Is Your Law School Underrated?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In sports, the oft-compared common denominator of life lessons, an underrated player is one who is better than his or her general reputation. They often are not the superstars of the game, and instead may spend their seasons on the bench.

But their overall contributions, in the grand scheme of things, may be significant. In the National Basketball Association, for example, perhaps the most underrated player last year made only one basket a game. His overall efficiency, however, would be the best in the league.

So what does this have to do with the law? Well, when it comes to law school rankings, it all depends on how you score them.

Doing the Math

Like the NBA's player efficiency rating, which is based on a combination of sport-specific statistics, law school rankings are determined by numerous factors. The U.S. News & World Report scores schools by median GPA'S and LSAT's, acceptance rates, job placement success, bar pass rates, teacher-student ratios, library resources, and reviews by peers, judges, and lawyers.

The annual U.S. News report is the most publicized law school ranking, but it is not the only game in town. Daniel Filler, professor of law at Drexel University, has published law school rankings by job placement only. And the results may surprise you.

Yale, which ranked No. 1 with U.S. News, placed 20th on Filler's list. Stanford, the No. 2 pick, fell to 9th. The top job-placement school? University of Pennsylvania, which was ranked No. 7 by U.S. News.

So does this mean students should forget Yale and go instead to Penn because their job prospects are better? Maybe.

"I think a big takeaway is that the US News ranking doesn't actually predict how well graduates of a given school will do on the job market," Filler says.

More Jobs Do Not Equal More Dollars

If you want the biggest salaries, Filler says, the U.S. News' top 15-20 schools are "still the gold standard." But it may not pay off to write off lower-ranked schools.

"Anyone who chooses U.S. News' No. 30 over No. 100 because they think it's going pay off for them in Big Law is being a bit unrealistic," Filler said.

Reworking these rankings, the American Lawyer published its Top Ten list of most underrated law schools. Kentucky made it to the top, followed by Baylor and Seton Hall. None of them made it into the top 50 with U.S. News.

By the way, the best player efficiency rating in the NBA last year was Tim Quarterman with the Portland Trailblazers. I know, never heard of him.

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