Law School Discussion

Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings

Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« on: October 08, 2015, 03:34:36 PM »
I am an attorney that has been licensed for a few years and I remember when choosing a law school how important I thought rankings were. However, I have watched the rankings both during and after law school. It is shocking to see how much the rankings of each school I was considering  changed over the past 5 years. http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.html

I entered law school in 2008 and was living in New York.  I applied all over the place and was offered a full scholarship to University of Tulsa  and Michigan State.  At the time under the rankings both schools were considered Tier 4. The rankings used to be Tier 1 (top 50) (Tier 2 Top 100) Then they stopped ranking and made an arbitrary ranking of Tier 3 and Tier 4.  Now they simply rank to 150 and then do a RNP for the final 50.

At the time I didn't want to go to a Tier 4 school (A Tier 4 School Doesn't even exist now), because I thought the rankings mattered, but for reasons unknown  Tulsa is now in a 4 way tie for #82 and Michigan State University is in an eight way tie for 94th. (Yes eight way tie for 94th place not making that up. (Direct from U.S. News-http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-rankings/page+4 .

I am originally from California and applied to several California Schools, which included University of San Francisco, McGeorge and Chapman.

When I was applying McGeorge was barely in the top 100, but now for reasons unknown and under the new changes it is not in the top 150.

San Francisco was 84th, but now 138th.

Chapman was 100th now it is 127th.

The reason for these mass fluctuations is that U.S. News formula is based on nothing really just honestly unidentified people ranking schools on a scantron from 1-5. There is really no tangible way to compare University of Tulsa v. University of San Francisco. They are both ABA schools and will provide a quality education, but Tulsa and San Francisco are different places.

World renowned schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford are at the top and that doesn't change, but to any 0L choosing a mid-level school please do not use the rankings.  Nobody cares whether a school is in eight way tie for 94th or 4 way tie for 82nd.

I am always thankful to an attorney that talked me out of going to Michigan State, because despite my love of College of Sports I am from California and would have died in Michigan winters. Furthermore, I had no desire to live in Michigan and wanted to live in San Francisco. He told me if you want to be a lawyer in San Francisco go to law school in San Francisco. I was like many 0L's and overthinking everything and putting substantial stock in the opinion of a for-profit unregulated magazine known as  U.S. News to make life altering decision. (Not a good idea)

There is nothing wrong with U.S. News offering an opinion and they can rank anything they want, but making a life altering decision based on a magazine's random opinion is not a good idea.

As I now see  by the time you graduate the school you choose based on rankings will have changed substantially.

In my scenario the schools I turned down raised significantly and the schools I attended declined, but nobody cares. 

End of rant.




loki13

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Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2015, 09:53:21 AM »
"World renowned schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford are at the top and that doesn't change, but to any 0L choosing a mid-level school please do not use the rankings.  Nobody cares whether a school is in eight way tie for 94th or 4 way tie for 82nd."

While I agree, for the most part, with the post, I will slightly disagree with this statement. IME, the rankings are a useful guideline to *roughly* breaking down the law schools. As the post indicates, the difference between, say, 82 and 94 is non-existent. Heck, the difference between 50 and 92 is non-existent. But the rankings do provide some useful help.

Roughly speaking, there are national schools (often referred to as the T14), regional schools, state schools, and local schools. And slight variations within those. And the rankings roughly reflect those divisions.

A national school (the Harvards and Yales) will allow you to almost guarantee a BigLaw job (if that's what you want) and a choice of where you want to practice nationwide, if you are able to relocate anywhere. In addition, if you want to follow a certain track (Fed Clerkship-academic, for example), these are the schools that you should be most interested in. These are also the only schools where paying full tuition might be worthwhile.

After that, as you descend in the ranking, you get the regional (schools that place in their state, and to a lesser extent, within their region), schools that place within their state, and schools that, for the most part, place within their city and locality. There are always exceptions (I often cite U Maine, whose rankings show it to be a local school like Suffolk, but places state-wide as the only law school in Maine), but it's a good heuristic.

Also, as a general rule, the job placement options become better the higher in the rankings you go. That said, they don't become good enough (outside of the very top national schools) to justify significant differences in tuition.

