Rankings

‘But we didn’t even have the biggest drop…’

2012 was a poor year for us with regard to our employment numbers and bar passage rates. We have begun to address these issues through stronger bar support and changes in our approach to the employment market, and have already seen improvements in both areas for the Class of 2013.

– Dean Nora Demleitner of Washington & Lee University School of Law, in comments made following news of the law school’s 17-spot decline in the U.S. News rankings, from No. 26 last year to No. 43 this year. Bob Morse, director of research at U.S. News, said W&L was “hit hard” by its lower employment rate.

The U.S. News 2015 Law School Rankings are out, and you know what that means. It’s time to allow students and alumni to weigh in on their law schools and their brand-new ranks.

As is customary, we’ll be posting a series of open threads, running through at least the top 100 law schools — but we’ll probably make it all the way through, right down to rank-not-published land. These posts offer you a chance to compare and contrast different schools, praise (or condemn) your alma mater, and talk trash about rival law schools.

Last year, we witnessed a rousing game of musical chairs among the nation’s top law schools, but this year, we’ve got a new #10 law school, and the Top 14 has been transformed into the Top 13 thanks to a tie at the bottom of the top.

Were there any other surprises this year? Let’s take a look…

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It’s the most important day of the year for law school deans. The U.S. News 2015 Law School Rankings are out, and absent salacious allegations about their behavior, law deans who do well according to U.S. News do well according to their bank accounts.

The big winner this year seems to be Duke Law School. As we mentioned earlier, they’ve cracked the top ten. Congratulations to the Harvard of the South.

Meanwhile, this seems to be the year U.S. News has fully committed to “ties.” Ties are great for law schools. How else can you have 60 schools claim to be “top 50 institutions”? U.S. News makes ties like kissing your sister… your really hot, adopted sister that your Dad would be all over if your Dad were Woody Allen.

So, who is #1? If you have to ask that question, you’ve clearly come to the wrong website and might want to rethink this whole “going to law school” thing until you’ve researched enough to get a freaking clue…

Please note the multiple UPDATES below.

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We hope that you’re ready, because it’s almost the most wonderful time of the year for law schools. That’s right, the 2015 U.S. News law school rankings will be published on March 11.

Law school deans must be very, very afraid. They don’t want to be dethroned from their lofty positions in the ivory tower if their respective law schools slip by a just a few slots. Law students, on the other hand, are at the ready to lord their law school’s potentially higher new ranking over their friends’ heads on Facebook. As for incoming law students, all bets are off — they’ll either be happy their school maintained its place or rose in the rankings, or be devastated if their school of choice had a subpar performance.

The rankings, controversial as they are, are still a pretty huge deal to everyone in the legal profession. Just like in years past, the rankings will inevitably be published online in the wee hours of the morning, but because rankings guru Bob Morse knows that the anticipation is killing us, he likely instructed the staff at U.S. News to give his adoring public a little teaser.

Are you ready to take a look at the new, top 10 highest-ranking law schools in the nation?

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It’s always a little jarring when someone uses a big news event to bore down deeper into their own bizarre area of interest. Take, for instance, the Newtown massacre. While most news organizations were digging deep into the social, psychological, and political ramifications of the horror, ESPN reported on what it all meant to Jimmie Johnson. Or Rick Pitino’s stance on gun control. A White Sox relief pitcher made a trip to Newtown, and ESPN was there. Now, I don’t begrudge ESPN’s attempt to report the massacre through the prism of sports. The combination of seemingly disparate news elements sometimes yields interesting insights. But sometimes it just yields one more story about stock car racing. So it goes.

Now that all of the introductories are dispensed with, we can get to the question that’s been nagging all of you for an entire week. Or more!

What does the recent unpleasantness in Ukraine have to do with law firm rankings? And which Biglaw firms have the best presence in Ukraine? I’m glad you asked…

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‘Congratulations. You’re still in the running towards becoming America’s next top law review.’

Replace the gorgeous, leggy models with bespectacled, Bluebook-wielding law students. Replace the photo shoots with cite checks. Replace Tyra Banks with a law librarian.

Voilà! You’ve replaced America’s Next Top Model with something far more fabulous: America’s Next Top Law Review.

And yes, there is a new top law review. Harvard Law Review, which has dominated the leading set of rankings for the past seven years, has been dethroned. To quote Dani from Cycle 6 of ANTM, “Shut yo mouth and say it ain’t true!”

Oh, but it is true. They’re all beautiful — or at least impeccably Bluebooked — but only one girl has what it takes. Who is the nation’s new #1 law journal?

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Having a job is so awesome!

For almost a decade, the National Law Journal has published a list of the best law schools to go to if you want to work in Biglaw after graduation. As we noted last year, “through the lens of this annual report, we can see some of the changes that have happened in a profession that’s been in transition ever since the Great Recession.” With the rise and fall of some of Biglaw’s largest firms, the hiring scene for would-be entry-level associates has ebbed and flowed.

The legal profession, while still in recovery, shows some signs of life in its sluggish attempts to return to its glory days. Each year, we hear news of marginal improvement in the job market, and we squeal with glee over single percentage point upticks. For example, in 2013, the percentage of law school graduates who landed associate jobs was up two points from where it was in 2012 — and this increase represents the highest hiring percentage since 2010. Hooray! Exciting news! Lawgasms for everyone!

Which law schools led the pack in this pseudo-revival of normalcy? Let’s find out….

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For the past few years, law schools have been in a state of crisis, and it’s getting worse. Prospective students just aren’t as interested as they used to be in borrowing up to six figures of government Monopoly money in the hope of surviving the post-graduation gauntlet of legal employment. At last count, applicants were down 11.1 percent from this time last year, and national 1L enrollment is down 24 percent from where it was in 2010.

Unable to keep up with the changing times and put asses in seats, law schools are doing anything they can to cut costs — up to and including laying off faculty and staff. Amid hefty declines in enrollment, some schools seem to be struggling.

But which law schools have suffered most? Even though law is a profession obsessed with rankings, this is one list your school probably doesn’t want to be on…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Ouch: The Law Schools With The Biggest Drops In Enrollment Since 2010″

A lot of ink is spilled over whether or not law schools are failing to produce “practice ready” lawyers. What does it mean to be practice ready? There really isn’t a great definition. I mean, do we want law students to walk out prepared to run their own firms? Argue before the Supreme Court? Draft a credit-default swap agreement from memory? Serve as a bankruptcy trustee? How much practical know-how should we demand our law schools instill?

That doesn’t really matter, “practice ready” looks great on a bumper sticker.

For my money, the phrase means lawyers prepared enough not to drool on their desks when a partner (or supervisor or judge) starts showing them the way they want their young lawyers to practice law. Because make no mistake, lawyers are always practice unready in the eyes of their employers until they do the job exactly the employers’ way. This is why clinics serve an important role in law schools. Not that 6 months of being a glorified paralegal builds a wealth of practical legal know-how, but because 6 months of trying to figure out how to deploy what you do happen to know to satisfy a demanding legal boss is the soul of being a junior lawyer.

To that end, there’s a new ranking of the top clinical programs in law schools with some surprising (or not, depending on your point of view) results….

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Law firms have been in a “slow growth” phase ever since the nation began its recovery from the Great Recession. As we mentioned when we discussed the 2013 Am Law 100, “success now comes in the form of single-digit returns with regard to key financial metrics,” with Biglaw gains described as “modest” and “spotty” across the board.

Big-name lateral hires can sometimes bring in enough positive publicity and fanfare to make even the sickest of firms seem like the very picture of health and vitality. According to the latest American Lawyer Lateral Report, those lateral moves can be likened to a peacock’s tail: they offer “no advantage” for a firm’s ultimate survival, and may hinder the firm in the future. It happened at Dewey, and it can happen at other firms if they’re not careful. If only partners’ attentions weren’t so easily grabbed by the promise of higher profits.

So if this growing reliance on lateral hiring is truly capable of destabilizing law firms, wouldn’t you like to know which firms did the most lateral hiring over the past year? We’ve got the details for you….

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