An Aside: The State of Legal Education, the Impact of USN Rankings on Science/Math Majors

My good friend Reuben Guttman wrote this piece.  It’s not legal ethics, but I agree with about 99% of what he wrote (except the article about South Park sounds fun).  His observations about US News and GPAs is dead-on.

About David

Professor of Law, Mercer University School of Law. Of Counsel, Taylor English Duma, LLP. Former judicial clerk to Chief Judge Rader; former lawyer with Baker Botts and other firms

4 thoughts on “An Aside: The State of Legal Education, the Impact of USN Rankings on Science/Math Majors

  1. 1

    Interesting observations, although it seems to me that math/science/engineering majors also have the possibility of getting an A+, something that’s pretty much foreclosed for humanities majors. Still, you can’t bluff your way through differential equations like you can in a literature class.

    I wonder if US law firms have learned to distinguish between graduates of various law schools on the basis of which ones produce the best lawyers (as opposed to the best law students). If so, that would seem to mitigate the USN rankings – unless those rankings are an accurate predictor of law schools that produce good lawyers.

    1. 1.1

      Dan,

      You would have to account for network effects and other factors that would heavily obfuscate any strictly objective measure of which schools are more heavily ‘placed’ into practice.

      Look at the Supreme Court and note the institutional bias present there.

    2. 1.2

      Dan,

      One thing you may not be aware of that makes this whole thing even weirder (and USN’s impact more pernicious and the answer to your question even murkier) is this: as far as LSAT and GPA go, only first year (incoming) students’ count. So, a lot of the prestigious law schools radically cut their first year class, and then take in huge numbers of 2d year students as transfers. Those students, of course, effectively subsidize the tuition buy-down (aka scholarship) money that the 1Ls received, but they’re also less likely to get hired because they’re seen as transfer students, at least on initial hire (not later in career). So, if the first year matters toward making a good lawyer, the answer as to which students produce the best ones may not be the one they graduate from!

      Brian Tamanaha (pretty close) wrote a book called “Failing Law Schools” that is really worth a read. I agree with about 99.9% of what he writes… but I also practiced for 15 years before starting to teach full-time, and also still practice and expert and consult, so I’m not a real academic… to them.

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