The new U.S. News law school rankings are due out in March. And according to rankings guru Bob Morse, the publication is considering giving numerical rankings to the third-tier law schools.
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…
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…
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?
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…
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.
In fact, to this point no school (not even Vanderbilt Law) has agreed to provide the information LST is requesting. Poor Zenovia Evans would have starved to death by now.
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…
* We know you love rankings. Here are the top 25 national universities and liberal arts colleges, according to the 2011 U.S. News college rankings. [TaxProf Blog]
* CHECK YOU ETHICS? In the seemingly endless Barbie/Bratz litigation, lawyers from Orrick, which now represents Bratz maker MGA, have accused Mattel lawyers from Quinn Emanuel of participating in an elaborate corporate espionage scheme. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Give her a gold-plated gavel: Wisconsin Law professor Victoria Nourse, nominated to the Seventh Circuit, has a net worth of almost $20 million. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]
* Do you hate parking boots? So does this guy — and his taking a stand against them might bring about legal change in the U.K. [AltTransport]
In a time of rising tuition prices and declining job prospects, looking at the value proposition of going to law school is more important than ever. For the second year in a row, the National Jurist has named the 60 best value law schools in its preLaw magazine. From these 60 schools, it has further honored the top 20 value schools (unranked for now, but to be ranked, one through twenty, in October).
For the second year in a row, the methodology used to formulate these rankings needs to be much better if anybody is going to pay attention. The National Jurist recognized law schools as “best value” schools if they met four criteria:
1) their bar pass rate is higher than the state average;
2) their average indebtedness is below $100,000;
3) their employment rate nine months after graduation is 85 percent or higher; and
4) tuition is less than $35,000 a year for in-state residents.
We’ll get to naming the top 20 in a minute. First, we need to break down these inputs — inputs that could have been so much better and more relevant…
Late last month, we posed a question: Can Stanford overtake Harvard and Yale and become the #1 law school? We consulted our Magic 8 Ball, which gave this answer: “Outlook Not So Good.”
And it’s not just the Magic 8 Ball. Professor Bill Henderson, one of the leading academics studying the legal profession, constructed a simulation model of the U.S. News rankings. He used this model to figure out what Stanford Law School would have to do to top the list.
For starters, it would need to get its hands on at least $350 million dollars….
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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