U.S. News & World Report issues rankings of law schools. The most prestigious law firms recruit from only the top-ranked schools. I am not endorsing this; it is just a fact of life. If you are good enough to get admitted to one of the schools ranked in the Top 50, and you are in the top 15-25 percent of your class, you stand a chance of getting one of those $160,000-a-year jobs with a big law firm. If you don’t fall into these categories, the chances are that you won’t get one of these jobs.
Last week we told you that The Conglomerate was crowdsourcing a set of law school rankings. It called upon participants to make head-to-head comparisons between different law schools, then crunched the numbers to produce overall rankings.
We covered the early returns, in which Stanford was leading, with Yale in second place. Then came the University of Michigan, followed by Harvard.
At the top, there are not many differences from the U.S. News law school rankings….
Really, it’s a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news: the ABA committee reviewing the accreditation standards for law schools is starting to remember it has some power over how law schools operate. The bad news: the committee is contemplating a change that will only result in making it easier for schools to recruit any and all with the ability to pay (or go into debt), while at the same time gaming the U.S. News law school rankings.
The latest brain nugget to come from the ABA is a proposal to remove the LSAT requirement for admission into law school. Currently, the committee requires prospective law students to take a “valid and reliable” test. But a number of schools already have a waiver so they can admit their own undergraduates without taking a rankings hit due to low LSAT scores. The new ABA proposal would simply drop the requirement altogether.
I don’t think the LSAT is indicative of whole lot more than one’s ability to study for the LSAT. Being able to take standardized tests is an important skill — at least if you ever want to pass your state bar exam — but it’s not the only skill. From an educational standpoint, I don’t think it really matters if students have to take the LSAT or not.
But given the proliferation of law schools more concerned about generating tuition dollars than preparing the next generation of lawyers, the LSAT exists as one of the few barriers to entry to a profession that is already overrun with applicants. Dropping the requirement is a move in the wrong direction that will only make it easier for diploma mills to churn out the next generation of unemployed, wage-depressing attorneys….
This would be a big change. For those unfamiliar with the law school rankings (and if you are unfamiliar with the rankings, you must have ended up here looking for information on a Steven Seagal movie), let’s review. U.S. News currently ranks law schools from #1 to #100. After the first 100, U.S. News drops numerical rankings and groups the remaining schools into a “third tier” and a “fourth tier.” These schools are listed in alphabetical order within each tier.
Why? Well, for one thing, it becomes kind of silly to try to make a meaningful distinction between the 120th law school and the 121st. Doing it this way also benefits lower-ranked second-tier law schools. It arguably makes DePaul Law (ranked #98) look significantly better than all of the law schools in the third tier.
But do these distinctions make sense? The U.S. News people are examining that issue…
It sounds ridiculous, right? And yet….
U.S. News to Disclose ALL the Job Info It Collects: But Let’s Not Lick Each Other’s Popsicles Just Yet.By Elie Mystal
Last week, the people at the Law School Transparency project scored a major victory. They got U.S. News to agree to disclose all of the employment information the magazine collects about law schools, with the release of next year’s influential rankings.
According to stories around the blogosphere, U.S. News rankings guru Robert Morse is even giving the LST people credit for pushing the magazine in this direction. U.S. News, mind you, has more power over law schools than the freaking American Bar Association — but it was influenced by two young guys from Vanderbilt. Check out coverage from the ABA Journal, the WSJ Law Blog, and the National Law Journal (subscription). Major kudos to Team LST!
The changes are good, but they’re not the Holy Grail of law school transparency. U.S. News won’t be collecting any additional information. Schools will still be able to materially misrepresent some of their crucial employment statistics, and U.S. News is not increasing the weight given to outcome-oriented metrics in its rankings methodology.
It’s definitely progress, but as long as the ABA refuses to wield its regulatory power, there’s only so much a magazine can do…
* U.S. News will be shutting down its print magazine. But the rankings should be safe. [Mediabistro]
* The ABA is coming for your internets. [Avvo]
* Prince Jefri of Brunei is a wild and crazy guy. [Law Shucks]
* Justice Stevens pontificates on Ground Zero Mosque. [BLT: Blog of the Legal Times]
* Prop 19 supporters are already gearing up for 2012. Yeah, cause it’s not like pot heads will lose motivation over the course of two years. [WSJ Law Blog]
You can’t get two clicks into the legal blogosphere today without seeing a repackaged press release from Sidley Austin. Here’s one of the headlines we received today, which blares louder than a New York City fire engine stuck in
mid-tier midtown traffic:
Sidley Austin LLP has received 20 first-tier national rankings in the inaugural U.S.News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” survey, the most of any U.S. law firm.
Okay Sidley, we hear you; congratulations. Maybe you and Lady Gaga should confer and figure out how to get U.S. News to rank music video award shows.
Meanwhile, if you’ve spent any time clicking around the U.S. News law firm rankings since they went live last night (no, I haven’t really slept), you’ll notice that Sidley doesn’t seem to show up in the bottom right corner of the page under the heading “Featured Firm.” Instead of Sidley (or any of the other firms that garnered many first-tier practice area mentions), if you keep clicking refresh — I’ve done that about 100 times in the last hour, via multiple Firefox tabs — you see a bunch of firms that are outside the Am Law 100. And Squire Sanders.
Why aren’t the most well-respected firms the “featured” ones? The answer is obvious: the featured firms bought ads with U.S. News. Which begs the question: just how is U.S. News making money off of this exhaustive gambit into the law firm rankings market?
- Biglaw, Midsize Firms / Regional Firms, Rankings, Small Law Firms, U.S. News, U.S. News Law Firm Rankings
We told you this day would come. Way back in July 2009, we reported that the rankings behemoth, U.S. News & World Report, would soon be ranking law firms. In February 2010, we reported that the American Bar Association — so toothless in the face of U.S. News’s law school rankings — was worried about how this new U.S. News product would affect the profession.
Well, for better or for worse, the day has finally arrived. As of midnight (give or take a few minutes), U.S. News went live with rankings of 8,782 firms across 81 different practice areas. From their press release:
These inaugural rankings, which are presented in tiers both nationally and by metropolitan area or by state, showcase 8,782 different law firms ranked in one or more of 81 major practice areas. Full data is available online for the law firms that received rankings, from the largest firms in the country to hundreds of one-person and two-person law firms, providing a comprehensive view of the U.S. legal profession that is unprecedented both in the range of firms represented and in the range of qualitative and quantitative data used to develop the rankings.
It’s like Christmas morning — if only Santa were a jolly red prestige whore. Let’s get to it…
- American Bar Association / ABA, Job Searches, Law School Deans, Law Schools, National Association for Law Placement (NALP), Rankings, Student Loans, U.S. News, Vanderbilt
In July, we profiled the efforts of a group of Vanderbilt law students who are trying to bring more accuracy and transparency to the employment statistics provided by law schools. Their group, Law School Transparency, has requested all ABA-accredited schools to provide useful information to prospective law students — information that neither the ABA nor U.S. News currently collects.
Without the regulatory hammer of ABA (which the organization inexplicably refuses to wield), or the public shaming of U.S News (a for-profit magazine, not an industry watchdog), LST is up against some long odds. They’re trying their best, but their interim report indicates that thus far, 188 law schools have completely ignored their efforts to report simple facts on the employment prospects of law school graduates.
But 11 schools did find the time to send out a courtesy letter citing the reasons these schools cooked up to justify keeping people in the dark about employment prospects for law school graduates…