Law School Discussion

Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?

Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« on: June 11, 2015, 08:16:14 AM »
Interesting article from Above the Law on who should or shouldn't worry about rankings. The basic idea seems to mirror what most attorneys say: unless you're in the running for Yale, look local.

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2015, 09:01:09 AM »
Pretty good article and I could even summarize it one sentence. Use common sense and trust your own judgement, don't look for someone or something to tell you how to live your life.

The article makes a great point about Cal-Western and West Virginia in that students from those schools do not compete with eachother. Cal-Western does great in San Diego and West Virginia does great in West Virginia.

Cal-Western were in the top 50 and West Virginia was dead last a West Virginia employer is going to hire from West Virginia. Very few people are willing to move to West Virginia for a job and therefore, any employers in West Virginia would like to hire people that already live there.

In the real world retaining attorneys is important and so is time. If someone from West Virginia University submitted a resume to my firm in San Francisco I would not interview them and frankly I would interview someone from Harvard or Yale either. These are all great schools, but we are not going to pay to fly someone out from Boston, Connecticut or West Virginia then have to wait a month or so for them to start and then have to worry about them possibly moving back. They also ask for airfare, hotel, etc and why would our firm pay for that when there are 9 ABA Law Schools in driving distance?

I imagine a firm in West Virginia would think the same about a Stanford, Boalt, Hastings grad why would they bother with all the hassle that comes with transporting grads from these schools to West Virginia? West Virginia is right there so hire from West Virginia.

Common sense really goes a long way, but for some reason people have a hard time using it.

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2015, 11:52:51 AM »
I think that even local/regional competition can be overstated, depending on the market. I mean, are CUNY and NYU grads really going to be in direct competition with each other just because they're in the same city? Or Boalt grads vs. Golden Gate grads? In most cases I doubt it.

They will likely be vying for different jobs regardless of location. The GGU grad is not going to be competing for a Biglaw job (usually) and the Boalt grad isn't going to be looking at small DUI defense firms. There is some overlap in jobs like PD/DA/County Counsel, etc., but most new law grads are probably going to be competing against other applicants from peer institutions.

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2015, 12:08:34 PM »
Excellent point and yea GGU, USF and Santa Clara grads are not in competition with Boalt/Stanford.

UC Davis/Hastings grads might occasionally be in competition with a Boalt/Stanford grad, but also typically in competition with GGU, USF and Santa Clara Grads.

At every firm and agency I have worked with there have been GGU, USF, Santa Clara, Davis and Hastings Grads.

I have a lot of friends that went to Boalt Law, but I have never actually worked with a Stanford or Boalt Grad.

So the point is valid outside of the elite schools even locally people from the 45th and the 200th "ranked" schools will be competing for the same gig and nobody will care about the difference.

  I know Stanford and Boalt are extremely hard to get into and graduating from those schools is impressive. The rest I honestly don't even know what the schools are ranked anymore. I know USF was in the 80's when I enrolled in law school, but word is it is not in the top 150 anymore, but colleague just won a big hearing this morning and guess how many times the rank of USF Law School was brought up?  0.

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2015, 07:24:20 PM »
I'd look more at the line scores. If reputation matters to you, etc, look at those first.

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2015, 07:52:10 PM »
Answer: law school deans. The end. gg wp


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Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2015, 07:24:49 AM »
I think that article is excellent, but also, in a sense, unhelpful. It replaces the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that 0Ls face with a different type of FUD. In addition, it highlights a running debate I've had with Citylaw. Allow me to expand.

Most 0Ls know nothing, not even what they don't know. They are faced with a dificult decision, and they want the one right answer. Many have little life experience. Many have little idea what actual law practice is like. So, for them, the idea that they can look at some "objective" rankings and determine that X school is better than Y school because X school is ranked 50 and Y school is ranked 75 is comforting. But it's also a lie.

That said, I take strong exception to Citylaw's advice. While well-intended, the whole "whatever works for you, the worst school is just as good as the best school, because you can get a JD and then you're an attorney!"* is *not* good advice. I know that he explains it a little more- consider costs and locality (which is my advice as well), but this is the exact same type of advice that got so many people in trouble in the last ten years, and continues to get them in trouble.

There are different "tiers" of schools, and they matter. Different types, if you will. There are the national schools (the shorthand for them is the "T14"). If you graduate from one of these schools, you will be able to place nationally. The alum base is national. Citylaw has made a point of saying that random Harvard grad would not get a position in California- I can assure that is not true. If the Harvard grad wants it, they will get it. I worked in Los Angeles at BigLaw(tm), and my firm was chock full of Harvard grads. And one of them, deciding they didn't like BigLaw during their first year, went to work at the City Attorney's office. How hard was it for them? Not at all. The name matters. After a while, it matters less, but there's a reason these schools are national.

After that, the ranking don't matter as much, but they do, in a certain way, matter. Look- one of the inputs for US News is reputation. And I will be the first to admit that the difference between #24 and #74 isn't going to be that great. But the difference between the schools in the Top 50 (say) and the schools that are unranked, reputation-wise, can matter. They can be the difference between a regional school, and a local school. Between a BU/BC and a Suffolk. Suffolk is a great school with great Boston connections, but that's about it.

There's further considerations. Thinking about maybe being a little politically active, or, at least, becoming a judge or getting more involved with a particular state? Consider the state school. Sure, Harvard might be great to become a Federal Judge one day. But two out of six justices on the Maine Supreme Court went to U. Maine law school (not one of US News favorites).

