Law School Rankings Don't Matter. Or Do They?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The U.S. News and World Report law school rankings are out, reports Above the Law. Suddenly, the universe has meaning.

Except a school ranking doesn't make you more employable if you're years out of law school. It doesn't make your student debt disappear. It doesn't make you more likely to pass the bar exam should you ever have to sit for it again. (If that fate befalls you, hopefully it happens before the MBE changes in 2015.)

Yale Law School is still number one. Harvard and Stanford are tied at two. Whether you're associated with one of these three schools or not, the world will still continue tomorrow. Why should we care about law school rankings?

Because the U.S. News law school ranking is the gold standard and prospective law students care.

Prospective law students are a lot like my parents: It doesn't matter how often or logically you explain that a course of action is a bad idea. They're going to patronize you, say, "That's good advice," and do whatever they originally wanted to do.

The entire blogosphere could say, "If you want to work in a major city (i.e. New York, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, L.A), go to a top 14 law school. Not top 50. Not top 20. Top 14. And then spend your summers working in the city where you want to work after law school." Most 0Ls would read that advice, say thank you, and proceed to confidently pay a zillion dollars to go the number 49 law school because it's 6 spots higher than the number 55 school.

That's not rational behavior. You know what else isn't rational? Dismissing a school solely on its ranking.

Despite elitist rumblings on the Internet, rank isn't everything. U.S. News may rank Rutgers 86th or 91st (depending on the campus), but a Rutgers law degree can get you in the door at most New Jersey firms. If you want to practice law in Mississippi, save money and go to Ole Miss. The Ole Miss law school is well-respected in the state, even if U.S. News ranks it number 102.

Results matter more than law school rankings. Instead of obsessing over rankings, 0Ls should talk to lawyers in the towns or firms where they want to practice. Find out where most of the lawyers in that area went to law school. Research the schools' bar passage rates. Find out which schools will hire grads for a legal incubator program in case the job market is still terrible after three years.

But I'm not optimistic that prospective students will take that advice, so here's the 2014 U.S. News ranking list. Go ahead, 0Ls. Plan your life around an opaque rating system. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard