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March 09, 2015


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No, employers do not care about US News. They care about a few national schools that have extremely intelligent students and prestigious reputations. They care about law review (but not lesser journals), moot court, writing ability, and scholarships received.

0Ls care about us news because they don't know any better.

The new conventional wisdom among 0ls is that Harvard, Yale, and Stanford are worth list price, the rest of the top 14 are worth paying something to attend, but keep your total debt under $75,000. Other schools are worth attending if they are solid (meaning tier 1) and if you can attend for free care of scholarships or wealthy family. Lower ranked schools are not worth attending even for free, unless you have a job waiting for you and you really want to be an attorney and actually know what that entails.

This is the conventional wisdom being dispensed on top law schools, etc.

Derek Tokaz

I don't know that I've ever seen someone seriously claim that employers look at US News rankings. More common is the claim that employers hire largely based on prestige, and prospective students can use the rankings as a proxy for prestige (not that they necessarily should). The ATL post is just one person filling one spot speculating about how she might do that. She doesn't even claim that her peers are doing the same in their hiring decisions.

US News does probably play a role in hiring decisions, but not in the form of "employers look at US News rankings." Instead, it's that employers had looked at US News rankings in the past -- namely when they were applying to, enrolled in, and probably fresh out of law school. They'll start with the same general knowledge we all have (Harvard and Yale are great schools), and then the rankings will flesh out the scene a bit (just how good are Cornell and Emory? oh, didn't know Michigan or Alabama were that good... etc).

The ideas about prestige they formed in their law school days will stick with them later on, with maybe some minor changes if they happen to hear through the grape vine about big moves among certain schools. Or, out of curiosity they might just check in once in a while. But, they're not going to keep the list next to them when going through resumes and I don't think anyone has seriously argued that they do.


My regional law firm only actively recruits in our region. While we have our own evaluations of local law schools, we do look to US News when we get applications from outside our region, especially if we are not familiar with the law school. We don't rely on US News entirely in those cases, but the difference between graduating from a top-100 law school and graduating from an unranked law school is significant.


I spoke to some recruiting managers, all of whom said that the US News rankings are an integral part of their recruiting decisions. The rankings are pervasively and often almost unconsciously used as proxies for the quality of the law schools. They are used when firms decide what law schools they wish to add or drop for interviewing. They are used when determining the class rank cutoffs for particular schools (e.g., we’ll call back candidates in the top half of school X, the top third of school Y, and the top tenth of school Z). They are used when evaluating candidates from schools the firm is less familiar with. And so on. Of course, firms also base recruiting decisions on other factors, such as recruiting locally and recruiting from the schools the firms’ partners came from. But the US News rankings loom very large.


I think there is an easy way to understand this. If you were remotely interested in the merger of William Mitchell and Hamline - and you are not from Minneapolis-St Paul, did you check the USN ranking of the two schools? You did?

Well then, what do you think employers do? He/she went where??


I would think that larger organizations might use them as a useful proxy in order to determine whether someone meets the class rank cutoff. But the smaller (1-10 person) firms that make up the majority of legal employers (not necessarily open positions), most likely do not have the time or inclination. Whether a school has a successful UG sports program might very well matter more than the law school's USNWR rank to that person.

I would suspect that the analysis goes somewhat like this: "elite" national school > local/regional school > LS is part of a university I've heard of > law school I haven't heard of.

You can see this that a great LST chart that plotted employment score by USNWR rank, there was a strong correlation among the top 20 and it dropped off to a very weak correlation after that, reflecting that most legal hiring is local.


Jojo: you are completely wrong in your summary of advice on TLS.

No one is saying that Harvard, Yale and Stanford are worth sticker. 0Ls might believe that. Most posters encourage people to go for full rides at lower T10 -14 schools. Every single person who has a full named scholarship at another school is strongly advised to take it. The only people who advise sticker at HLS are 0Ls who haven't been in the job market and repaid debt.

T10 schools are hurting themselves by yield protecting people with high scores and giving scholarships to people with lower numbers.

Outside of the top schools, the primary consideration is goals and region. A great scholarship at a local regional school is preferable to sticker at higher ranked schools when you have strong ties to the region and aren't chasing big law.

It also depends on current job and job prospects. Plenty of people with solid jobs have been told not to go to law school at all.

In your example, no one believes that a guaranteed job will be there at the end of law school unless it's your family firm. If a company is guaranteeing a job, they should help pay for law school, or go part time.

Minimizing debt while maintaining the chance of a good employment outcome is the main concern.

But luckily for law schools, the vast majority of applicants still feel sticker debt is worth it.

Kyle McEntee

I agree with rose on this. The TLS hivemind is rather sophisticated and more often than not provides great advice. There are still users on there that are clueless and follow too rigorous lines of demarcation, but they're usually overshadowed by the thoughtful posters.

I will note that the vast majority of applicants are not paying sticker. 43% of students paid sticker last year, and that number is front-loaded (i.e. more 3Ls than 2Ls than 1Ls paying sticker).


The TLS hivemind?? It's such a shame that discussion of law school and lawyering have come to this.


I'm pretty sure that engineering programs are not fretting about their rankings in any degree choose to law schools.

John Thompson

Yes, it may be a shame that discussion of law school and lawyering have come to this, but it's not TLS' fault.

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