Law School Discussion

US News & World Report rankings SHATTER my conviction about school

So, as the U.S. News and World Report rankings were released recently, I've found my decision to attend one law school in question. Last Wednesday, after months of consideration and waiting for scholarship offers, I went ahead and dropped the $700 seat deposit for MSU. I know, they may not be a tier 1 school, but they are giving me about 50%+ of tuition via scholarship, my family all live in the state of Michigan, and I have friend who is a 3L and could give me the inside scoop at this school (I have realized I know nothing about law school).

However, in the rankings MSU is listed at 82 (not the most desirable position), with the median income as $70k private sector (encouraging, but not necessarily enough to pay the loans). Arizona State University--which I got into and received a 1L scholarship of $10k with a 2 & 3L scholarship of only $5k--has just moved up to 26. I know that all law school acceptance decisions are not fraught with the same challenges for everyone, but I'm running into this common conundrum: Everyone says "go to the highest ranked school that accepts you" (ASU), BUT current wisdom out there also says "paying off law school loans is difficult, so pick the school who gives you the most money" (MSU). So, where am I supposed to go???!!!

ASU is ranked well and would be in-state tuition since I have lived in Arizona the past 2 years working here. However, MSU is where my family is and where I'd feel comfortable if things got hard. ASU would give a median income of $90k to MSU's $70k, which means more money to pay my debt. I guess they'd end up costing roughly the same over time, if I were able to renew my MSU scholarship and get a slightly higher ASU scholarship (don't see how though). The one thing that keeps bugging me about ALL of this is that BOTH moved up in the ranks about 15 spots just this year! So how fluid are these changes?? And are employers going to care since neither is a top 10?

I just want to find a job! And the other factor in the mix: I currently live with my boyfriend (who'd be happy to do long distance after he moves to Michigan for residency this summer if I wanted him to), but if I stay in Arizona, I will literally have no friends, family, or significant other here if I fall on my butt and need help. Or get a flat. Or just have a bad day. This is not something I'm comfortable with. Just to make this clear though, I am NOT considering moving back to Michigan (and attending MSU) for a man. Not at all.  In fact, we'd live together in East Lansing but he would still end up being gone to different audition rotations about 80% of the time during my 1L year. I'm just including information about him and my family to show that I'd have a much stronger in person support system in Michigan than in Arizona. And if law school is anything like what I've heard, I will need this.

Please give me some input here! I could use the ideas and perspectives.


If it matters to you let it matter.

Personally I always laugh when someone makes  a life decision based on a report written by people who never even attended any of said schools.

If you had a super hot boyfriend and all the cheerleaders on your squad told you he was ugly would you dump him? If so, let the rankings bother you, if not, then F'it and move on.


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Great analogy above.

First off U.S. News is an unregulated, for-profit, magazine giving an opinion. You should realize that, but they are kind of like the cheerleaders who determine who is cool that year or not, but you shouldn't base your opinion on what cheerleaders think because as you noticed their minds change quickly. You said both schools moved up 15 spots in one year and I don't doubt that. I am a 2007 law grad and my school has gone down 25 spots in one year and risen 25 spots in a year. Last year my school was in an 11 way tie for 84th place, but I guess new rankings got released today. Guess how much I care about the release of the U.S. News Rankings today? Answer not at all.

Also Guess how much my boss cares if my school jumped 12 spots? Guess how much my clients care if my school jumped 12 spots? Guess how much the judge I argued in front of today cares? Guess how much opposing counsel cares? The answer is they don't care at all nor should they. It is nothing more than a magazine offering an opinion. It will fun to talk about at the water cooler if we made into the 70's, but other than it doesn't matter much.  I don't somebody somewhere will think the magazine matters,  but is making a life altering decision based on magazines opinion a good idea? I think your smart enough to know the answer. (It can play a factor in your decision, but don't let it be the deciding or even a substantial factor in your decision.

Even if the rankings does matter to someone neither of these schools are Harvard, Yale, Stanford and with how fickle the rankings are it is quite possible for Michigan State to be ranked higher than ASU by the time you graduate in 2015.  . this website shows how much the rankings changed in 3 years. Take a look particularly past the top 50 and notice the 11 way ties and massive jumps or declines.

