Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Above The Law Top 50 Law School Rankings

ATLAbove the Law, 2016 Top 50 Law School Rankings:

We welcome you to the fourth annual installment of the Above the Law Top 50 Law School Rankings. These are the only rankings to incorporate the latest ABA employment data concerning the class of 2015. The premise underlying our approach to ranking schools remains the same: that given the steep cost of law school and the new normal of the legal job market, potential students should prioritize their future employment prospects over all other factors in deciding whether and where to attend law school. The relative quality of schools is a function of how they deliver on the promise of gainful legal employment. 

The Top 10:

  1. Yale
  2. Stanford
  3. Chicago
  4. Penn
  5. Harvard
  6. Virginia
  7. Duke
  8. Northwestern
  9. Cornell
  10. UC-Berkeley


  • Employment (30%)
  • Quality Jobs (30%)
  • Education Cost (15%)
  • SCOTUS Clerkships (5%)
  • Federal Court Clerkships (5%)
  • Alumni Rating (5%)
  • Debt-Per-Job Ration (5%)
  • Salary-To-Job Ratio (5%)

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink


This ranking methodology is clearly flawed because my alma mater is not on the list.

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | May 24, 2016 5:25:45 AM

A quick stroll through the ABA Form 509s reveals why ATL likely minimized education cost to 15%. A few of the "top schools," both inside and just outside the Top 10, sticker near $90,000 PER YEAR with living expenses and fewer than half of the student body receives discounting. Even if you presume a nice BigLaw career (no guarantee anywhere these days), that's a realistic $300,000 debtload even if you don't have undergrad loans. $4,000 per month after-tax student loan payments on the standard repayment plan take a big chunk of one's takehome from a market rate salary in NYC. Nearly half, in fact. Or you can push it to the 25-year repayment plan... and ultimately shell out somewhere around $600,000 for the privilege of law school (assumes overall interest rate of 6%).

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 24, 2016 7:19:16 AM

Unemployed Northeastern,

Here's hoping you will find a job soon, I will miss your posts because you won't have time? I respectfully disagree. I graduated 26 years ago and I still have 197K in debt with interest compounded second by second (that's what it seems like). I will not likely pay it off and if I live long enough, it will be forgiven. I have received decades of deferments, forebearances, hardships, continuances. and on and on. I have delayed and denied, just like a good criminal defense attorney. So, in reality, I have received a "back ended" scholarship. Pretty good for a schlepper like me that graduated near the bottom of my class from a T-1 school.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | May 24, 2016 11:11:52 AM

People work during law school and get discounts on tuition. People refinance their loans and inflation reduces the real interest rates to very manageable levels. The typical law graduate is earning $30K to $60K extra per year b/c of their law degree.

There is a lot scaremongering, but the reality is that almost no law students default on their loans *because* they can readily afford to repay them and come out ahead.

Law school is a bargain.

Posted by: numbers | May 24, 2016 11:21:52 AM

@Numbers (and data, and econ, and the poster who always falls back on that one particular study even when it is irrelevant to the discussion at hand),

Unfortunately, the required ABA Form 509 disclosures reveal exactly how many people get discounts or not. It ain't pretty at the top. Let's take a gander: Columbia: 557 out of 1,170, the vast majority were for <50% discounts, leaving them around $150k in the hole before interest. Harvard: 844 of 1,752, and again the large majority are for <50%. Penn: 362 of 756. Shall I go on?

One cannot help but notice that per their NALP disclosures, the "wage premium guy's" employer-law school's median wage premium is barely $5,000 over the median starting salary for four-year college graduates. $50k versus $45k. Both readily discoverable, public data points. Ouch.

And your *analysis* of student loan repayment is rudimentary. The actual majority of outstanding federal student loans are neither in default nor current & full repayment. Go read some NY Fed Reserve reports. Your "low default rate means grads can readily afford to repay their loans" is a risible and disingenuous strawman. Fortunately, it only takes one sentence to knock down.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 24, 2016 5:58:18 PM

One of the few plausible explanations why there are not more law school student loan defaults is the fear of having one's ticket punched. A bar beef. In my jurisdiction, it is a violation of Supreme Court Ethics Rules to willfully default on a government student loan.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | May 25, 2016 9:38:19 PM