Imagine two recent law grads, A and B, both equally indebted to the tune of 100,000 interest-accruing and nondischargeable dollars. They are standing beside each other at a jobs fair. Or maybe they are fellow employees of Radio Shack or Starbucks, chatting during a smoking break. Or maybe they are sitting side-by-side on a document-sorting temp project. Or maybe they are coworkers in a government or public interest law office, working for free in the desperate hope that they might impress or network their way into a paying law job. And A and B hold the following conversation:
A: (proudly): I graduated from the 26th best law school in the country.
B: (sad and embarrassed): You must be really smart, much smarter than me. I graduated from a lowly 3rd tier school.
If prospective law students feel that they might enjoy being similarly situated to "A" in status and prestige, then they ought to carefully study US News and World Report's law school ranking and use it to guide their choice of law schools. If not, I offer the following caution: While consumers of the annual "Best Law Schools" edition of US News may assume that there is a very close correlation between a law school’s US News rank and its placement outcomes, that is not the case. Placement success comprises only 18% of a school’s US News rank, and US News even gets that wrong by giving schools full-credit for phony-baloney "JD Advantage" jobs in calculating placement rates. Similarly, US News gives full credit for law school funded jobs-- which typically involve a law school throwing a few bucks at unemployed recent grads and telling them to volunteer full-time in some public interest law office, an arrangement the schools refer to as "public service fellowships" or "Bridge to Practice" programs.
In the table below, I have ranked schools by mismatch between their most recent US News rank and their Class of 2012 placement success rank. As to placement success, the rank is based on each law school’s percentage of graduates who obtained bar-required, full-time (FT), long-term (LT) (which includes one year long judicial clerkships), nonsolo non-school-funded jobs within nine months of graduation. I obtained the employment rank by going to this excellent calculator and by clicking "choose your own formula," and then by clicking "bar passage required," "long-term," "full-time" and "exclude from numerator: school funded and solo practitioner." This generates a calculation of each school’s employment rate, within the formula chosen, in rank order.