Location is the most important thing to consider when choosing a law school. Whatever school you attend you are going to be at for a minimum of 3 years. Then odds are if you go to Michigan State your going to end up working in Michigan. If you go to Arizona State your going to end up working in Arizona. You have lived in both areas so whichever area you like more should play a much bigger role in your decision than what a magazine thinks.

Then as far as legal education goes it is essentially the same wherever you go. If you go to ASU or Michigan State your going to take Torts, Criminal Law, Contracts, Property, LRW, Con Law, and the typical courses all ABA schools require you to take. Your not going to learn anything differently from either school unless there is some specialty your really interested in. If you are really interested in  IP Law, Environmental Law, or something specific then check out what the schools have to offer. However, most law students and lawyers still have no idea what area of law they want to do and if that is your situation, which I am assuming it is the education you receive won't differ much at ASU or MSU.

The salary numbers are pretty much a joke. The schools manipulate the salary numbers to such a degree that they don't warrant consideration.  Check out and really read how they report the data and you see can it's manipulated so much that it doesn't really offer any valuable data.

This is really the most important thing you can do before making a 3 year 100,000 investment. Each school has their own feel that will either suit your personality or not. When I was deciding I visited many schools and some places rubbed me the wrong way, others I loved, and what rubbed the wrong way might have been a huge pro to someone else. You need to do these visits and talk to the administrators, students, and so on to determine if that school is for you. If you can't stand a place for  a day your not going to make it there for 3 years


This does a good job explaining how scholarships work if there are conditions. I don't know if your MSU scholarship has this, but many students lose out on money this way so pay close attention to the conditions of the scholarship. If ASU is offering in-state tuition that is something to consider, but location should play a much bigger role in your decision in my opinion.

Please realize that I am nothing more than anonymous internet poster and anyone on this site or other board is nothing more than that. I have no more credibility than U.S. News and I know nothing about you or situation. However,  you know yourself, your situation, your likes and your dislikes and your the one that is going to live with this decision for at least three years and likely the rest of your life. Pay attention to your own instincts not a magazine.

There is also no right answer to what law school to choose. Every school has their own pros/cons and in 2004 I was talking to everybody, researching, spending hours of my life trying to find the RIGHT ANSWER. That day never came and there are times I wonder what would have happened if I went to X, Y, or Z school. I will never know, but I enjoyed my law school experience. I hope you do as well, but please use your head and common sense when making this decision don't let a magazine make it for you.

Good Luck!


All I can say is making a decision based solely (or even mostly) on the figures provided by U.S. News and World Report is a bad idea.

I am not an attorney and like you have lots of questions about what schools to consider. My husband is an attorney. I must say that I believe your earning potential and sucess as a lawyer has more to do with your own abilities, what you want to do and where you want to practice. My husband attended a lesser known law school (Campbell) in N.C. after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill. He has a good income as a solo practioner in rural N.C. and I dare say earns just as much as as other local attorneys with ivy league degrees (I know a few in particular who attended Harvard). I think it is unreasonable to expect that your first job is going to be a money-maker. His first job was $20,000 a year plus commission in a real estate firm. It was temporary while he tried to get on as a prosecutor. He did six months later. He gained great experience and several years later opened his own practice and is earning six figures after expenses. I imagine metro areas are far more lucrative as well as contract or personal injury work but he does neither (does not like it). He does criminal defense and domestic work.  Success depends on how you appeal to potential clients, how you market yourself and how well you execute the particulars of your job. In his work, appealling to a jury matters more than where he got his law degree.   Enjoying some aspect of your job matters and yes being good at it (which often comes with time and expeerience). I know a lot of attorneys who hate thier job but if you want to be one, please don't believe everything you read :)

do NOT rely on that median income figure for ANY school and ESPECIALLY for arizona state, which has seemed to game the rankings for a second year in a row

Go to ASU:  highly regarded school in a state with a great economy.

Draw your own conclusions about MSU and the State of Michigan.

go where you want to live

and again, beware ASU's employment figures, which are a big joke