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US News Latest Law School Rankings

Let the annual chorus of boasting, lamenting, and rationalization begin. US News released its latest “Best Law School” list, temporarily replacing Mel Kiper’s 2011 NFL Draft Class rankings as the most popular list in law firms across America.

Topping the list is Yale, followed by Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and the University of Chicago.   Annual tuitions for the top 5 each exceed $45K per year.

Using higher mathematics (combined with a typical 3-year stint), that would put a hopeful law school graduate’s personal financial forecast at least $135K in the red even before she provides for books, housing, and a reasonable beer allowance. She just might have a buck or two in undergraduate expenses to juggle as well.   Say what you will about law school, one thing is pretty clear:  it ain’t cheap.

Overall, 190 schools were ranked, using data collected in fall 2010 and early 2011. The ranking methodology is listed on the site, along with the various weights placed on the criteria used.    As usual, there seem to be plenty of opportunities for wrangling over logic, weighting, and data reliability for those who choose to do so.

One commentator has suggested that, for prospective students, the only factor to weight with any seriousness is the LSAT scores of registering students, in part because it’s a metric that can’t be manipulated by the schools.  He also conceded the relevance of bar passage rates as well, offering this bit of advice to students:

“And if you are admitted to a law school with LSATs significantly below the schools’ median, for whatever reason, you should ask very directly what percentage of students with LSATs within a couple of points of yours have successfully completed law school and passed the bar over the past decade.”

Interesting take.

As to the new report, one of the noteworthy features was the elimination of the infamous “third tier”. Instead, there are now essentially 2 groups: (a) 145 law schools ranked numerically; followed by (b) 45 schools that are listed alphabetically.

If helpful, edit resumes and bios accordingly.

PS: My own beloved alma mater, SUNY-Buffalo charged forward for what was evidently a thrilling photo-finish tie for 84th (?!) with DePaul, Hofstra, LSU, Rutgers, Santa Clara, Seattle, Arkansas, Nebraska and Villanova.   Not too much room for bragging there, but I will give us a plug for what was really a great JD/MBA program that was also a great value. At $17,450 per year for a NY State resident, we regular folk still have a shot to chase the JD without completely ensuring that mountains of debt will dramatically limit career choices post-graduation.