ATL Top 50 Law Schools 2014: A Ranking That Will Shock You!

They did it again. Above The Law upset a bunch of lawyers due to their recently released ranking of law schools. Advertising a new unique methodology, ATL has decided outcomes matter more than inputs.

ATL’s philosophy? That most people go to law school to obtain jobs as lawyers. It’s hard to argue with that.

So, ATL remains the only ranking system to incorporate the latest ABA employment data concerning the class of 2013—bleak as it may be. In 2013, there were 46,776 total law school graduates. And, depressingly, 43 percent of 2013 graduates did not get a job in the law!

Of those graduates who did not get jobs as lawyers, 11 percent were unemployed. Luckily for this year’s graduating class, the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to a staggering 6.3 percent, the lowest level since September 2008, according to CNN.

Nearly one-third of the ranking—and equal to the ATL’s employement score—is quality jobs score. ATL writes about this measure:

“This measures the schools’ success at placing students on career paths that best enable them to pay off their student debts. We’ve combined placement with the country’s largest and best-paying law firms (using the National Law Journal’s ‘NLJ 250’) and the percentage of graduates embarking on federal judicial clerkships. These clerkships typically lead to a broader and enhanced range of employment opportunities.”

So, between employment and quality jobs scores, the next most important factor in the ATL ranking is tuition. Why? Because it’s difficult (or impossible) to get data on individual debt burdens. In any case, it’s probably fair to assume law school graduates are all in the red.

After tuition there’s alumni ranking.

Controversially, ATL believes a retrospective opinion is better than a real-time one. But, is the education that a student earned years ago the same as today? Will nostalgia lead to higher rankings? It’s hard to say.

Finally, there’s percentage of active federal judges and SCOTUS clerks.

According to commentor 06alum, “why the judges? And if you’re going to include judgeships, in many states, state supreme court judges are more impactful than federal district judges, so excluding them seems odd. Yes, they don’t have life tenure, but is that really all we care about when we care about alums becoming judges?”

Regarding this measure, Wyclef comments, “I think its pretty much known that the rankings are skewed by this measurement that is either (1) a weird obsession by a weird prestige driven man or (2) a front for keeping Yale and Harvard the number 1 and 2.”

In fact, the ATL does not deny that prestige plays a role. They state:

“We also acknowledge “prestige” plays an outsized role in the legal profession. Our methodology rewards schools for producing Supreme Court clerks and federal clerks because the market rewards people who get those jobs with money and prestige. Don’t hate us, we’re just the messengers.”

Thus, in the end, ATL comes to their final ranking. Here are the Top-10, if you’re still following:

  1. Yale
  2. Harvard
  3. Stanford
  4. Columbia
  5. University of Chicago
  6. NYU
  7. Duke
  8. University of Pennsylvania
  9. University of Virginia
  10. University of Michigan

One of the more surprising results is the University of Iowa College of Law, which rose 19 places from last year, now becoming number 18. Another very employable law school this year is the University of Florida, Levin College of Law at number 32, up 12 places from last year.

Most disappointing might be USC Gould School of Law, number 35 after falling 15 places from last year.

If you’re a law firm manager paying attention to this list, chances are you’re eager to snatch up those ivy-league grads. But, if you want to add to your prestige but not the pomp of the office, I’d consider the 10-20th ranked schools, marked mostly by state institutions.

Chances are you’ll still get all the excellence with half the ego.


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