Deciding Where to Go > Choosing the Right Law School

Tier Rankings?

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I'm looking at the U.S. News site, but it goes straight from tier 1 to tier 3, where is Tier 2?

Tier 1 is top 50. Tier 2 is 51-100 Tier 3 then tier 4. The rankings are terribly done and if you are considering tier 2 schools you should not really concern  yourself with it. There are elite schools, but if you go to a tier 2 school it could be tier 4 by the time you graduate and a tier 4 could be tier 2 by the time you graduate. This literally is U.S. News system for measuring schools. Bar passage makes up 2% of a school's ranking. 60% is based on unidentified judges and lawyers across the country marking a scantron of Excellent, Very good, good or marginal. This allows a judge in Lincoln Nebraska to rank a school in Miami by checking a box of good or very good. It is very likely the judge in Nebraska has never met anyone from Miami and has no idea what the schools is doing there. The judge probably cares very little, because even if he screws up it will be the 72nd instead of the 92nd best school.

A much better site to look at for career prospects etc is It shows graduates actual salary numbers instead of U.S. News, which counts working at McDonald's or being a Supreme Court judge equally when putting employment statistics together.

It is sad, but none of this is a joke this is really how the U.S. News ranking system works. USF is the classic example to me because over a 5 year period they went from 72 to 98 to tier 3 to 76 now they are in a 13 way tie for the 93rd best school. Nothing at all changed at the school by the way this ridiculous formula is based on nothing and that is why schools outside of the top 25 and particularly outside of the top 50 fluctuate so much. When making your decision about what school to go to do not take the rankings into consideration unless you are going to an ELITE school I.E. Harvard, Georgetown anything in the T14 maybe up to top 25. Outside of the top 25 it really does not matter much. Schools all become regional at that point and nobody outside of the regional area has heard of the school.

As an example what is the difference between University of Maine and Gonzaga. What is the difference between Southwestern or Hofstra. The answer is I have no idea and neither do law firms. If you want to live in Maine go to Maine instead of Gonzga. If you want to live in L.A. go to Southwestern instead of Hofstra regardless of whether the school is 78 or 112. If you were going to Georgetown or something that is a national school and the situation is different. Tier 2 schools are not national and you should not consider the rankings very seriously if those are your target schools. If you are considering tier 2 school it is possible to get substantial scholarship money at tier 3 or 4's and in my opinion that is the much better way to go. Paying an extra 80k in tuition to go to the 78th best school instead of the 112th does not make much sense at least to me.

Thanks for the fast reply, so much useful info.

My decision is based on two things really, which of my reach schools accept me and if it is worth the $ to go to a t25 school, say Boston U.  It will cost 3-4x more than say The University at Buffalo, which is ranked say 80th or so.  So how could I go about evaluating which would be the better option for me, considering Boston might cost around 35-45k and UB will cost around 12k?

Assuming I get into my reach schools, I debate this issue because I hear the job market for lawyers is really bad, and many people are having a hard time paying back their HUGE loans!

See this link and the several blogs it links to:
(free to create account)

Well this guy was an idiot. I am sorry to say, but you should never take 250k out in student loans. He must have obtained private financing he studied abroad both summers I believe and never tried to find a job while in school. He took out a 15,000 bar loan, which is unnecessary and lived way beyond his means for 3 years. Whether you go to Boston or Buffalo it will be pretty easy to keep your debt under 150k if you live at all within your means.

People blame the job market always, but that is just life. I have posted on other threads where MBA's complained, M.D's complain, people with bachelor degree's etc complain about not finding a job. I have somehow found pretty solid job while a student that pay me granted it is not the same as a full time associate position, but I imagine when it comes time I will be able to figure that out. Plenty of people that graduated last year from GGU found jobs and plenty did not. There are people that complain no matter what the situation is and there are people that get it done. If you go to an ABA school and pass the bar you can become a successful attorney. Certainly debt and prestige of a school is something to consider. If you have the option to go to Harvard over GGU go to Harvard. In regards to your dilemma about Buffalo and Boston it really comes down to location. If you want to live in Buffalo or in the surrounding area then there is no better place to go than Buffalo. If you want to live in Boston well then Boston is probably the better choice. Boston is one of those fringe schools it might be considered elite by some people, but  I don't know if it is worth the extravagant amount of money. According to lawschooltransparency it does look like Boston has significantly better employment numbers than Buffalo.

Tuition for a resident at Buffalo is 17,000 max  cost of living grant is 15,000 per year. So you are looking at 32,000 x 3= 96,000 k maximum at SUNY Buffalo.

40k a year is tuition at Boston and 17,000 per year max cost of living. 57,000 x3 = 161,000 is the most you will pay. Remember if you are borrowing there is 8% interest I believe accruing annually so you will be paying somewhere in the neighborhood of of 11,000 a year in interest while in school. It will be in the neighborhood of  8k a year considering you get no scholarship money Buffalo. The financial numbers of law school are astronomical and that is why in my opinion it is always best to get out with as little debt as possible unless you go to a TOP school. Boston is a fringe top school particularly considering it is competing with Harvard and the endless amounts of top schools in Boston. In Buffalo there will be no competition I imagine Buffalo grads do well in Buffalo. There is no right answer, but really be wary of the amount of money you are paying to go to a school that a private unregulated magazine that both the ABA and AALS adamantly discourage tells you to go. Particularly when the school you are paying for is not even that highly ranked 63rd best impresses nobody. I am not sure where Boston is on the spectrum I would imagine it is in the low tier 1 high tier 2 range and ask yourself is it worth 80k a year(plus interest) more to go the 39th best school opposed to the 73rd.

I think the tier rankings are useful for giving a general guidepost as to the quality of legal education and job prospects you can expect from a school.  As Bigs pointed out, the comparison between schools ranked within a particular tier is generally unhelpful (e.g., school #55 and #95 would likely have similar quality of education and job prospects).  However, I do think the rankings become more helpful as the distance in ranking between two schools increases (e.g., #55 and tier 4).


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