Law School Discussion

Do rankings really matter?

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2004, 09:25:09 AM »

You're right, I haven't been accepted at Harvard.  I have been accepted to George Washingtion Univ, SMU, with a scholarship offer and waitlisted at U of Texas.  I'm still waiting on Northwestern: all are so-called "Tier 1" schools.  I also have a few full scholarship offers from great schools that are not in the top Tier according to U.S. News.  So my options are cool with me.   

And right now, I am legal assistant at one of the bigger firms in the country- learning alot.

You seem to have missed the point.  In law school, the key is to do well.  I DID NOT SAY THAT COOLEY HAD A BETTER LAW SCHOOL THAN HARVARD, nor have I visited or know anyone at either school.  So I couldn't tell which was the better school.  You must also define "better" before making such a quality assessment.  My exact words were "The key is to do well, whether you're at Cooley or Harvard".  In the beginning of my previous statement, I also said that, to some employers, rankings do matter.  The point is this: don't go to a law school simply b/c of U.S. News has it ranked as xx.  Go because that is where you want to go- b/c it is the school that you feel can give you the best possible legal education that you can get.  If you do well, you will have options, even if you are at one of the so-called "lesser schools".  Don't let where U.S. News has your school ranked get you down.  To be in law school is an honor, no matter where you are!   

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2004, 02:34:03 PM »
Prelaw-not to be contentious, but you really do fail to recognize the dynamics that effect the choices of anyone who is not an undergrad.  While you can ask your family to pick up and move for you, youíre probably being incredibly self-absorbed.  There are other things more important than law school for a lot of people.  Harvard will likely never be ranked lower than Cooley.  However, as someone who applied to schools for geographical convenience, if I can go to a school where Iíll be happy Iíll likely do better than being miserable somewhere because it is ranked higher.  I also have to wonder if being a star at a tier 3 is really so inferior to graduating last at Harvard, especially after you have work experience. 
Iím currently making the decision between schools and have received aid from tier 3 and 1 schools, but there is more in my mind in rankings.  Maybe youíre young, and if you are good luck. . . go somewhere fun.  If youíre not and you expect the world to stop because youíre attending law school and got into a great school, I feel sorry for your family. And you really shouldn't assume anyone is a dumbass, unless you've sat a week in their ass.

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2004, 06:02:10 AM »
In law school, the key is to do well.

I agree that if one were to graduate #1 at University of Houston vs. LAST at Harvard, s/he would probably get the same pay upon graduation, no matter which school s/he attended.  However, many people might attend UH with the hope/plan to graduate as #1.  Not everyone will and that's why I believe a person should attend the school with more prestige.  If one were to graduate in the bottom half of his/her graduating class at Kent/STCL/UMiami or any other school that's not considered to be in te top 10, s/he would have a harder time finding a job than would a person who graduated in the bottom half of Yale/Harvard/Stanford. problem is to decide whether to go to a second tier school where I can get $ vs. a first tier that offers me no $.  Also, the second tier is close to my home and I would not have to move my family - I'm married with kids.  Any advice? ???

My sister was in a similar position as you are, MarieB.  She was offered a full tuition scholarship at a law school in her area and not much money at a few Ivy League law schools.  She chose the law school in her area and is very happy right now.  She has not yet graduated but her last two summer jobs were at law firms, one of which paid her over $1000/week.

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2004, 12:50:27 PM »
More and more people are going to law school later in life and I think it's difficult, if not impossible, for a senior in college to have the same attitude toward the law admissions process as us adult students.

In choosing the schools to apply to, I looked first at my numbers to eliminate the schools that would probably laugh at me (top 10 or so).  I then went through the list with my husband and we crossed off any place we could not stand to live for three years.  I then chose 2 reach school, 2 target schools, and a safety.  With a chronically ill spouse, the money wasn't there to apply to more and we've got too much to qualify for fee waivers.

I don't think I want an 80 hour a week job in corporate law.  I may change my mind, but I'd rather have a shot at excelling at the school I attend than resigning myself to be a middle of the pack person.

People who make blanket statements about rank meaning everything and personal dissatisfaction meaningless seem to have forgotten that not all prospective law students are after the same goal.  Am I willing to have a cranky husband for three years who has to start all over in a new place, get a new job, find new doctors, get licenced in his field in yet another state?  Only if I truly love the program, and I've already self-selected cities we have friends/family in or near.

I know people who've gone to the top grad programs and are struggling to pay off loans, and I know people from public schools who are making a good living and are happy.  IMHO, it's more about personal preference and knowing the consequences of choices, such as some firms focusing heavily on rank.

I've already been accepted to my safety school, which is middle of tier-2, so I know I'm going to law school someplace next year.  It just remains to be seen if I'll climb up that old ranking ladder a bit more before matriculating.  Then again, a state school's tuition and aid programs may be too tempting to take advantage of even if I get into a higher ranked school.


Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2004, 01:10:06 PM »
I'm going to have to say it really depends on your own personal goals for your life, and how the schools will help you reach those goals.

If your first priority is to someday be a top candidate for a Wall Street law firm that pays $95,000 per year, then you probably have to concern yourself with rankings.

