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Monday, January 28, 2008

The Most Overrated Law Schools: A Student Perspective

A Pre-Law Discussion Board poll of the Most Overrated Law School Among the Top 14 in U.S. News & World Report (259 respondents):

  1. Penn: 19.3% (50 votes) (#6 in U.S. News)
  2. Cornell:  14.3% (37) (#13)
  3. Georgetown:  13.9% (36) (#14)
  4. Duke:  8.9% (23) (#10)
  5. Michigan:  8.5% (22) (#8)
  6. NYU:  7.7% (20) (#4)
  7. Harvard:  5.4% (14) (#2)
  8. Yale:  4.6% (12) (#1)
  9. Northwestern:  4.6% (12) (#12)
  10. UC-Berkeley:  4.2% (11) (#8)
  11. Chicago:  3.1% (8) (#6)
  12. Virginia:  2.7% (7) (#10)
  13. Columbia:  1.9% (5) (#5)
  14. Stanford:  0.8% (2) (#2)

(Hat Tip: Brian Leiter.)  In comparison, here are the latest SSRN Law School Rankings that encompass the Top 14 schools in U.S. News:

  1. Harvard (249,256 all-time downloads) (#1 in U.S. News)
  2. Chicago (208,371) (#6)
  3. Columbia (174,887) (#5)
  4. George Washington (174,468) (#22)
  5. Stanford (153,238) (#2)
  6. Texas (145,347) (#18)
  7. UCLA (141,274) (#15)
  8. Yale (129,622) (#1)
  9. Georgetown (129,622) (#14)
  10. Illinois (101,983) (#25)
  11. UC-Berkeley (96,714) (#8)
  12. USC (94,494) (#16)
  13. NYU (88,502) (#4)
  14. Vanderbilt (84,247) (#16)
  15. Penn (82,790) (#6)
  16. Minnesota (81,608) (#20)
  17. Duke (60,109) (#10)
  18. Michigan (57,392) (#8)
  19. George Mason (54,809) (#34)
  20. San Diego (53,409) (#85)
  21. Virginia (50,522) (#10)
  22. Northwestern (45,421) (#12)
  23. Boston University (44,319) (#20)
  24. Fordham (41,294) (#25)
  25. Florida State (40,983) (#53)
  26. Ohio State (40,411) (#31)
  27. Cardozo (37,709) (#52)
  28. Cornell (34,956) (#13)

Here are the U.S. News Top 14 law schools that are most overvalued in comparison to SSRN:

  • Cornell:  +15 (#13 in U.S. News, #28 in SSRN)
  • Virginia:  +11 (#10, #21)
  • Michigan:  +10 (#8, #18)
  • Northwestern:  +10 (#12, #22)
  • Penn:  +9 (#6, #15)
  • NYU:  +9 (#4, #13)
  • Duke:  +7 (#10, #17)
  • Yale:  +7 (#1, #8)

For more, including a chart on the 12 Most Overvalued and Undervalued Law Schools by U.S. News, see our article, Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance, 81 Ind. L.J. 83, 124 (2006).

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Comments

I graduated from Suffolk Law School in Boston, a school nowhere near the top tier... but that provided me with a superb legal education. My personal perception of the quality of this education was reinforced by my experience at the Massachusetts Bar Exams: Candidates were seated alphabetically --and between me and another Suffolk grad were seated two rather arrogant graduates from Harvard and one from Boston College. At the swearing-in ceremony, I was surprised to find myself seated directly next to the other Suffolk graduate and our colleagues from the "higher-tier" schools were conspicuously absent from the "pass" roster. We had a jolly laugh about that. But seriously, in my own experience in law school and post-graduate studies and in actual legal practice, I believe all these law school rankings are simply an exercise in foolishness. If a "label" is so important and you have the grades, money, and determination to make it into a top tier school... well that is great, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you will be a better lawyer or indeed that you will even pass the bar exam.

Posted by: Thomas S. | Jan 29, 2008 10:10:43 AM

Thomas, stop trying to make yourself feel better about going to a crappy law school. Most people would say the determination and intelligence it takes to get into one of the top law schools are pretty good indications you will be a good lawyer. But all those biglaw hiring partners, SCTOUS judges and government recruiters who use school names as a proxy for these factors could be wrong.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 30, 2008 10:48:52 AM

San Diego consistently places well in these sorts of rankings (scholarly impact, quality of faculty, student quality, etc.). It has to be one of the more underrated schools (in terms of USNWR).

Posted by: underrated | Jan 30, 2008 10:52:13 AM

10:48, nobody doubts that graduates of T14 law schools are typically more desired than graduates from other law schools. The point is that you don't HAVE to go to a T14 to have a worthwile and meaningful career in the legal profession. I went to a school that is barely ranked the Top 100. I did well in law school, and I am currently serving as a law clerk to a federal district court judge. Even with my clerkship, I certainly won't have the same opportunities as someone who did well at Harvard, Yale, etc., but I do think I'll have plenty of good opportunities. Life isn't all about prestige.

Posted by: anon | Jan 30, 2008 11:39:09 AM

So a Professor writes an article about ranking law schools -- gets it published in a law review. A lot of people are interested in how they are ranked, how others are ranked, so they download the article. SSRN download numbers are therefore high, bringing its school up in future rankings of SSRN downloads. But is the article really even about law, or have any scholarly impact whatsoever?

Also, much like the Cooley rankings, the larger schools seem to have an advantage here.

Posted by: Question | Jan 30, 2008 11:51:51 AM

These rankings are hilarious. Is "SSRN" some spinoff of the Onion? GW over Stanford. Cardozo over Cornell. George Mason over UVA? LOL!!!!! Find me one person that would take GM over UVA. Heck, find me one that would make that choice EVEN WITH A FULL RIDE AT GM. For every one that you find, I'll find 20 that would take on a mountain of debt to go to UVA instead. This is so funny...I can't wait to tell my friend at Yale that he wasn't good enough for George Washington.

Posted by: Linus | Jan 30, 2008 12:09:50 PM

Anon 10:48- what an offensive and ignorant comment to Thomas S. describing Suffolk.

Posted by: Richard | Feb 1, 2008 11:50:21 PM