U.S. News Law School Rankings

One reason law schools care about the U.S. News law school rankings so much is because prospective law students care about the U.S. News law school rankings. The other reason is that people get fired when their schools drop too long and too far in the rankings.

Every year, deans and assistant deans find themselves “pushed out” of a job thanks to the U.S. News rankings. Law schools and university presidents rarely say outright that changes are being made in response to the magazine, but let’s just say that Kenneth Randall, dean of the rising Alabama Law School, is probably very safe in his job for another year.

This year, the rankings seem to have already claimed their first assistant dean casualty. But what’s fun this time around is that students at two law schools have started petitions demanding that their deans get canned for poor performance in U.S. News.

It’s entirely possible that U.S. News is getting more powerful in a market of declining law school applications….

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* Celebrated litigator David Boies thinks the Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of gay marriage in a united front — which is helpful, since in March he’s arguing in favor of gay marriage in the Prop 8 case. [USA Today]

* “What we had to do was do more with less.” Archer & Greiner had to lay off 14 attorneys and 27 staffers thanks to the firm’s rapid overexpansion via mergers. This is why we can’t have nice things. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* In New York / Concrete jungle where dreams are made of / There’s nothing you can’t do / Now you’re in New York / Law deans will try to inspire you / But rankings will ruin you / Hear it for New York! [New York Law Journal]

* If you’d like to save the world by working a public-interest job, you’d better consider Penn Law. Its LRAP now covers all IBR loan payments over 10 years for a total savings of up to $140,000. [National Law Journal]

* But then again, if you’re not interested in public-interest work, you can always get a temp job, where you’ll allegedly make as much as “a mid-level associate at a small or medium firm.” [U.S. News & World Report]

* Because Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer was called out by a judge for a performance that was almost as piss poor in his client’s in Liz & Dick, he contacted a local firm to step in and assist him. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

* We have a new pope. Pope Francis I has no involvement with the sexual abuse scandals surrounding the Church, but has had other legal troubles in his past. [Los Angeles Times]

* UNLV Law Dean Nancy Rapoport schools other deans on drafting press releases about the U.S. News rankings. [Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot]

* Lend your support to this new project to create Oyez-style audio/video archives of state Supreme Court proceedings. This will be really helpful, but I’m holding out for audio/video of Wade McCree’s courtroom. [Knight News Challenge]

* If you’re mad that your name comes up when people Google “erectile dysfunction,” filing a public lawsuit over that fact isn’t the answer. [IT-Lex]

* Charter schools are lame because the crazy people running them teach whatever they want, like this one that teaches students that hippies were dirty. Well, okay, that’s not actually untrue, but the system’s textbooks have other faults, like explaining how the KKK was just misunderstood, y’all. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* Man loses his memory after car crash-induced head trauma, decides to become a lawyer. I’ve always said would-be lawyers should have their heads examined. [BBC News via Legal Cheek]

The latest U.S. News 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 at Above the Law, we’ll be posting a series of open threads, running through at least the top 100 law schools. 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, there was a bit of a rankings shake-up among the nation’s top law schools, but this year, it was more of a musical chairs scenario than anything else. And here you thought the inclusion of employment statistics was going to make a difference, but that’s certainly not the case when it comes to the top 14 law schools.

Well, actually, jobs data may have had an effect on at least one highly ranked school….

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The new U.S. News law school rankings, which we’ve been covering extensively in these pages, contain all sorts of interesting tidbits about the ranked schools. For example, in each school profile there is an “employed at graduation” figure, which “represents the percentage of all graduates who had a full-time job lasting at least a year for which bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage.”

That seems like an important and useful piece of information to know if you’re going to pay or borrow a six-figure sum to attend law school. Comparing the employment rates of different schools would be an important part of one’s due diligence when selecting a school.

Among the top 14 or so-called “T14″ law schools, which one had the highest “employed at graduation” rate? The answer might surprise you….