If you aleady know you have no interest in that type of career, maybe because you know you'd hate the 80-hour work weeks, or because you want to be a public defender, then consider the other factors...tuition and financial aid, location, etc. you have to evaluate your own priorities. If someone wants to be a public defender, it would make little sense to pass up scholarships as lesser ranked schools and instead incur $100,000 of debt to go to the big name.

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2004, 07:40:24 AM »
Let's put it this way. The Kansas Supreme Court is loaded with Washburn Law grads (3rd tier) while the Univ. of Kansas (2nd tier) is unrepresented on the Court. ;)

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2004, 09:32:23 PM »
Honestly, this question always seems to appear as if it's running in place. It never gets anywhere. I'm not an expert on this matter. However, I believe that the few schools that normally rank in the Top Ten and UVA seem to have a distinct advantage, especially concerning your first job or summer experiences. This is assuming you aren't the lucky individual in the Top 1%, moot champ, and Law Review Editor. If you have all that and can't do well in the market you're just getting shafted. Many influential members of the law community have gone to those elite schools, so you can expect some amount of bias towards those schools. Even the lower ranked schools fall into the prestige trap. Most of their faculty are from Top Ten schools. Also, the big firm's appear to be snobbish about the rankings as well. I think going to those Top 10 is the best economic decision, but that just isn't possible for the vast majority of us. So in a nutshell if you want that megabuck job straight outta law school then the "top ten" is where it's at bub. Also, the job market is pretty tight these days, so most employers will probably give preference to those highly to average qualified people from the top schools. But as always "it depends" is the rule of thumb. This is what I've consolidated from various sources.  

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2004, 04:56:10 PM »
First of all, no one has mentioned the decided preference of employers for graduates of local schools, regardless of ranking, unless, of course you have a degree from one of the top 14 schools, in which case, who gives a rat's ass about local employers.
2nd: This is a practical question that was posted, not a philosophical one. One of the things that hasn't been answered was: Is there a real difference between, say a school ranked #40 and one ranked #51. Answer, probably not. Differences of about 20 aren't that meaningful after the top 20.
3rd: Get real! If I get a choice between school rated number 51 with substantial amounts of free $ vs. school rated #40 with no money, the choice is easy. It gets even easier if school #51 is in the state I want to practice law in and school number 40 isn't. The people who would choose otherwise are kids who have never been in the real world supporting themselves and their family while being simultaneously  burdened with huge debt. Now the situation gets different if school with the money is ranked #75 and school without money is ranked #30. Now you get into the other factors mentioned in previous posts, including better job offers (although the caveat about public service is well taken.
P.s. Hi, Burt, I'm 53 myself.

Re: Do rankings really matter?
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2004, 10:58:50 AM »
Thanks, sagemenscircle, finally someone brings up the question I've been seeking the answer to. :)

After reading posts galore on a few too many boards, as well as the column advice from, I definitely got the feeling that as far as young aspiring law students go (the type who don't have to worry about families to uproot, etc.), the higher ranking the school the better.  However, I have a couple questions perhaps some of you could answer.  Take the following situation: a student applies and is accepted to a rising? school like Cardozo (ranked #57 in USNews, but #28 in the EQR rankings) and another school that is ranked higher according to USNews (lets say around the 30-40s) but lower in EQR.  Money is the same at either school, but the location of the unnamed school is less than ideal (rural or highly suburban, and not in the state of NY, MA, CA, etc.).  However, the unnamed school is considered more of a national school, as it attracts at least twice the number of national recruiters and has a smaller student population to boot.

1) Am I correct that if I want to work at a big firm in say California, I would be better off at the higher ranked school?

2) In terms of finding a job in NYC Big Law, I understand that local schools are heavily recruited so I would probably pick Cardozo over a 40th ranked school but what about over a 28th ranked (USNews) like College of William & Mary?

3) I keep hearing "First tier matters" but there are definitely many levels of first tier schools.  Obviously the top 25 or so are no-brainers, but does it really make a difference if you're at a bottom first tier or a top 2nd tier (given that there is no money difference).  I would think that if the top 2nd tier school were to move up to the bottom of the 1st tier by the time you're looking for a job, the difference would be moot.  Am I correct in this assumption?

4) Also, I've read from that sometimes, the school you choose will come back to haunt you 30 years down the road when you're trying to transfer laterally and the hiring partner at the firm you're trying to transfer to is completely absorbed about hiring only so-called first tier graduates.  Will it matter that the school you attended used to be 2nd tier?  I imagine if the school you attended was 4th tier during your tenure there but 30 years later is 1st tier, people would still say "oh, the guy graduated from there when the school wasn't that good."

5) Going along with the whole idea of hiring biased towards first tier schools, does anyone have any experiences regarding companies looking down upon a school that is 2nd tier at #51 versus a school that is 1st tier at #47?  I would imagine that a school that close to falling out of the first tier shouldn't be considered any higher than a school just as likely to join the first tier, although from what I've read, it seems first tier carries extra weight.  I don't know if the people using the term are actually thinking of top 25 schools when they say first tier, as there is a big difference between the top 25 first tier schools and the next 25.

Thanks in advance for any insights offered!