Confused with the meaning of school ranking

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Confused with the meaning of school ranking

Postby eternallearner » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:15 am

All throughout college, we have been told to go to the highest ranked law school we would get into, thus giving naturally to the notions of top 20, top 14, top 10.

However, I did some quick research and realize that there are associates at top corporate law firms (annual salary of $160,000) who did not go to the top 20. Not even the top 30.

I know my following question is committing a lot of LSAT fallacy: assuming one wants to go into corporate law, why are the top schools so highly desired?

A hypothetical question: suppose you have been offered admission at the following schools: Fordham, Boston University, Vanderbilt, Washington University in St. Louis and USC. Which one would you choose?

In another thread, someone mentioned that the top non-14 schools are Vandy, Texas, UCLA, USC. Suppose I went to Vandy. Would I be able to find jobs at top firms in NYC, Boston, Chicago after graduation? No offense. I am entirely clueless on this issue. I would be humble and grateful if I get into those.


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Re: Confused with the meaning of school ranking

Postby miamiman » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:30 am

You're clearly new so let me answer these questions directly. Also, refrain from double posting; it's poor form.

1. Rank matters because it is a proxy for prestige.

2. Prestige is crucial because employers are obsessed with it. In a profession as saturated as law, prestige allows employers to quickly (if somewhat arbitrarily) make distinctions between students at any number of law schools. If you look at the NLJ 250 data, you'll see certain schools are favored predominantly over all others. Those are the so-called "T14". you'll also ascertain that prestige matters more in law than almost any other profession you might consider.

3. The hypothetical you referenced has no good answer. It hinges primarily on the region you want to work. For example, had you said you wanted to work in SoCal, USC would likely be the credited decision. For Atlanta, I might have advised Vanderbilt. Should you, however, have included Harvard on that list, I'd vote Harvard for every region.

Assuming you get into a number of schools, all at sticker, you need to consider the rank of the school and its relative strength in the region (USC in NYC for example would be ill-advised over Fordham despite rank). But that scenario -- sticker at all -- will not likely occur; what's far more likely is that you'll get into some schools at sticker and others at a fraction of the cost. And that's when you need to make judgment calls, imperfect ones, about rank vs. money. There is no correct answer on those.

Hope that helps.

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Re: Confused with the meaning of school ranking

Postby Cavalier » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:35 am

If you go to a higher ranked school, your grades don't need to be as good in order to get a job at a high-paying firm. If you attend a top 14 school, even with the economic downturn, you still have a good chance at finding a high-paying job with median grades. On the other hand, for schools outside the top 30 or so, you better place in the top 5% or top 10% of your class, or have other connections, to have a good chance at making six figures after graduation.


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Re: Confused with the meaning of school ranking

Postby eternallearner » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:37 am

Thank you! That clarified most issue I have. Also, I did not mean to double post. I hit the "delete" button in the other category. Somehow it wasn't deleted. I will delete that post again.

TCScrutinizer also responded. Here is his response (for those interested in this topic):

More students from higher-ranked law schools get into top ranked corporate law firms (or in the case of HYS, federal clerkships). The idea is, therefore, that to go to a higher ranked school means to enjoy a higher percentage chance of getting lucrative offers.

As to your second question, it really depends on the region you are considering practicing in. All those you listed are good schools with degrees that are more portable than most, but they still by and large feed into the regions they are located in.


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Re: Confused with the meaning of school ranking

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:41 am

There are associates at big firms from schools all the way down the rankings (ok well at least a long way down). The problem is that the further down the rankings you go, the fewer you will see. I mean there might not be any difference between the numbers for #50 and #60, but there's going to be a huge difference between the numbers from #20 and #80.

The further down in the ranks you go, the better you have to do in law school to have a shot at so-called "biglaw" jobs. So the associates you see from, say, a 40-50 school at a big NY law firm were probably top 10-15% of their class and on Law Review.

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