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The 2015 ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings
Most people attend law school
to obtain jobs as lawyers.
(Paid, full-time attorneys, not people looking for clients on Craigslist.)
For all the talk about law school applications hitting historic lows, there are still roughly 40,000 people who will enroll in law school this fall, and a high percentage of people who didn’t apply to law school still thought about it. It’s possible to dip your toe into the water without stripping naked and getting all wet.
Out of respect for the 40,000 new law students who still, you know, exist, we welcome you to the third annual installment of the Above the Law Top 50 Law School Rankings. These are the only rankings to incorporate the latest ABA employment data concerning the class of 2014. The premise underlying our approach to ranking schools remains the same: that given the steep cost of law school and the new normal of the legal job market, potential students should prioritize their future employment prospects over all other factors in deciding whether and where to attend law school. The relative quality of schools is a function of how they deliver on the promise of gainful legal employment.
Our list is limited to 50 schools. We want to look at “national” schools, the ones with quality employment prospects both outside of their particular region and/or for graduates who don’t graduate at the top of the class.
This year, we’ve added a new wrinkle to our methodology: a “debt per job” metric which measures how much student debt is accrued by a school’s graduates for every actual legal job obtained. We term this data point the “M7 Ratio” to acknowledge our friends at M7 Financial, whose idea it was, and who crunched the relevant numbers on our behalf. This data point aligns nicely with the spirit of the ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings, which keeps an exclusive focus on the only thing that really matters: outcomes.
There have been some major shakeups in this year’s rankings. It looks like one law school is not feeding 3Ls to federal clerkships like it used to.
Enjoy the rankings, but please use them responsibly.
Let’s put it simply:
What happened last year?
Class of 2014
Total Law Grads: 43,832
This means 40% of 2014 graduates did not secure a job in the law!
In 2014, we surveyed our audience about the most relevant factors that potential law students should consider in selecting a school. By a large margin, these were the top choices, along with the percentage of respondents classifying them as “highly relevant”:
- Employment data (85.43%)
- Large firm placement (54.54%)
- Federal clerkship placement (46.64%)
- Tuition/Cost – (40.73%)
In other words, you prioritize employment outcomes above all else in comparing law schools. We agree. Therefore, these are the components of our rankings methodology:
KAPLAN ASKED: “Should law school be reduced from three years to two?”
- BEFORE LAW SCHOOL: 34% of pre-law students say that J.D. programs should be condensed to two years.
- AFTER: 56% of law school graduates believe that law school should be shortened by a year.
Apparently, for those who actually experience law school, less is more.
The Rankings See the 2014 rankings