U.S. News

On Monday, we talked about the big New York Times article over the weekend about the way law schools use merit-based scholarships to rope students in. When discussing the need to give out scholarships, the Times cites some very familiar language about how fixation on the U.S. News rankings guides the decisionmaking processes of many law school administrators.

Truly, you seemingly can’t have an article that is critical of the way law schools handle their business without there being some jab at U.S. News in there. It’s kind of like how basketball announcers can’t talk about a white basketball player without slipping in unsupported criticism that he might be “soft.” When the U.S. News stuff appeared in the NYT piece, I was so used to it I didn’t even notice it.

But U.S. News rankings guru Bob Morse noticed it. And he’s freaking sick of it….

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Many people, especially law school administrators, bemoan the U.S. News law school rankings. Sure, they have their pedagogical reasons for hating the rankings, but there are larger issues here. When schools drop in the rankings, heads tend to roll.

Of course, law schools deans rarely admit they were ousted because of the U.S. News. But now is the season of administrative resignations. There are a couple of them floating around out there, but one in particular caught my eye. The dean of a law school that took a substantial hit in this year’s rankings has resigned. Not to take a job elsewhere or spend more time with his family. No, he’s putting down the deanship to rejoin the faculty.

Interesting…

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I graduated from Northwestern Law in 2009. It is now 2011, my loans are coming due (real due — not the fake, put ‘em in forebearance, due of yesteryear), and I am currently “employed” doing two things: reviewing documents at an embarrassing hourly wage on projects that start and stop without any sort of consistency, and writing “jokes” about the Microsoft Zune every weekday morning, every other week. To borrow from David Foster Wallace, this is water.

And so it is with a sick sort of pleasure that I read Professor Paul Campos’s very interesting piece on The New Republic website yesterday. Coupled with Elie’s post on the Biglaw bloodletting, the article tells me what I’ve wanted to know and, in fact, what I’ve been telling my mom for two years now. Namely, that MJ was right. I am not alone.

What is the true state of unemployment for law school graduates? Professor Campos has crunched some numbers….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Schools Lie Like A Dog… Or A Rug. A Dog On A Rug.”

Now is the season when law school applicants, having received their admission and rejection letters, need to make up their minds about where to attend law school (or if they want to go at all). We’ve received a number of inquiries from anxious 0Ls seeking advice about whether to matriculate at School X or School Y (which we might work into a post at some point, but which we don’t have the time to answer individually, for which we apologize). See also this post (asking whether you’d go to Notre Dame, for $X, or a lower-ranked school, for some number lower than $X).

In these discussions, the question of value looms large. We’ve previously mentioned lists of “best value” law schools in these pages, but some of these lists have methodological problems. And other lists — like the National Law Journal’s recent list of law schools that will get you into Biglaw on the cheap — while helpful, are too narrow in focus for some readers. Maybe you’re not looking for a Biglaw job, but you would like to attend a law school that is worth the price (i.e., a law school that can get you a job that will allow you to service the debt you incur).

Say hello to yet another set of law school rankings: U.S. News & World Report’s list of “10 Law Degrees With Most Financial Value at Graduation,” i.e., law schools whose graduates “have the highest first-year salaries relative to debt load.”

Did your school make the cut? Try to guess at some of the names you’ll see on the list, and then read on to see if you’re right….

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Bow down before the most popular.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a seemingly endless stream of law school rankings. For example:

If you thought that rankings fatigue would set in at some point, think again. Every new set of law school rankings, no matter how arbitrary or methodologically suspect, generates buzz and massive web traffic. The message that readers are sending to publishers: MOAR LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS.

Publishers are hearing it, loud and clear. U.S. News, the kings of the rankings game, just released a new rank-ordered list: the 10 most popular law schools.

How do they define “most popular law school”? And is your law school or alma mater one of them? Some of the schools on the list might surprise you….

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And now things get interesting. As we continue to run through the U.S. News 2012 law school rankings, we get to a crucial set of schools. The schools in this batch are certainly top tier, but they’re not “top 14″; for the most part, though, they charge like top 14 schools (especially the private ones).

So this is the batch of schools where we usually hear questions like: Should I go to this school at full price, or a much lower-ranked school for free? And our answer is usually, “How much lower-ranked are we talking about?”

The bottom line is that when people get into schools like Duke, or Penn, they are going to end up going to that school. But when people get into some of the schools on this list, they do seriously consider other options. Should I retake the LSAT, score better and apply again? How much financial aid am I getting? What’s the job market like in the [secondary market] this school is located in, just in case I get stuck there? Is it worth it to go into this much debt for a degree from that school?

