National Jurist

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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Our readers love nothing better than law school rankings, so it was kind of the National Jurist to roll out its first-ever list of the Best Value private law schools. This new ranking comes in addition to its regular ranking of Best Value schools (which is usually dominated by public institutions of learning). These lists are usually released in alphabetical order, but this time, National Jurist assigned letter grades to each school due to a post-publication error. We’re off to a great start already.

The Best Value ranking typically takes into account the following criteria: tuition, cost of living, average student debt, the percentage of graduates employed nine months after graduation, and bar passage rates.

When the National Jurist created the Best Value rankings to “honor schools that took the cost of legal education seriously,” why choose to highlight private law schools at a time when tuition is higher than ever?

We’ll explore possible answers to that question, as well as reveal the rankings, after the jump…

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* “The situation is an absolute mess.” Last summer’s SCOTUS decision on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders has created a “legal limbo” for inmates. We hope they find suitable dance partners. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Even after you retire, you apparently still have to deal with the Cebullsh*t from your life on the bench. Former Chief District Judge Richard Cebull’s misconduct review is likely heading to Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. [Great Falls Tribune]

* Woe unto them that call unpaid work fair: the Second Circuit quickly granted Fox Searchlight an appeal in the Black Swan unpaid intern case in the hope of offering some “much-needed guidance.” [Deadline]

* Which private law schools offer students the best value? Some unlikely contenders are named on this list, and some T14 schools even make appearances. We’ll have more on this later today. [National Jurist]

* GW wasn’t the only school that grew the size of its entering class (although it was the largest increase). William & Mary and Missouri-KC saw big gains, too. Yay, more lawyers! [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* If you’re considering applying to law school, think about schools that have lowered their standards and are offering scholarship money like candy. Otherwise, here are some helpful hints. [Huffington Post]

* Henry Putzel Jr., former reporter of decisions at the Supreme Court, RIP. [Washington Post]

* A comprehensive analysis of the New York Times wedding announcements over the years. As the research team frames the question, “What do the world’s most self-important people think is important?” Unsurprisingly, the answer is “where they went to law school.” [News Genius / Rap Genius]

* The National Jurist would like to deceive convince the potential law school class of 2017 that there will be tons of jobs for them. Apparently the legions of unemployed lawyers now will just disappear in some sort of legal industry Carousel. [National Jurist]

* Elizabeth Wurtzel’s mom loves Al Jazeera because she hates pundits and talking heads. Like, for instance, Elizabeth Wurtzel. [The Daily Beast]

* Walter Olson of Overlawyered is going on the road. There are a lot of stops; check if he’s coming to a town near you. You could totally tag one of these venues in a big slip-and-fall case. [Overlawyered]

* The million-dollar-law-degree guys mount another defense. [Am Law Daily via Law School Tuition Bubble]

* In the midst of a slew of law deans stepping down, Dean Patricia Salkin thinks this is the perfect time to become a law dean. Elie already put his hat in the ring for every available position via Facebook. [The Faculty Lounge]

* Military personnel are guaranteed benefits for same-sex partners. Including personnel in state national guard units. But Texas has decided to deny those benefits. Yeehaw! In all seriousness, this is why all those liberals rooting for state marijuana ballot measures against the feds needed a little more foresight. [Dallas Voice]

* An interview with Helen Wan, the author of The Partner Track: A Novel (affiliate link). Keep on the lookout for David’s coming interview with Helen. [CNN]

Casey Anthony

* “Is there a public interest in unwanted pregnancies … that can often result in abortions?” The judge who ordered that Plan B be made available to all women regardless of age is pissed at the DOJ. [The Caucus / New York Times]

* Mary Jo White, the littlest litigatrix, will “review” the Securities and Exchange Commission’s policy of allowing financial firms to settle civil suits without affirming or denying culpability, but for now, she’s defending it. [Reuters]

* Dewey know what this failed firm is supposed to pay its advisers for work done during the first nine months of its bankruptcy proceedings? We certainly do, and it’s quite the pretty penny. [Am Law Daily]

