Four years have passed since Law School Truth Center sorted the law schools into seven tiers (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2013/06/law-school-advisory-list-one-guys.html#more). I applaud the effort but disagree on some of the assignments: for example, I would not put Duke in with South Dakota.
For years I have said that only 13 or so law schools are worth attending even in principle (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2014/12/guest-post-by-old-guy-which-law-schools.html). I stand by that claim. But a more detailed breakdown, with descriptions of the categories, may help. Like Law School Truth Center, I have opted to use seven tiers, although I have numbered them from 0 to 6. I have considered only the law schools outside Puerto Rico that are at least provisionally accredited by the ABA, on the assumption that anyone literate enough to read these lines would never consider attending a state-accredited or wholly unaccredited law school. (If you wish, add an eighth tier for those schools that pick up Cooley's rejects.)
TIER 0: Definitely worth attending. Leap at the chance to enroll at one of these schools, even if you have to borrow the full cost.
*** NONE ***
Comments: Formerly occupied by a handful of schools, this tier has been vacant for years and is likely to remain that way until the second half of the century. Not for nothing is it named Tier 0.
TIER 1: Excellent choices for trust-fund babies. Others should seriously consider them while bearing in mind the very real risk of a bad outcome. You cannot, after all, eat prestige for breakfast.
Comments: No, Stanford, your jive ass is not in the same league as Harvard and Yale. Petulant Californian demands for representation in Tier 1 don't sway me one bit.
TIER 2: Rich kids should feel free to attend these. Others should not enroll without a substantial discount and should weigh the risk of a bad outcome carefully.
Comments: Formerly this category also included Michigan and Penn.
TIER 3: Rich kids are likely to consider these insufficiently prestigious. Others should not even apply without a fee waiver and should not enroll without a large discount, probably at least 50% off; even then, the risk of a bad outcome would loom large.
Comments: This category, which has shrunk considerably since 2010 or so, is the end of the group that, as of the last time that I checked (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2014/12/guest-post-by-old-guy-which-law-schools.html), saw at least 50% of the graduating class get jobs in Big Law or federal clerkships. I advise against attending any school below Tier 3. Even Tier 1 is questionable nowadays.
TIER 4: Expect a disastrous outcome at these unless you get tuition waived, have local connections, and intend to build your career in the vicinity of the school (no farther away than, say, an adjacent state). As always, rich people can go here if they really want to.
Case Western Reserve
Washington and Lee
Washington University in St. Louis
William and Mary
Comments: Many of these are what Paul Campos has called trap schools. Others are toilets with employment figures that are better than those of typical toilets. All are best avoided, from the faux-prestigious outskirts of Tier 3 to the toilety outskirts of Tier 5.
TIER 5: Don't go near these unless you are independently wealthy, crave a little wind-up-toy law degree, and are too dumb to get into a school in a higher tier even after exploiting your rich connections.
Lewis and Clark
New York Law School
Pennsylvania State—University Park
Comments: Many of these are only a hair's breadth from the bottom tier. Some are likely to close in the coming years. These schools typically feature a mediocre to lousy student body and dreadfully high unemployment and underemployment in the graduating classes of recent years. Unaccountably, a bit of prestige still attaches to a few of these schools. Don't believe the hype.
TIER 6: The survival of these into 2017 offers an argument against the existence of a just god. Anyone who enrolls at one of these should not be allowed to roam the streets unsupervised.
District of Columbia
Indiana Tech (soon to be closed)
Mitchell | Hamline
North Carolina Central
Western New England
Whittier (soon to be closed)
Comments: These schools are mostly private. Several are unprofitable commercial ventures. All plumb the depths of the 140s, and even the 130s and perhaps the 120s, on the LSAT. The few people who pass the bar exams are unlikely to find real salaried work as lawyers. Fortunately, this tier is shrinking. Recent years have seen a couple of announced closures, some attempted and achieved mergers (effectively closures), an abandonment to the state, and a closure of a branch. Expansion will almost certainly come from above (Tier 5), not below (the unspeakable world of unaccredited upstarts).