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I’m not going to lie, these are quickly becoming my favorite columns to write every year.

For approximately 364 days a year, law school deans are free to tell us how great their schools are without being forced to provide any data to support their claims of being the best law school for whatever. But one day, each law school must confront the stark reality of their U.S. News law school ranking. They can disparage the rankings, get angry at the rankings, or boast about the rankings (if they’re lucky). But deans ignore the rankings at their own peril.

And so some deans are forced to address their schools’ poor rankings. They are free to spin things however they want, but for one day, they’re not operating in a vacuum. There is an objective fact that is just a little bit beyond their powers of self-reporting manipulation.

It’s a fun day….

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Here’s a fun way of looking at the new U.S. News law school rankings that arrived last night: are the top-tier law schools getting dumber?

We’ve reported a lot on the declining number of applications to law school. And we’ve also talked about how the people who do better on the LSAT are more likely to not apply to law school (most likely because they have better options), while poor LSAT scorers are still eager to go to law school.

Maybe the LSAT really is an accurate test of logical reasoning skills.

Fewer applications overall but a higher share of them from people with poor LSAT scores should lead to a drop in the median LSAT score at top schools. As the smart people flee law school (“smart” as a measure of LSAT score, for whatever that’s worth), it should mean that better law schools have to grab more low-hanging LSAT fruit.

And that is what has in fact happened….

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* If you hate the government and you hate lawyers more, then you’ll love this. In the past five years, the feds have awarded $3.3 billion to more than 4,700 vendors for legal work. [National Law Journal]

* A year and a half after he was nominated for a Federal Circuit judgeship, and more than a year after his hearing, the Senate finally decided to confirm Richard Taranto. How kind. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Pretty pretty please? Zvi Goffer and Michael Kimmelman would really really like it if the Second Circuit could overturn their insider trading convictions due to unfairness. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The U.S. News law school rankings are often criticized, and here’s why: if survey respondents “were asked about Princeton Law School, it would appear in the top 20. But it doesn’t exist.” [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Nevermind the fact that law school applications are down, but Northwestern Law is doing the “responsible thing” and reducing the size of its incoming class — and raising tuition by 3% to boot. [Wall Street Journal]

* Jason Rapert, the Arkansas senator who passed a fetal-heartbeat abortion ban in his state, says he “has no time” for anyone who says it’s unconstitutional. To paraphrase, ain’t nobody got time for that. [New York Times]

Law school deans, are you ready for your report card?

The U.S. News law school rankings are due out in a couple of hours. But Above the Law sources have given us a sneak peek at the Top 25, this time in order. And not just from anonymous sources. Mike Spivey of the Spivey Consulting Group claims he’s laid eyes on the list, confirmed what our tipsters reported, and has been tweeting about the thing for the past few hours.

Every year, law school deans and professors tells us how the rankings are flawed, and every year, we find out that prospective law students care more about the U.S. News law school rankings than any other factor.

But this year, U.S. News claims it will be taking into account the employment figures of recent graduates nine months after graduation. Is that going to be a big substantive change, or have law schools already mastered the art of self-reporting their own employment outcomes in a way that hides the truth?

Let’s take a look. These notes will be UNOFFICIAL until U.S. News confirms the news with their midnight publication, but we’re confident this is the new top 25.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m.): U.S. News just confirmed our report by moving up their publication schedule. These rankings are now OFFICIAL….

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The U.S. News 2014 Law School ranking should be leaked sometime this evening (check back in with Above the Law and we’ll post it when we get it) and will be officially released sometime tomorrow.

Each year the U.S. News list is met with criticism, primarily from schools that do not do well in the rankings. Usually law schools wait until the rankings are out before they start bitching and making excuses. But this year one law school started complaining about the rankings first thing Monday morning, before the official list is even published.

I guess they know something we don’t.

The criticisms would be a little more on point if this law school took a real reformist approach to legal education. Instead, they’re doing the same things everybody else is doing, only not quite as well…

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