Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Public Interest Law Schools

National Jurist November 2008 The November 2008 issue of The National Jurist ranks the Top 60 law schools for public interest law, determined by an equal weighting of three categories:

  • Student Involvement:  "The student involvement category assigned points for student activity and percentage of graduates of the Class of 2006 who entered jobs in the public interest field (defined as jobs in legal services, nonprofit organizations and public defender offices, but not including government jobs or judicial clerkships generally)."
  • Curriculum:  "The curriculum category assigned points for the existence of a public interest coordinator, strength of clinical programs, and existence of a voluntary or mandatory pro bono graduation requirement."
  • Finances:  "The financial factors category assigned points for cost of tuition, availability of grants and scholarships and strength of loan repayment or loan assistance programs."

Here are the Top 25 Public Interest Law Schools:

  1. Northeastern
  2. Loyola-L.A.
  3. Lewis & Clark
  4. American
  5. Stanford
  6. Mercer
  7. Maryland
  8. University of Washington
  9. North Carolina
  10. CUNY
  11. Hofstra
  12. William Mitchell
  13. Iowa
  14. Baltimore
  15. New York Law School
  16. Seattle
  17. Temple
  18. Albany
  19. Georgetown
  20. Villanova
  21. UNLV
  22. Gonzaga
  23. Loyola-Chicago
  24. Arizona
  25. Roger Williams

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As a graduate of very elite schools, it is refreshing to see a list that does not worship those overrated institutions. It was so easy to have a great reputation for public interest at Yale. A lot of the work is student driven. The school does not even offer tenure to its clinicians!

Posted by: tony smith | Nov 14, 2008 12:32:29 AM

FYI, the rankings are based on self-reported data sent to Equal Justice Works for its E-Guide to Public Interest Law Schools (an attempt to provide an alternative to US News' rankings). NYU didn't participate in the E-guide, so they don't appear on this list. Harvard and Yale did participate.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 13, 2008 4:08:25 PM

I find the methodology of this study questionable if it intends to inform prospective students on the best schools to attend for public interest (not sure if it does so or not). As a prospective student considering public interest, I was interested in (1) the law school's loan repayment program, and (2) the quality of opportunities available from that law school. By these criteria, the traditional top schools are still the best, and it's not really close. One thing that I did find surprising is that Columbia--a notoriously corporate minded school--has arguably the strongest loan repayment program in the country. Stronger than many other top school reputed to be more public interest focused.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 13, 2008 12:35:05 PM

Where is Buffalo? UB produces quite a few very good public interest lawyers.

Posted by: arthur | Nov 13, 2008 10:13:38 AM

how in the world are NYU and Harvard not on there?

Posted by: current public interest lawyer | Nov 13, 2008 4:46:45 AM

What is this ranking based on? Picking names out of a hat? Law School Bingo?

Obviously the people who formulated this ranking don't have a clue what they're doing. Anyone forget about Berkeley? How about Yale? There's a reason I don't trust any of the law school ranking systems...

Posted by: Brady | Nov 12, 2008 8:01:24 PM

Doesn't this put law schools where a very large number of students do clerkships (e.g., Yale) at a huge disadvantage in this ranking? Many of these students may enter public interest after finishing the clerkship, seeing the clerkship as just another part of their education, yet this ranking puts them in the non-PI category.

Posted by: Idegen | Nov 12, 2008 7:41:14 PM

Where is William and Mary?! Their law school goes out of its way to stress the concept of the "citizen lawyer"! It is insane not to include W&M on this list -- especially if schools that place a lesser emphasis on service (e.g. UNC) are included.

Posted by: the biscuit | Nov 12, 2008 6:35:49 PM

What about a shout out for the University of Miami? Our Career Planning and Cirriculum is so horrible that our grads can only chose between Public Interest and hanging out a shingle.

Posted by: P. Mahoney | Nov 12, 2008 6:25:12 PM

The exclusion of (non-public defender) government jobs undermines any claim to utility the list may make and appears to reflect a priority of narrow-minded ideological preconceptions over an actual interest in measuring student devotion to public service. JFK didn't say "Ask not what your NGO can do for you, ask what you can do for your NGO."

In response to the question "Where is Yale?", the answer is, in the same place as Harvard, and perhaps Columbia: turning out significant numbers of federal employees backed by Heyman Fellowships. Harvard sends vastly more alumni to DOJ than any other law school, for example.

There's no principled reason to not count government work as public interest law for the purpose of this survey.

Posted by: Prosecutorial Indiscretion | Nov 12, 2008 6:04:02 PM

I bet Yale is hurt by the fact that so many of its graduates clerk before entering public interest jobs. Yale's LRAP program is fabulous.

Posted by: J | Nov 12, 2008 5:59:48 PM

Interesting list. Touro Law Center has a Public Advocacy Center attached to the law school. It houses many public interest organizations, which give students work while attending classes. The school seems to have a strong public interest mindset.

Posted by: John | Nov 12, 2008 5:19:41 PM

Glad to see UNLV is on the list - the Public Interest Law Association and the clinics are one of the more open and popular groups and courses at UNLV's William S. Boyd School of Law. Although, with the tuition increases this year and the next two years (doubling over a 3-4 year period) we might take a hit on this type of ranking. Time will tell...

Posted by: UNLV Boyd grad | Nov 12, 2008 4:18:59 PM

Why public defender positions and not D.A.'s offices? I'm not sure if I agree with the value judgment that criminal defense is in the public interest, while prosecution is not.
What are "government jobs . . . generally"? Does that mean that if a grad. works for the FTC, he or she is not working for the public interest, because the public has no interest in consumer protection?
I agree with the curriculum and finances sections.

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 12, 2008 4:14:41 PM

It's telling that Stttanford places between American and Mercer.

Posted by: Pacific Reporter | Nov 12, 2008 4:07:31 PM

Where is Yale?

Posted by: | Nov 12, 2008 3:49:51 PM

Wooh! Albany Law made top 20 in something!

Posted by: | Nov 12, 2008 3:11:52 PM

Where's Berkeley?

Posted by: Berkeley Student | Nov 12, 2008 9:47:50 AM

This list is crazy. Glad to see Stanford there, but it makes no sense not to have in the top 25 the elite schools with the unquestionable most generous loan repayment programs and best public interest advising in the country - Yale, Harvard, and NYU. NYU's Root-Tilden-Kern Scholars program should land it way up at the top, as should Harvard's free 3L year for public interest students and domination of the Skadden fellowship, and Yale's insanely generous LRAP.

To suggest that public interest minded students who have options to go to one of the above schools should go to these schools, some of which have poor bar passage and job placement rates in general, is truly strange.

Posted by: Andrea | Nov 12, 2008 8:19:11 AM