* In a round of musical chairs that started at Weil Gotshal, Cadwalader just lost the co-chairs of its bankruptcy practice and another bankruptcy partner to O’Melveny. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Another day, another law school comparison website. Take a look at Law Jobs: By the Numbers, which includes a formula from the laughable National Jurist rankings system. [National Law Journal]

* In a move that shocked absolutely no one, attorneys for Colorado movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes announced they will enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for their client. [CNN]

* From the “hindsight is 20/20″ file: the judge who presided over the Casey Anthony trial thinks there was enough evidence to convict the ex-MILF. He also likened Jose Baez to a used car salesman. [AP]

* Check out Logan Beirne’s book (affiliate link). Even when sensationalizing George Washington’s rise from general to president, attention must be paid to the rule of law. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

Say what you will about the Cooley Law School Rankings, but at least they are internally consistent and objectively applied.

We’ve written before about the ridiculous National Jurist Best Law School Rankings. Many law bloggers have written about this list that looks like it was put together by getting the Sorting Hat drunk on goblets of fire water and forcing it to name law schools until it passed out.

We’ve all tried to reason with the National Jurist, but it turns out that effort was not unlike trying to convince an infant not to poop while you’re eating. We’d have been better off just ignoring it and cleaning it up later.

The publication came out with an “edit” yesterday, and while its revisions did a good job of highlighting how stupid these rankings were in the first place, I’m compelled to write about them just so nobody is fooled into thinking their “updates” have actually fixed anything….

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Yeah absolutely, and I think that, you know, that’s definitely the data point that, uh, I think we’ve gotten the most criticism about.

– Jack Crittenden, Editor-in-Chief of National Jurist Magazine, explaining how Rate My Professor scores ended up in his magazine’s latest law school rankings.

(Continue reading for video of Crittenden’s interview with Bloomberg Law.)

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These days, it seems like every media outlet that has any remote connection to the law is making an effort to dispel the allure of the esteemed U.S. News law school rankings. U.S. News encourages law school administrators to attempt to game the rankings, they say. The U.S. News rankings are too focused on the test scores of incoming students, they say. And while we agree that some of the U.S. News methodology could be changed for the better, others have only offered up absurdities in their alternative ranking systems.

National Jurist recently came out with its own set of rankings which measure much lauded criteria like the number of Super Lawyers each law school produces, and the quality of each law school’s faculty, as measured by the oft revered website, RateMyProfessors.com. And as with the glorious Cooley rankings, any traction that the new National Jurist rankings might have received went totally out the window when the powers that be at the magazine decided to rank Alabama higher than both Harvard and Yale. Come on, everyone knows that the only place ‘Bama should be ranked ahead of Harvard is on a football field!

As far as we’re concerned, this serves only as an exercise in how not to make a new rankings system….

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As we reach the end of the year, it’s time to step back and assess 2012 as it draws to a close. In the legal world, things have certainly changed from years past, but the one thing that remains constant is the focus on the state of our nation’s legal education. Something’s got to give, and while no one agrees exactly on what needs to change, many have influenced the way the discussion has developed with their insightful visions for the future.

At the end of the day, certain voices were more powerful than others. Whether through reducing class sizes or increasing the transparency of employment statistics, certain individuals have wrought substantial change in the way that law schools are currently operating — and have laid the groundwork for how law schools will be run in the future.

Whose words mattered most? Let’s take a look at this year’s most influential people in legal education….

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A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the On Being A Black Lawyer’s ranking of the best law schools for black people. I thought that list was pretty useful.

This one is less so.

I’m looking at the National Jurist rankings of “most diverse law schools” and, I gotta tell you, I can’t really see why anybody would or should care about them. Don’t get me wrong, I like diversity, I think it’s critically important to a good educational environment.

But I guess I find “diversity” to be a kind of binary issue: either you have a diverse campus, or you don’t. And we can argue about what makes a place diverse, what gets you over that intangible line. But being the “most diverse” is kind of like being the “most wet” person at the beach. I’m sure that distinction goes to somebody, but the key distinction is separating the wet from the dry.

I dunno, maybe I’d be more interested if any of these “most diverse” student bodies had better than a “snowball’s chance in hell” at getting a job….

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