Like the rings of a tree, the release of a new set of US News & World Report law school rankings marks the passing of another year. One day, they’ll accept my offer to produce an awards show akin to the Oscars, handing out Validys to the winners (think an Oscar-like statue that resembles Aristotle) and Testies to the losers (it’s best not to think about what that one will look like).
Until then, I’ll have to settle with writing an article for the LSAT blog each year, analyzing the rise and fall of different law schools, and the trends present in the rankings.
First, the US News & World Report law school rankings themselves:
2014 US NEWS & WORLD REPORT LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS WINNERS:
1. The Universe – Harvard Law School is back to being second, restoring order and logic to the universe.
2. Alabama — Moved up 8 slots in the rankings to 21.
3. Oklahoma — Moved up an impressive 14 slots to 68.
4. Louisville and Arkansas — Both climbed 21 slots to stay tied at 68.
5. But the big winner is…University of Nebraska at Lincoln — Jumped an impressive 28 slots to be ranked 61st.
For there to be winners, there have to be losers (this isn’t a hippie pre-school; not everyone gets a sticker):
2014 US NEWS & WORLD REPORT LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS LOSERS:
1. Fordham — Dropped 9 points to 38th.
2. Illinois — Continuing to be punished for its reporting shenanigans, fell another 12 slots to 47th.
3. Pepperdine — Down 12 slots to 61st.
4. And down the road, Loyola Marymount — Dropped 17 slots to be ranked 51st.
5. Brooklyn — Fell 15 slots to 80th.
6. And a subway ride away, St. John’s — Fell 21 slots to 98th, almost out of the top 100.
7. Cincinnati — Dropped 11 slots to 80th.
8. Seattle — Fell out of the top 100, 20 slots down to 102nd.
9. And the big losers are Pittsburgh and Lewis and Clark — Both dropped 22 slots to be ranked 91st and 80th, respectively (which, I believe, makes Pittsburgh the big loser; I’m going to blame it on Roethlisberger).
Any takeaways from this list of 2014 US News & World Report law school rankings winners and losers? To me, it seems like the decent law schools in the minor markets faired a lot better than the second- or third-tier law schools in major markets. LA and NY are definitely where the jobs usually are at; as the market tightens, students who would otherwise attend a lower-ranked law school in these markets might be seeing a life for themselves in a smaller market. This will drive down both employment numbers and LSAT/GPA medians. I can see this trend continuing as more students decide to attend cheaper law schools in smaller markets where job prospects are more reasonable (even if market rate is lower).
But what about the LSAT and GPA numbers? Looking just at the Top 14 (who receive the applicants with the highest numbers and can thus be the pickiest), we see an almost across-the-board drop in at least some of their numbers. Only Stanford managed to increase each of its quartiles, with almost every other law school dropping a point or two on their LSAT numbers, and a few hundredths of a point on their GPA numbers.
It seems the rapid decline in law school applicants (and the even more rapid decline in qualified law school applicants) is finally taking its toll on everyone. There are only so many adjustments you can make (including decreasing class sizes) before one of those adjustments is a decrease in your medians.
So as we’ve been saying for quite some time, it’s a good time to be applying to law school. People are gaining admission with lower-than-usual numbers, and law schools are bending over backwards to attract the applicants with higher numbers.
But that’s just one man’s opinion. What do you think of the 2014 US News & World Report law school rankings? Fire up the conversation in the comments.