Wat it comes down to is this- going to law school must be viewed pragmatically. Unfortunately, law schools, for the most part, do not give you the skills to go out and become solo practitioners immediately - that's a malpractice suit waiting to happen - nor do most people have the particular business skills coming out of law school to set up their own practice. That means that you have to view it as an investment in your future. So it should come down to the cost and location (outside of national programs). But if you're paying full freight (at a non-state school, or a non-T-14), you may want to seriously reconsider your decision-making process to go to law school. I'm not definitively saying don't do it. But I'm strongly recommending studyin your options carefully. And, most importantly, please study the *real* employment outcomes of the schools you are looking at.

*I am not quoting Citylaw- I am putting words in his mouth. Just making that clear. :)

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2015, 12:59:00 PM »
Recognition is all that matters

The rest is on the job training vs being the most qualified person without anyone willing to hire them

If you don't want to work for anyone else (YOU MAD MAN!!!!!!!!!!) or have an uncle/dad lined up to hire you anyways. then nothing matters beyond bar pass rates.

simple as that

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2015, 08:24:45 AM »
Loki, I understand what you're saying and I think that's sort of what the author was saying, too.

I do think the rankings have some utility, but most 0Ls don't understand the limitations or context required to make sense of them. If Michigan is consistently ranked in the top 10, for example, then of course that indicates a strong national reputation and it does allow the 0L to get a basic picture of which schools are national and which are not.

The problem that the author has pointed out is that all schools are ranked on a national scale, which makes it nearly meaningless once you get past the T20 or so since the vast majority of schools don't have a national reputation, and their graduates will stay in the immediate area.

The harm caused by this scheme is that a law student in Montana will look at the rankings and go "Wow, University of Montana is only ranked #100 (or whatever it is). I better go to Ohio State instead, because that's ranked 40." But, Montana has a great in state rep, which isn't reflected in the rankings.

Frankly, I'm not even sure about some of the schools in the T15-25. They seem more like strong regional schools rather than truly national schools.

Anyway, maybe part of the fault lies with students who need to make an attempt to understand the context better, or maybe the rankings should be based on region after the T14. Either way, it really does seem meaningless once you get into the details of #77 vs. #93, and yet people are making life decisions based on this stuff.

Re: Who Should Pay Attention to Rankings?
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2015, 10:00:49 AM »

I think we are in agreement and of course a Harvard Grad can get a job in California without issue, but my point was at a random DUI firm in California the Harvard Grad likely won't get hired and would not want the job to begin with. If a Harvard Grad wants a job in California they can get one, but if for whatever reason someone wants to be a DUI attorney in Yreka, California they would honestly be better off going to McGeorge than Harvard. However, if someone was capable of getting into Harvard law school I find it unlikely working in a small DUI firm in a po-dunk town is what they would want, but of course everyone is different.

Again, as you said be pragmatic and if some person with a 2.8 and 152 LSAT said I am going to go to Golden Gate and plans on getting job offers at White & Case, Cravath etc. I would say don't be stupid. Nothing wrong with Golden Gate, but if your goal is to work at a Big-Law Firm it won't just magically work out and I would bet significant sums of money against a GGU, USF, Hastings, etc grad getting a big-law job right out of law school. I would also recommend anyone considering law school to either have worked in a law office during undergrad or worked in a law office in some capacity before enrolling. It is not for everybody and it is not some golden ticket to wealth and happiness.

I think the issue after 2009 is everyone thought oh well I can go to law school and be rich. However, if your primary reason for going to law school is to make money then don't go. Plenty of lawyers from every tier of law school do well financially, but plenty of others don't and there are easier ways to make money than attending law school. However, if you love working as a lawyer then you will be happy whether your making $50,000 at some DUI Firm or $250,000 as a BigLaw Associate.

As for the issue of rankings your point about Maine Judges having gone to Maine law school is exactly on point. If you want to work in Maine there is honestly no better law school to attend than Maine. If you want to be in South Dakota there is no better school than South Dakota.

If you are capable of getting into Harvard and are not sure if you want to settle down in Boston, Miami, L.A. or New York then by all means go to Harvard and you will have opportunities in those cities if you want them.

The overall point is just apply common sense when using the rankings or anything involving the legal profession. Harvard is a great school and will open doors nationally we all know that. If your a decent law school candidate and want to be live in Maine and be a lawyer enroll in University of Maine Law School. 

If you want to be a lawyer in San Francisco and get accepted into University of San Francisco, which is ranked 130 or something right now, but also get accepted into Tulsa ranked in the mid 80's don't go to Tulsa expecting that it being ranked significantly higher than University of San Francisco to provide you any opportunities in San Francisco.  If you want to work in Tulsa and also get accepted into Hastings, which is ranked 40th I believe don't expect Hastings ranks to open doors for you in Tulsa.

All those schools are fine and if you attend USF and pass the California Bar odds are you will get a job in the Bay Area or Northern California. If you attend Tulsa and pass the bar odds are you will get a job in Tulsa or in Oklahoma. The ranks mean nothing and don't tell us anything we didn't know when we were in 4th grade. Harvard, Yale, Stanford etc are great schools and will provide a graduate with a ton of opportunities, but if someone with a 4.0 and 180 LSAT really wanted to live in Yreka California and become a Public Defender then they would be better off going to McGeorge debt free than Harvard. That scenario is unlikely, but it exists and that is why I say think about your own situation, but apply common sense.