga is nearing settlement with a disgruntled ex-employee, which is too bad, because we were dying to see her get on the stand. The dropping of F-bombs would’ve been fabulous. [New York Post]

* Affirmative action is again being put to the test before the Supreme Court, but this time, we’re not so sure the justices will punt the ball like last time. The countdown to one of Elie’s epic rants on race in America starts in 3, 2, 1… [National Law Journal]

* The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is open for business, but the government shutdown has pretty much brought work at both the International Trade Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to a complete standstill. May they live to fight patent trolls another day. [Corporate Counsel]

* Good news, everyone! Many Biglaw firms have changed the way they make their real estate and office space decisions, primarily because “maintaining profitability has become very challenging.” [GlobeSt.com]

* Here’s another list of the law schools where you can get the most bang for your buck — except it neglects to mention what percentage of the class responded to these salary questions. Oops! [PolicyMic]

* Just saying, but if you’re applying to a law school on an early decision basis, it’s helpful if you actually want to go to that law school above all others. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]


Over the summer, the American Bar Assocation announced that it would stop collecting data on law school expenditures. Ignoring law school expenditures is (counterintuitively perhaps) an important legal education reform. Law schools should be spending, and charging, as little as possible. The fact that a law school spends a lot of money on its professors really doesn’t seem to have a great effect on the quality of legal education, especially if that quality is at all measured by job placement rates.

Of course, getting the ABA on board is only part of the battle. In June, we noted that the real prize is for U.S. News to stop rewarding law schools for spending as much as possible. A law school shouldn’t be able to improve its ranking by tricking out its library or giving its faculty fat raises in a market where law school tuition is far too high.

I had expected U.S. News to follow the ABA’s lead. Law schools might not be the most transparent institutions, but they generally try to avoid lying to the ABA (at least some of them do). But without an ABA check, there’s nothing to prevent schools from lying to U.S. News to inflate their expenditure figures in an attempt to game the rankings. Reasonable people can disagree about what factors should be important in a set of law school rankings, but I had assumed U.S. News would at least want their data to be tied to reality, instead of made-up statistics offered up by law schools without any independent auditing or fact-checking.

It turns out, I was wrong…

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Wooooo, law school!

Yesterday, we brought our readers news of the latest Princeton Review law school rankings for best career prospects. Of course, we found it odd that the list was based on nine-month employment statistics for any old kind of job (e.g., people who passed the bar and went on to become bartenders) and again relied heavily on survey responses from current students rather than recent graduates, but we won’t complain.

Today, we’ll focus on two rankings categories for which student feedback actually matters: the law schools with the most competitive students and the law schools with the best quality of life.

Which schools do you think made these lists? We’ll give you a hint and tell you that the second-best law school in the country will be proud to be on at least one of them….

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Another day, another ranking. Princeton Review has released its annual law school ranking, which we hereby dub the Everyone Gets a Trophy Awards. Each year, the list is divided into 11 categories, and each one seems to be filled with results even more asinine than the last.

While the results here leave much to be desired, surely people will be interested in seeing which schools are doing the best in terms of their graduates’ ability to get jobs (not necessarily as lawyers, mind you, but jobs, period). Thankfully, there’s a ranking for that.

But can we live in a world where Yale Law isn’t number one — or on the list at all? Let’s find out…

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* Musical chairs (White House hottie edition): Michael Gottlieb, former associate counsel to President Barack Obama, is joining the Washington, D.C. office of Boies Schiller & Flexner. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* The search is on for jurors to serve in the criminal trial for Bernie Madoff’s former employees, but in a case of guilt by association, it’s proving to be a difficult exercise. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* “Democracy is not on autopilot,” said Justice Kennedy at Penn Law. Just because we have a Constitution doesn’t mean it will prevail — which is being evidenced by our government now. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Because no one could be more “non-essential” than a law student during this mess, the government shutdown is taking a toll on their externship placements throughout the district. [National Law Journal]

* The Princeton Review’s annual law school rankings are out, and boy, have things changed — including the schools with the best career prospects. We’ll have more on this news later today. [Chicago Tribune]

* Cooley Law is teaming up with Eastern Michigan University to offer joint degrees. But we thought Cooley was teaming up with Western Michigan University. Is Cooley infiltrating all Michigan schools? [MLive.com]

Biglaw branding sounds painful, but thankfully, associates at the highest and mightiest of firms don’t have to sear their flesh with their firms’ logos. Biglaw branding is more about the image firms want clients to see when making hiring decisions, and partners are likely equally as worried about their reputations in the marketplace as their year-end profits.

The last time we spoke about law firm branding, we found out that Skadden had the most recognizable brand in the country. But we, loving rankings as we do, wondered which law firm had the best brand in the world. Luckily for us, hot on the heels of the release of the Am Law Global 100, Acritas published its 2013 Sharplegal Global Elite Brand Index.

Who’s got the best Biglaw brand on the planet? Let’s find out…

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For all the talk of layoffs and worries over an unstable legal economy, Biglaw just keeps getting bigger. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. The view from the top is simple: as we learned from the 2013 Am Law 100, slow and steady does win the race, because Biglaw is at the biggest it’s been in years, and partners’ profits are headed up, up, up.

Now that we’re on the long road to recovery following the recession and collapse of the U.S. financial markets, there are some lessons to be learned from the past five years. Some firms were able to cash in modestly on their success, while other firms buckled under the pressure and were forced to close their doors for good. The game of musical chairs in the top 10 of the Global 100 reflects this economic uncertainty.

DLA Piper is the new top dog in terms of total revenue. Which firms are the leaders of the pack in other metrics, such as profits per partner and attorney headcount?

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Earlier this month, the National Jurist released its first-ever ranking of the private law schools with the “best value.” We found it odd, of course, that the “best value” designation was awarded to schools where less than half of students (and in some cases, less than a third of students) are able to retain their merit scholarships, but we tried to give the magazine the benefit of the doubt. After all, this is the same publication that used incorrect indebtedness figures to crown at least three schools as offering the “best value” in the nation, as recently as last year.

We thought that maybe things would be better when National Jurist rolled out its seventh annual Best Value rankings, for both public and private law schools. The Best Value ranking system takes into account a law school’s tuition (25% of study), students’ cost of living expenses (10%), students’ average indebtedness upon graduation (15%), the percentage of graduates who got a job after graduation (35%), and bar passage rates (15%). As in years past, National Jurist ranked only the top 20 schools, and gave letter grades to the rest of the schools on the list, ranging from A- to F.

So were this year’s Best Value rankings as fraught with error as last year’s? Continue reading to find out…

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