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Law School Rankings: The Basics

Law school rankings – they’re everyone’s favorite topic of conversation, from admissions deans to pre-laws to current students. We hear a lot about them, and U.S. News is famous for producing a lot of hype in the legal community each time it reveals its new annual ranking. It’s not smart to plan your entire legal education around something so subjective. But why are law school rankings so important?
 

Reputation

We can’t talk rankings without a discussion on reputation. Schools that are highly ranked (for example, those in the top-14) are well-known and well-respected in the legal community. This kind of reputation often translates to more donations and grants to the schools. What we then see is a “domino effect” of sorts. Reputable schools are in a stronger position to hire top faculty, provide better financial aid and scholarships, and offer better resources to students.
 
Note that “reputation” is variable and subjective. Every rankings list generates some controversy over its criteria. While U.S. News is largely regarded as “king” of education rankings, including law school rankings, there’s more than one way to rank law schools! If you’re looking for some alternative ranking tools, you can check out StartClass or Above the Law.
 

Bar Passage Rates

A school’s bar passage rate is a reflection of how adequately prepared graduates of that school are to practice law. Generally speaking, there is a correlation between a school’s ranking and its bar passage rate. The higher the ranking, the higher the passage rate. That equates to greater opportunities to become a practicing lawyer.
 

Future Work Location

Law school rankings matter largely for employment prospects. If you want to find work in a major city, for example, you will want to attend a top-14 law school to unlock those locations. New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are notoriously competitive markets to land jobs in, and attending a highly-ranked school can help open those doors. Alums from top schools often live and work in these markets, providing a network for graduates to draw on down the road.
 

Law Firm Size

Rankings can also determine what kind of law firm you’ll work for after graduation. Large firms typically do the majority of their hiring from top law schools. There are many benefits of working for a large firm – exposure to more complex work, higher pay, and stronger brand names. Smaller firms are often more inclusive of lower-ranked schools when bringing on new associates.
 

Employment Outcomes

Graduates of higher-ranked law schools find it easier to find jobs in the legal field. Why? Higher-ranked schools often draw more firms to campus for interviews, and instill greater confidence (whether warranted or not) in potential employers that their students will be successful associates.
 

Type of Work

Rankings can also affect the type of work available to you after graduation. Students from higher-ranked schools find it easier to get competitive public interest jobs, clerkships, and academic positions.
 
Looking for our best tips to maximize your chances of admission at a great law school? Check out our post here.
 
 

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