These factors should come into play no matter which law school you get accepted to, but at this point on the U.S. News list, cost factors take on increased importance…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Open Thread: 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings (16 – 30)”

Welcome Texas!

As you are all know, the University of Texas School of Law has moved into the “top 14″ in this year’s U.S. News law school rankings. It’s a bit of cheat for U.S. News: Texas is technically tied for 14th, which means that the magazine has actually managed to cram 15 schools into its top 14. I’d complain more, but I’m a fan of a Big (We Can’t Count To) Ten school.

While we all know that Texas is in the top 14, very few of you remember the significance of the top 14 in the first place. The top 14 isn’t as arbitrary as it sounds. Since U.S. News started publishing these law school rankings, no school that ranked in the inaugural top 14 has ever been ranked outside of the top 14, and no school that did not rank in the top 14 that first year has ever cracked that list. Until now.

The top 14 has been a way to distinguish elite institutions that are nearly interchangeable with one another from really good law schools that are just a cut below. When viewed that way, Texas’s inclusion was probably long overdue.

Let’s take a look at some of the other movement in this rarefied group of law schools….

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Big deans don't cry?

Yesterday we talked about a couple of schools that fell in this year’s U.S. News law school rankings, whose deans promptly devoted school-wide emails making excuses for their programs dropping. Predictably, they criticized U.S. News’s latest methodology, even though this year’s formula did a better job of focusing on factors law students actually care about (like jobs, not donuts).

We asked you to send us other responses from law school administrations regarding this year’s rankings. And, ye Gods, foot soldiers with no clear mission or exit strategy in Afghanistan aren’t bitching and moaning as much as law school deans are just because U.S. News prefers schools that get their students jobs. If these crybaby deans could care about the employment outcomes of their students half as much as they care about the U.S. News rankings, then going to law school wouldn’t be such a financially dangerous option and their schools would do better in the rankings.

We were overwhelmed by the responses. Keep ‘em coming! But we’ll have to deal with many of them when we get to the appropriate point in our series of open threads on law schools.

Today I just want to focus on a few schools that did better in the rankings this year, yet still found the time to bitch about U.S. News. You expect schools that drop to be dismissive of the rankings, but when schools that are bathed in rankings glory are unsatisfied, that’s a little bit more interesting….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Start Your Whining (Part 2): U.S. News Makes Law Schools Squirm All Across the Land”

Is your law school being a crybaby?

We’ve already noted that there was no change at the very top of the 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings. The best schools remain the best schools.

Further down the list, we start to see some volatility. Now, every year there needs to be some change in the rankings; how else is U.S. News going to get people to buy new magazines? When you cede control of your legal education system to the list-making skills of a for-profit magazine, those are the kinds of realities you just have to live with.

But the way U.S. News tweaked its methodology this year is special. This year, U.S. News tweaked things ever so slightly to make their rankings just a little bit more output-oriented. While the rankings are still unabashedly focused on the qualifications of students on the way in than what those kids end up doing on their way out, this year’s list pays more lip service to the employment outcomes of recent graduates. We recently quoted this section of a letter U.S. News editor Brian Kelly sent to law school deans: “[E]mployment after graduation is relevant data that prospective students and other consumers should be entitled to. Many graduate business schools are meticulous about collecting such data, even having it audited. The entire law school sector is perceived to be less than candid because it does not pursue a similar, disciplined approach to data collection and reporting.”

U.S. News placed a little more emphasis on employment after graduation this year, and some schools took a significant hit because of it.

And now? Well, my friends, now we get to hear a couple of law schools squeal — just like their graduates have for the past three years….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Start Your Whining: Schools Make Excuses for Their Poor U.S. News Rankings”

Drums please.

The U.S. News law school rankings for 2012 are here, y’all. Time to pay tribute to that which is more important to legal educators in this country than anything else.

As is customary here at Above the Law, we will be posting a series of open threads, running through at least the top 100 law schools. These open threads offer you a chance to compare and contrast different schools, praise (or condemn) your alma mater, and talk trash about rival law schools.

We’re not sure what we’ll do with the formerly “tier 3″ schools that have now been graced with numerical rankings by U.S. News. And we have no clue how we’ll handle the formerly “tier 4″ schools, which are now being classified as “tier 2″ schools — but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle before I quietly accept U.S. News’s misleading attempt to recharacterize these schools as “second tier”….

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