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more about the rankings

April 3, 2006

Everyone is talking about the US News rankings. (I won’t link to them; you know where to find them.) From what I hear, the law school boards are hopping–people are questioning their previous admiration for various schools that have dropped in the rankings, and are cooing about schools they’d never have considered before because they went up a few notches. I’ve even heard mutterings around school. We poked major fun at the rankings during the law school musical–or, at least, made big jokes about our ranking. But today I heard a few people talking, in not-happy tones, about our ranking. (For the record, we dropped ever-so-slightly.) And it annoyed me. I wanted to stop them and say something; I wanted to snipe at them.

I am pretty sure I have said this before, but it totally bears repeating. Law school rankings do not matter. OK, maybe that’s an overstatement. Clearly, they do matter. Higher rank correllates with better bar passage rates, better employment prospects, higher starting salaries, and, of course, a higher, though only-marginally-important, brag factor. What I mean, then, is that if you have chosen your law school for the right reasons, ranking should not matter.

A lot of people go to the highest ranked school they get into. This, however, is not, independently, a good enough reason for choosing a law school. That choice should be about more than prestige. Instead, choose your law school because you think you will be happy spending three years there. You may be admitted to more than one school that fits that description, and that would be the time to go to the other considerations. Sure, take financial and regional considerations into account, but when push comes to shove, if you choose your law school based on nothing more than prestige, chances are you will be sorely disappointed at some point. Like, when US News publishes its rankings and your school drops.

So, sure, the rankings drop is no fun, if only because of the way people react to it. But does it actually change anything? Is my school any worse today than it was last week? Absolutely not. Do I love my school less? Do I think less of my classmates? Do I have any regrets? Absolutely, positively not. Why? Because I chose my school for what I consider the right reasons–its size, its location, its academics, and its reputation. That’s right, I considered reputation. Note that, when it comes down to it, my school’s reputation is not dramatically different from the other schools I considered, nor are the academics. But the size and location were really important to me, and they make the difference.

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  1. April 3, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    You know Kristine, I agree with you. But I cannot help but be disappointed by our rather spectacular fall from grace.

    Since I moved out of state to go to school, rankings were one way that I had to evaluate the marketability of my law diploma. I did not really plan to stay in the state that my law school is in. And now, I just wonder if it will make the least bit difference if I apply to say a firm in Atlanta from my school X and jenny from school Y applies too… Will the firm say, hunh? X or Y? I don’t know a damn thing about either of them, so let’s get info. And then the rankings comes up? My crim law prof says not. He thinks real law firms do NOT turn to US News and world report for their info on candidates.

    I tend to agree with him, but it “feels” like the rankings matter. I feel like Sleepless in Seattle where women of a certain age don’t get married. Not true, but it feels like it’s true 🙂

    Realistically, the Atlanta firm would say, bah, I’m not hiring from X and Y; I don’t know anyone from there vouching for the students. I’ll take someone from Emory with a lower GPA. At least I know Emory.

  2. April 3, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    Joey, that’s one reason I mentioned the regional considerations (and the financial ones). Sure, prestige means something to law firms, but chances are if your school is in the area you want to live and practice, a drop in the rankings isn’t going to matter so much. Hiring attorneys will know the quality of students who come out of your school because they’ve probably hired some before.

    My big beef is with people who chose their school strictly because it was the highest ranked school they got into, and then bitch because that ranking changed for the worse. Rankings, frankly, are volatile (or at least not immutable), so basing your choice on it is just silly. If you go to a school you really like, chances are you’ll be happier and do better.

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