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Author Topic: Best Law Schools according to lay perception  (Read 8976 times)

lawboy81

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Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« on: June 23, 2010, 11:43:36 AM »
What do "regular people" (let's say college educated people who have never attended a law school) think are the best law schools?

1. Harvard
2. Yale
3. Stanford
... (big drop off)
4. Columbia
5. Georgetown
6. Berkeley
7. Duke
8. Notre Dame
9. Vanderbilt
10. Michigan
11. NYU
12. Cornell
13. UPenn
14. UCLA
15. USC
16. Virginia
17. Northwestern
18. Texas
19. Emory
20. GW
21. Chicago
22. BC?
23. BU?
24. UNC?
25. W & M?
26. Washington U.?
27. Tulane?
28. Wisconsin?
29. Minnesota?
30. W & L? American?

Morten Lund

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2010, 12:15:08 PM »
Interesting exercise.  I suspect the answer would vary rather drastically on a regional basis, and I assume you are limiting yourself to theoretical US respondents.

lawboy81

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2010, 01:56:11 PM »
Sure, regionalism matters a lot. For example, I've heard Cornell is highly regarded in the Northeast, but most people don't know it in the South.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2010, 02:21:43 PM »
Sure, regionalism matters a lot. For example, I've heard Cornell is highly regarded in the Northeast, but most people don't know it in the South.

Quite right, and this highlights one of the dangers of relying on a single ranking, as we tend to assume that this is a linear progression from "best" to "worst."  You've also added an important note between #3 and #4, in that there are "batches" of schools, rather than a linear truth.  At the top especially, firms operate with assumptions about rough categories, which also coincide with regional awareness. 

So, a national firm will look only to a handful of law schools in their recruiting, and possibly to the very top students in another handful of regionally well-ranked schools.  A solid regional firm will consider all of the above, and perhaps a slightly broader mix of regionally well-ranked schools.  And so on down the line.  Government agencies follow something like this, but with a generally broader pattern once you move down from the "prestige" positions.

To anyone considering the ever-vexing question of which law school for you, try to avoid thinking of rankings as linear . . . even though that's how they are presented.  There are, instead, hierarchical "cones" in each region, and then from region to the nation.

Thane.

lawboy81

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2010, 03:38:19 PM »
No doubt. Once could of course do a rankings system based on regions or states or even cities. For example, Atlanta might be something like this:

1. Harvard, Yale, Standford
2. Emory, UG, Vanderbilt + other T14's
3. Georgia State, Mercer, other good Southern schools (Alabama, Florida, UNC, W & M, W & L, Wake Forest, Tulane)
4. Lower-ranked Southeastern schools
5. everything else

But my original ranking is more for just national lay perception.

lawboy81

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2010, 10:05:18 AM »
no other ideas? do lay people know anything beyond Harvard, Yale, Stanford -- maybe GTown, Columbia, Duke?

JG

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2010, 01:31:09 PM »
I'd bet that most lay people think Princeton has an excellent law school.  Basically, I think people who don't go to law school don't know anything about law school rankings or quality and think a law school is about as good as the undergrad institution it's associated with. 

pacelaw2013

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2010, 02:16:14 PM »
Hmmm.....

I would say:

Harvard
Yale
Georgetown
Notre Dame
Stanford
BU
Ohio State
USC
Michigan
Pace Law (ok, maybe wishful thinking)

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lawboy81

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2010, 03:20:38 PM »
Haha, yeah sorry I wouldn't put Pace quite up that high. Your top 5 are similar to mine and clearly all national schools. BU and Ohio State seem pretty regional to me. I mean, I think people not from the Northeast are more likely to be somewhat familiar with Columbia, NYU, and possibly UPenn and GW (if that's a "Northeatsern school") than BU. Everyone's heard of Ohio State but I'd guess mos people just assume they have a good football team. Maybe they are well known for their academics too, but certainly not as much as Michigan...

Thane Messinger

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Re: Best Law Schools according to lay perception
« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2010, 06:10:26 PM »
Haha, yeah sorry I wouldn't put Pace quite up that high. Your top 5 are similar to mine and clearly all national schools. BU and Ohio State seem pretty regional to me. I mean, I think people not from the Northeast are more likely to be somewhat familiar with Columbia, NYU, and possibly UPenn and GW (if that's a "Northeatsern school") than BU. Everyone's heard of Ohio State but I'd guess mos people just assume they have a good football team. Maybe they are well known for their academics too, but certainly not as much as Michigan...

Part of this is a very simple test, corresponding to the initial question:  reputation. 

As lawyers interact, they draw conclusions about each other.  I just spoke with someone who, as it happens, graduated from Michigan.  (I don't normally focus on this, but as it was our first conversation I did want to learn something about him and, of course, alma mater is one of the first facts listed.)  The conclusion?  He was VERY sharp.  (Very decent, too.)  In my mind, that confirmed the prejudice that graduates of Michigan are, yes, very sharp.  Should I run across a Michigan grad who is not sharp, I would probably chalk that up to an outlier.  If I continued to run across bad Michigan grads--unlikely--the broader opinion might change.  This is the process, repeated countless times, in firms and law offices large and small. 

Numerous potential problems exist with this "method," of course, but we will hardly change our human nature.  What we can change is our own quality, to be the outlier on the upside--and, of over time, to be the evidence of superior quality.