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Rankings are garbage, but….

As I have previously written, I am not impressed by the U.S. News and World Report Rankings. See Screw U.S. News.

All of the “alternative” law school rankings are even worse. I find it truly laughable that academics, who never have so much as seen a billing pad have any say at all in how law schools are judged. There is one moron out there who has the audacity to rank “student quality.”


Although I generally think that rankings are trash, this is the first law school rankings system that I have ever seen that actually measures criteria that matter. Vault went out and asked 400 hiring partners, hiring committee members, interviewers, and recruiters on “which law schools best prepare their graduates to achieve in the firm environment.”

Vault surveyed only those people who directly assess the value of law school graduates in the real world once they enter the workforce- those individuals responsible for evaluating and hiring law school students. The respondents–who represent over 100 law firms– were advised to consider the following factors in their rankings: research and writing skills; knowledge of legal doctrine; possession of other relevant knowledge (e.g., science for IP lawyers); and ability to manage a calendar and work with an assistant.

My alma mater drops from #14 in the U.S. News rankings to #17 in the Vault rankings, and I’m not complaining. As a legal educator, I have to say that employability is really the only factor that should enter into law school rankings. If you want to be a legal philosopher, then go get your Ph.D. in philosophy. Law school should be for future lawyers, and future lawyers should be prepared to practice law.

I especially like the fact that Vault asked its subjects to evaluate how the students work with an assistant. This is, in my opinion, the best measure of how successful a lawyer will be — and it can’t be taught.

My one criticism of the Vault rankings is that they probably only went to big firm sources to create these rankings. While Stanford graduates might be a great fit for a mega-firm, I think that a Stanford grad might not do as well at my small firm than a hungry outside-the-box thinking graduate from a lesser-known school. But, most law students see BIGLAW as the “brass ring.” These rankings are certainly superior to the crap that U.S. News is going to spill out into the sewers any day now.

As you can see, I previously criticized the rankings as being BIGLAW biased. b>Humble Pie eating time! It appears that I was wrong about the firm size issue. Brian at corrects me (and spares me a lashing).

A quibble with this quibble: our survey respondents’ firms represented a broad range in size (from 12 to 1,000+ attorneys) and geography (68 towns and cities).

I was mistaken. I stand by my opinion that rankings in general are garbage, but I stand even more firmly by my earlier opinion that as far as rankings go, Vault’s rankings are way superior to the dreck provided by US News. They are the only rankings that pay attention to the one factor that really matters, and they realize that the whole world is not BIGLAW. Thank you, Vault!

Here are the top 25 schools according to Future law students take note.

1 Stanford University Law School
2 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Law School
3 New York University School of Law
4 University of Virginia School of Law
5 University of Chicago Law School
6 Harvard Law School
7 Columbia Law School
8 University of California, Berkeley – Boalt Hall School of Law
9 Northwestern University School of Law
10 Yale Law School
11 Vanderbilt University Law School
12 Duke University Law School
13 University of Pennsylvania Law School
14 Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington
15 Cornell University Law School
16 University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Law School
17 Georgetown University Law Center
18 University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
19 University of Iowa College of Law
20 George Washington University Law School
21 Boston University School of Law
22 University of Texas at Austin School of Law
23 University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill School of Law
24 Emory University School of Law
25 University of Wisconsin Law School

For more details see

Related Post: What is wrong with legal education?

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