Thursday, April 20, 2006

I've received a number of e-mails asking me for my thoughts about the U.S. News law school rankings. I'm sure most of the e-mails are from students at Washington University, which rose five places to number 19.

I don't know what the obsession is. I certainly don't pay very close attention to the year-to-year fluctuations in the rankings, to the two spots that Boston University fell this year, or the five spots Fordham fell to put them below our automatic cutoff. I don't need U.S. News to tell me how to rank law schools. I know which schools are good and which schools aren't because I have to deal with their graduates every year. I don't care what U.S. News thinks -- and I've written about this before -- I know that students at Vanderbilt can't write a compelling legal brief, and students at the University of Georgia have sloppy table manners. I know from experience.

I imagine students give the rankings too much influence when they're choosing a law school. There are really only three categories they need to think about. There are a handful of schools where you can be stupid and still get a job, like Yale and Stanford. There are a dozen or two dozen schools where you'll probably get a job at some big firm somewhere worth working, assuming you get decent grades and don't act like a psychopath during your interviews. And then there are the rest of the law schools, where people go when they don't want to be "real" lawyers but merely want to learn how to help poor people and criminals. Three categories. That's all. The rankings are calibrated way too finely, just to sell magazines. There is no difference, as far as I'm concerned, between the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. In both cases, I won't look at your resume.

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