So, rankings can be useful as a rough guide and a starting point. But the most important thing, outside of the T14, is cost and location of the school you plan on attending. In addition, do not choose a school just because of the ranking- a school that is less expensive and in the location you want to practice, but ranked 60 spots lower than another school, will likely be a better choice.

Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2015, 10:20:20 AM »
Agreed yea I will extend that to T14 and really even any school with a National Name. I don't know what BYU is ranked I am sure I could google to find out, but that is probably the best school you could possibly attend if you want to live in Utah.

There are schools everybody knows or the vast majority as "great" schools. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Berkeley, NYU, Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, Duke, Vanderbilt, Cornell, etc  I could go on, but there are certain schools known nationwide and those are worth attending.

In my situation attending Tulsa over University of San Francisco based on rankings, would have been based a bad decision. Tulsa is not a school with a nationwide rep nor is University of San Francisco they are both fine schools, but nobody is going to be impressed by either one.

Right now Notre Dame is "ranked" almost equally with UC Davis. http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.html . However, Notre Dame has a far stronger alumni network and national name than Davis does.

So you don't even need the rankings really before they were published Harvard was a good school as were the others I listed and everybody knew it. It is essentially amounts to a magazine telling us Shaq is big, I knew that already and didn't need a magazine to tell me.

loki13

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Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2015, 12:14:49 PM »
"So you don't even need the rankings really before they were published Harvard was a good school as were the others I listed and everybody knew it. It is essentially amounts to a magazine telling us Shaq is big, I knew that already and didn't need a magazine to tell me."

I think you forget the information asymmetry. Do you really remember how little you knew prior to law school? Now, I believe that the rankings do harm in certain ways (they harm 0Ls as they don't know enough to realize that there is little difference between, say, #60 and #95; they harm schools that are required to change their schools in ways that they believe will improve their metrics). But they are useful in that they add information to the mix. Sure, a 0L knows that Harvard is a good law school. Do they necessarily know that UTexas and UCLA are that much better than most state schools?

Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2015, 02:17:37 PM »
I assume most law students would know that University of Texas & UCLA are solid schools. I think that goes to my point in that UCLA is a university people know all over the United States as is University of Texas. The campuses are beautiful, they have massive alumni networks etc.

I think it is fair to say that most people would know that UCLA is a "better" school than Southwestern or Loyola Marymont. I also assume most people would know that University of Texas is "better" than South Texas College of Law or St. Mary's College of Law.

I have no issue with U.S. News offering the rankings it is a money maker and if people want to pay to listen to their opinion let them. If people Tony Robbins wants to give life coach lectures more power to him. However, I wouldn't recommend that anyone take either that seriously.

As I am sure you remember as a OL everyone is insecure about their decision, most incoming 0L's are very dilligent researchers who wants to be sure they are making the "right" choice. U.S. News exploits that fear for profit by making an arbitrary ranking of schools.

There is no ranking for every single undergraduate institution, but when I was a high school student I knew UCLA was a "better" school than Cal. State L.A. or Cal. State Northridge. Not that there is anything wrong with Cal State L.A. or CSUN, but UCLA is a better school. I knew that without a magazine telling me.

I knew UCLA was a better school than Southwestern, but as a OL when I saw a school ranked 70 instead of 94th I actually thought it meant something, but it doesn't.

Conclusion:
Like most things involving law school if you use common sense a lot of issues can be resolved, but U.S. News makes a profit on 0L's by releasing this ranking to confuse people during a confusing part of their life. However, they are more than entitled to make a profit for their opinion, but incoming 0L's don't have to listen to it and they shouldn't listen to it either.

loki13

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Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2015, 02:35:37 PM »
"U.S. News exploits that fear for profit by making an arbitrary ranking of schools. "

I disagree. It's not arbitrary. You can argue with the formula (which gives great weight to the reputation in the profession, LSAT, admissions, etc.), you can say that the differences between certain schools aren't as important as some other differences, but it's not arbitrary.

I often see this argument advanced by people that do poorly in law school- that, for example, grades are arbitrary. Well, perhaps there's not a great deal of difference between the person who finished #3 in the class and #7, or the person who finished #100 and #150, and perhaps grades don't measure everything (they don't, fwiw). But they aren't arbitrary. And they can serve a useful purpose, so long as you know the limitations.

You may say that it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps. But there is some meaning there. Your analysis (arbitrary) is no more valuable than someone who worships rankings. Jus' sayin'.

Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2015, 04:13:36 PM »
I think law school grades can be analgous to U.S. News. If you are in the top 10% of your class you did well and there is merit to that distinction. However, is there a much difference between someone in the top 8% v. top 10% not really. Is there a difference between someone in the top 10% and the bottom 75%? Yes.

However, even if you go lower is the student in ranked 55 out of 100 that much better or worse than someone ranked 72 out of 100? I don't think it matters much at that point. Both are mediocre law school performers sure it is better to be 55 than 72, but no employer will say wow you were 55th amazing.

U.S. News is the same situation if you are in the top 10% of schools then there is a real distinction and maybe even in the top 25% of schools that is a factor to consider, but when you get to 78th v 112th what does it matter?

Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2015, 10:57:55 AM »
As Loki stated, the rankings do provide a sort of rough guide for 0Ls who can at least make a distinction between Northwestern and Appalachian. The problem, however, is that the vast majority of 0Ls aren't trying to choose between Northwestern and Appalachian. They're more likely to be choosing between Appalachian and Samford, or Appalachian and Capital.

In that scenario, I think the rankings are probably more harmful than good as they give 0Ls the false impression that there is a definable, concrete "Better" or "Worse" school based on prestige.

Once you get away from the top 20 or so schools, it would make far more sense to break the rankings down geographically. For example, most people in Southern California would consider Loyola a "better" school than Whittier, and that has some utility to a kid who wants to stay in the LA area. But what usefulness is there in comparing Loyola to say, Touro? They are in completely different markets and their grads are not in competition with each other.

This is something 0Ls simply don't get yet, and I think the rankings can mislead them in this way. 

Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2015, 11:10:43 AM »
Solid post and I guess my point is that if a 0L doesn't know that Northwestern is better than Appalachian they probably shouldn't be going to law school.

Northwestern is a well regarded school and any 0L at an ABA school went to undergrad and for example I went to a California State University. I knew that Northwestern, Stanford, UCLA, USC etc were "better" undergrads.

The issue you cite is where I think the problem lies and was even my situation, I was using the rankings to decide between the following schools Penn State, Michigan State Tulsa, Franklin Pierce (now University of New Hampshire), Florida International, Texas Wesleyan (Now Texas A&M), University of San Francisco, Golden Gate, Chapman, and Santa Clara.

I was living in China when making my decision, which is why my schools were all over the map and I was not being realistic about location at all.

The rankings have no utility for any of these schools. If I wanted to live in Michigan-Michigan State would have been the best choice.  New Hampshire-New Hampshire, then as to the Bay Area Schools at the time USF was "better" than Santa Clara now USF is barely ranked and Golden Gate was "tier 4", but now it is the same as USF. None of those three bay area schools are really much different when Boalt & Stanford are right here not to mention the array of Harvard, Yale, NYU etc grads that move to the Bay Area.

Many of my friends went to Boalt & Harvard and have no idea that there is even a difference between USF, Santa Clara and Golden Gate. It is essentially the distinction I made earlier about two students fighting over the 55th and 72nd class rank who would know or care?

As I have said you can use the rankings as a tie-breaker and to someone out there it might make a difference, you never know. However, if you wear a blue suit to an interview instead of a gray one that could make a difference as well. 

I may even be even stupider than most 0L's when making my decision by using the rankings as a guide, but using the rankings to make a life altering decision is not a good idea. At least in my anonymous internet poster opinion, which is worth according to Michale Scott the most reliable source of information ever :)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvZBg7qLzU8


loki13

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Re: Evidence Why 0L's shoudl not use Rankings
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2015, 12:05:08 PM »
As Loki stated, the rankings do provide a sort of rough guide for 0Ls who can at least make a distinction between Northwestern and Appalachian. The problem, however, is that the vast majority of 0Ls aren't trying to choose between Northwestern and Appalachian. They're more likely to be choosing between Appalachian and Samford, or Appalachian and Capital.

One thing I think many of us are forgetting is that these 0Ls aren't just using the rankings to determine what school to go to once they are accepted; they are using the ranking to determine *what schools to apply to.*

Try and remember that having a rough and general idea of the relative tiers of schools is a good thing when many of the modern students apply to more than 10 schools (one recent student told me that he applied to 25 schools, and he was shocked that I was shocked).