Author: Alison Monahan
If you haven’t heard by now, the new U.S. News law school rankings have arrived, like a steaming turd on the front doorstep of certain law schools. Why? Because U.S. News incorporated more granular job data into the rankings, and — well — the picture’s not pretty.
Bloomberg Law has an interview with Bob Morse, Director of Data Research at U.S. News, if you want all the gory details on the new methodology (or what they’re willing to reveal of it anyway — they won’t give the details because they’re “concerned about schools gaming the reporting of results,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement).
But the short version is that they’ve incorporated ABA data that breaks out jobs into long-term/short-term, part-time/full-time, JD-required/JD-advantage/No-JD-required, and so on.
Only long-term, full-time jobs where bar passage is required or a JD offers an advantage are given 100% credit in the rankings. Why? Because, as Morse puts it, these are the jobs students expected to get when they decided to go to law school.
The very top and very bottom of the list remained largely unchanged, but there were big drops (and correspondingly large gains) in the middle 50-150 schools. How big?
Down 38 places (University of San Francisco). Up 33 places (University of Mississippi). And so on.
Interestingly, most of the schools with big gains were public institutions in the South and Midwest, while the biggest losers were private schools on the East and West Coasts.
What Does this All Mean?
Some people argue that these rankings are pointless and silly. (Hi there, law school deans!)
And it probably is silly to freak out about any one school going up or down a few notches.
But, considered in the aggregate, this newly incorporated data sets off some huge red flags, ones I hope potential law students will stop and consider.
Take an example from the video — You know how many graduating UCLA Law students had “full credit” jobs (full-time, JD-required/JD-advantage, at least one year)? 46%. Chew on that for a while. Sure, there’s an argument about whether they’re including clerkships or whatever, but still — 46%? Really?
What this is telling me, if I didn’t already know, is that the traditional job market for new law grads is dismal. Abysmal. Horrible. Terrible. Very bad.
And, I’m sorry to say, it probably isn’t going to get much better any time soon.
The Bad News is Here to Stay
Deep down, I think a lot of law schools are in denial about how bad the job market really is. Like many law firm partners, the attitude is, “Once this dastardly recession finally ends, we’ll be back to the boom times and everything will be fine.”
I don’t think that’s right, for several reasons: