U.S. News rankings

Welcome back to our series of open threads on the latest batch of U.S. News law school rankings. Last time, readers weighed in on the schools that filled out the middle of the traditional first tier (ahh, the good old days when there were more than two). There were some rather significant moves worth noting in that group, like Alabama and Washington. Also worth noting are the schools that disappeared from that list, and now we’ll get to talk about them.

This time around, we’ll be taking a look at the law schools at the bottom of the top 50, the schools that some would argue belong in the traditional “second tier” (no, not the dreaded “rank not published” or “RNP” tier).

These schools might not be at the top, but some of them charge like they’re the cream of the crop….

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Welcome back to our series of open threads on the latest batch of U.S. News law school rankings. Last time, readers weighed in on the law schools that ascended to the tippy-top of the rankings — the top 14 law schools. With the Harvard/Stanford tie, UC Berkeley’s dip, and the Georgetown v. Cornell switch-up, there was certainly a lot to talk about.

This time around, we’ll be taking a look at some additional top-tier law schools that sit just below the coveted “T14.” And much like the rousing game of musical chairs we saw play out among our nation’s most elite law schools, there were some pretty significant moves worth noting in this segment of the rankings as well….

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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 2014 U.S. News law school rankings will be published next week, on March 12.

Law school deans are cowering in fear right now, because some of them may be ousted from their positions if their schools slip by even a few slots. Law students, on the other hand, are at the ready to lord their law school’s potentially 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 on March 11, 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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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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If you show us the ability to be an attorney, we’ll give you the opportunity to be an attorney. It’s not like we let anybody in the door. We don’t. But we’re much more inclusive in our admissions policy than most law schools are.

Jeffrey L. Martlew, associate dean of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s brand spanking new Florida campus, commenting on the school’s admissions policy of inclusion, rather than elitism.

(Want to learn more about this bastion of legal education’s unique approach to law schools admissions? Come on, you know you do, so keep reading!)

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It’s the last day of December, so it’s a good time to look back on the year that was. We’ll do what we’ve done for the past three years (wrap-up posts from 2009, 2010, and 2011 can be found here, here, and here) and identify the ten biggest stories of the past year as decided by you, our readers. With the help of Google Analytics, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten posts for 2012, based on traffic (as represented by pageviews).

By the way, for the third year in a row, the most popular category page on Above the Law was Law Schools. People have now been intensely focused on the declining value proposition of going to law school for as long as it takes to earn a Juris Doctor degree. Isn’t it time that we graduate from the current educational model?

The second and third most-popular categories on ATL in 2012 were Biglaw and Bonuses. Although this year brought us the largest law firm failure ever, nearly all other firms indiscriminately doled out offers to summer associates, and bonus season looked better for the first time in years. While the legal profession is still in transition, things are certainly looking up, and through the highs and the lows, we’ve been there to cover it all.

So what were the ten most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2012? Let’s find out….

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‘Which one of you is special?’

Today, the ATL Career Center launches its latest feature: a Pre-Law section, featuring ratings, inside info, and expert advice on law schools, LSAT prep, and the application process. Check it out here.

While law school applications continue to decline and legal jobs are scarce, the business of discouraging people from going to law school is positively booming. There is a mountain of data which would seemingly dissuade anyone from taking on massive debt only to then leap into the clogged toilet of this job market. (And yet, see this compelling analysis that now is actually a great time to apply to law school, especially for lower scoring applicants.)

But what about future law students — are the 0Ls getting these gloomy memos? And how is it shaping their choices?

Recently, in collaboration with our friends at Blueprint Test Prep, we conducted a survey of BluePrint’s summer students studying for the October 2012 LSAT. We had nearly 600 respondents. Our goal was to get a snapshot of these 0Ls’ perception of the legal landscape, including the realities of financing a law school education and the current state of the legal job market.

After the jump, see some of what we could glean from the 0L mind, including a striking disconnect between the “job market” and a “career path”….

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Bob Morse

The main audience of the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings is not meant to be law schools or law school deans—and the rankings should not be a management tool that law school administrators use as the basis for proving that their school is improving or declining. The rankings are produced primarily for prospective students as one tool to help them determine the relative merits between schools they are considering.

Bob Morse, rankings czar of U.S. News and World Report, commenting on a critique of the rankings found in Professor Brian Tamanaha’s book, Failing Law Schools (affiliate link). Professor Tamanaha argues that the U.S. News rankings fuel unhealthy competition between schools.

Illinois College of Law

Well, it’s not like the Penn State sanctions. But it’s not like the University of Illinois College of Law was covering up a Jerry Sandusky. The school was inflating the LSAT scores it reported to the American Bar Association.

Today the ABA fined Illinois Law $250,000. The ABA also censured the law school.

The Chicago Tribune reports that this is the first time the ABA has fined a law school for inaccurate consumer information. I guess that’s a step in the right direction. Still, considering the average salary for an Illinois College of Law full professor is $194,624, it’s hard to see the fine meaning very much to the school’s operations…

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A few years ago, at a conference hosted by Penn APALSA, I had the pleasure of meeting Dean Jim Chen of the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law. He gave a luncheon keynote address that was deeply thoughtful and inspiring. Attendees of the conference were quite impressed.

Students and staff at U of L have also praised Dean Chen. And he does have achievements to crow about (besides, of course, his glittering résumé and impressive record of scholarship). In the most recent U.S. News law school rankings, the Brandeis School of Law climbed 11 spots (from 100 to 89).

When law schools fall in the rankings, their deans often follow. But U of L fared well in the latest rankings. So why is Dean Chen departing?

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