U.S. News rankings

CIA Logo* The CIA official at the heart of accusations of intimidation made by Senator Feinstein is a lawyer. This marks the first time this guy has been called intimidating. [Al Jazeera]

* Check out these awesome graphs showing the change in the USNWR rankings of the top 50 law schools over the last six years. [LawyerWrit]

* Justin Bieber’s lawyer says his behavior in his video deposition is our fault. Of course it is. [New Day / CNN]

* “Dear Texas courthouse… We’ve been tapping your phones. Love, FBI” [San Antonio Express-News]

* Google’s getting sued for pushing addictive games with in-app purchases. [IT-Lex]

* The prosecution of Zachary Warren, who was 24 and only a few months into his job, for Dewey’s fall seems to be taking it a bit too far. [Belly of the Beast]

* A pair of lawyers are accused of tax credit fraud for going a bit too Hollywood. [The Times-Picayune]

* Lee Pacchia talks with Kent Zimmermann about the warning sent to struggling firms by the Dewey charges. Embedded after the jump… [Mimesis Law]

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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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As 2013 draws to a close, let’s look back at the 10 biggest stories in the legal profession over the past year. This is an annual tradition here at Above the Law, which we’ve done in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. We’ll fire up the old Google Analytics machine to get data on our most popular posts, based on pageviews, and share the results with you.

Before turning to specific stories, let’s look at the top general discussion topics here at ATL. For 2013, our most trafficked category page was Biglaw, which bumped Law Schools out of the top spot — a spot that Law Schools held from 2010 through 2012. Now that the word is out about the perils of getting a law degree, leading to plummeting applications, perhaps it’s time to move on from the “don’t go to law school” narrative.

After Biglaw and Law Schools, our third most-popular category page was, as usual, Bonuses. This wasn’t a terribly exciting year for bonuses — there were no spring bonuses, and Cravath and its many followers paid out the same bonuses as last year — but people still want to know the score.

Our fourth most-popular category page was small law firms. Small firms, including boutiques, are an area of increasing focus and readership for us — and also where many of the job opportunities are these days.

Moving on from the topic pages, what were the 10 most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2013?

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We’ve got to hand it to the television and film industries, because they’ve done a wonderful job of glamorizing professions that are otherwise dull and often lacking when it comes to the beauty of its practitioners. Teenagers who wants to be doctors or lawyers when they grow up have seen those professional roles played out a million times on TV, and they look so, so cool.

We hate to break it to you, but these shows and movies often leave out the most difficult and trying parts of elite careers. Going to law school isn’t as “fun” as Elle Woods makes it look in Legally Blonde. Supply-room sexual romps à la Grey’s Anatomy aren’t part and parcel of a career as a doctor. There’s a reason why they don’t show you all of the time spent researching and writing motions that goes into trying a case on Law & Order.

If you still think these are dream jobs, then you haven’t been paying attention to anything that’s been going on in the world, especially if you want to be a lawyer…

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Does the amount of money a law school spends necessarily have an effect on the quality of its legal education?

Here at Above the Law, we say no. Our Law School Rankings take a look at the outcomes law schools provide for their graduates, not the inputs law schools cast into the pot.

But U.S. News still looks at many input factors in evaluating law schools. One of the most notorious factors U.S. News cares about is faculty resources. U.S. News rewards schools for spending a lot of money on the faculty per admitted student. You can kind of see the thought process there: good schools hire good professors and good professors command higher salaries.

Unfortunately, this U.S. News factor creates perverse incentives. Schools with unreasonably high tuition are rewarded for overpaying faculty, at the expense of the debt burden loaded upon their students and recent graduates. Ranking one school better than another because it engages in profligate spending is a cruel joke in this economy.

We don’t know if U.S. News will stop this madness, but yesterday the American Bar Association decided to stop asking schools to report the figure…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The ABA Does Something Right! Will U.S. News Follow And End One Perverse Incentive For Law Schools?”

It’s tough times over at U.S. News. After shedding nearly all pretense of being a news outlet, U.S. News threw all its eggs in the “telling people where to go to school” basket.

U.S. News enjoyed a virtual monopoly for years before someone came along and created a better law school ranking system. The crux of the ATL Top 50 ranking is focusing on post-graduation results rather than LSAT/GPA inputs.

Now U.S. News seems to be considering a new post-graduation component, but it doesn’t seem all that scientific…

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The headline comes from a tipster, but I think it perfectly sums up the Cardozo note in their latest alumni newsletter. Cardozo has issued an intellectually soft apology that admits what they did, but completely glosses over why they did it. “Aww shucks, we’re just goofy!”

Last week, we caught Cardozo trying to game the U.S. News ranking system by encouraging students to make token donations in order to pump up the school’s alumni participation score. The school said that alumni participation was a factor in the U.S. News law school rankings, but it turns out they were wrong.

The school is now apologizing for the error. They’re not apologizing for trying to game the rankings, they’re just apologizing for being wrong about how to do it….

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I almost feel bad for Cardozo. Yesterday, we reported on how Cardozo was trying to convince the class of 2011 to give money to the school on the theory that even a small donation will help the school move up in the U.S. News law school rankings, thus increasing the “value” of a Cardozo Law degree. Yeah, the campaign isn’t about how giving more money will deliver more value to Cardozo students in terms of job opportunities or educational experience. It’s just a hard sell that a higher ranking equals “value,” and an instruction on how Cardozo alums can help the school game the system.

And it turns out that the strategy isn’t even an effective way to game the rankings. The school is actually wrong about how the rankings work.

Look, I have to be one of the foremost authorities on “stupid things law schools do” in America. I believe I meet all of the Daubert requirements to be qualified as an expert on this topic on the Internet. In my expert capacity, I hereby testify that this Cardozo thing is the dumbest alumni giving campaign I’ve ever seen….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School’s Guerrilla Campaign To Inflate Its U.S. News Rank Turns Out To Be Too Dumb To Inflate Its U.S. News Rank”

And now back to our regularly scheduled programing. We join this episode of “My Law School Nearly Got Away With It,” already in progress.

We all know that law schools do all kinds of things to game the U.S. News law school rankings. U.S. News knows this, yet does little to stop this behavior. But rarely do we catch a law school red-handed.

Here, we have a school openly calling upon its students to do something for the express purpose of increasing the school’s U.S. News rank.

Even more embarrassingly, the school is targeting a class of graduates who have generally not had much luck in the employment market. The email suggests that the way to increase the value of their law degree is to give money to the school, since right now it’s not good enough to get them a job…

(Please note the important UPDATE at the end of this post, a punchline of sorts.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Law School Shows Everything That’s Wrong With Law Schools and U.S. News Rankings, In One Email”

Some people love the U.S. News law school rankings, and some people (read: law school deans who fear for the safety of their jobs) hate them. Those that love them often perform well and rise to the top of the list every year, while those who hate them manage to find a new way to nitpick the rankings methodology every year.

Considering the state of the legal economy for entry-level lawyers, some would argue that the most relevant factors an ideal law school ranking should look at are employment outcomes. Others, however, still cling to the days of yore, where the quality of both students and faculty took top billing in the hearts and minds of those in the legal profession.

Today, we’ve got a ranking for those of you who still believe inputs are more important than outputs when it comes to ranking law schools. We’re going to be taking a look at the most overrated and underrated law schools in terms of median LSAT scores and peer assessment scores. Let’s have a gander….

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