Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Law School Rankings, I Shouldn't Care... or Should I? USNWR Releases 2011 Rankings

Ok, actually the title lied.  US News and World Report DIDN'T release their 2011 rankings, they were leaked.  (Now available on Top Law Schools and other ranking sites.)

I had almost memorized where all the schools I paid any attention to were on the 2010 rankings because I frequented some of the sites that show the USNWR rankings.  I could tell you off the top of my head that George Mason and BYU were ranked 41, Utah 45, Cincinnati 52, Arizona State 55, and Loyola Law School 71.  I'm not rankings crazy, but I've given kind of a lot of credit to them.  Now I wish I hadn't.  Clearly many schools make drastic changes just to better their standing in the various stats that are used by USNWR to rank the schools.  So in other words, they don't necessarily become much better schools, but rather they change to better fit the rankings model.  Arizona State and Loyola must have done this in dramatic fashion.  Both of them saw huge jumps in the 2011 rankings that just came out.  And as luck would have it, these two schools are the last two holdouts for schools that I'm trying to finally rule out so that I feel comfortable with my George Mason choice.  They didn't really help with the rankings jumps.

Check out the latest rankings changes for the section that has all the schools I'm really considering:
38. Arizona State (55, +17, moved up to Tier 1)
38. Alabama (30, -8)
38. Colorado (45, +8)

38. Wake Forest (40, +2)
42. Brigham Young (41, -1)
42. George Mason (41, -1)
42. Arizona (43, +1)
42. UC-Hastings (39, -3)
42. Utah (45, +3)
47. Florida (51, +4)
48. American (45, -3)
48. SMU (49, +1)
48. Tulane (45, -3)
48. Maryland (43, -5)
52. Pepperdine (55, +3)
52. Yeshiva – Cardozo (49, -3, moved down from Tier 1)
54. Florida State (52, -2)
54. Connecticut (52, -2)
56. Case Western Reserve (55, -1)
56. Loyola – Los Angeles/Marymount (71, +15)
56. Cincinnati (52, -4)

Yes... Arizona State is now the highest ranked school I'm considering.  WHAT THE POO!?  How am I supposed to deal with that.  Ugh.  Utah, Mason, and BYU are all tied now.  And Loyola is actually tied with Cincinnati and made a big jump.  So a school that is now ranked in the region that I originally wanted to aim for (at least 40s-50s) has offered me $84,000.  I wish I didn't care about these rankings, but I do.  To be completely realistic, law firms aren't going to care if I went to law school # 40 or law school #56.  To them, it won't make that big a deal.  It might matter if I went to law school #14, or law school #80, but the first pairing isn't going to matter much.  Loyola seems to offer more of the programs I want, would be much cheaper tuition-wise, and now is ranked in a similar region as George Mason.  However, I don't think I want to live in Los Angeles.  I also don't think I want to live in Tempe, AZ.  I feel like DC is the place I by FAR want to live the most.  George Mason's ranking is slowly dropping, but hasn't dramatically changed in the last 5 years.  Loyola and ASU could very easily drop in the rankings next year.  Do you see how confused I STILL am about this decision.  Stupid rankings just threw a wrench in my thoughts.  Ugh.  Again, I really wish I didn't care about them at all, but I still do.  
Someone talk some sense into me.  OK, pros and cons let me lay this out:
George Mason---PROS:

  • I'm in a city I LOVE
  • There are apparently great singles' wards (helps with dating, obviously)
  • I am in a city that is very conducive to getting jobs in this career field.  (Well, there are a lot of them anyway.)
  • GMU is really good at placing people in jobs
  • I will have family out there.  (My bro-in-law and sister.)
  • In my mind, this is the most prestigious of the three schools.
  • Biggest price tag.
  • More financially geared law school, and that's not really the direction I'm heading.
  • Quite expensive to live out there. (Although apparently Loyola's cost of living is more.)
  • Ranking dropping.
  • A lot more competition.
Loyola Law School---PROS:
  • Has more classes that I'm interested in.
  • $84,000 scholarship makes this the cheaper option by about $50,000 total compared to Mason.
  • I could possibly be more competitive among my class.
  • Frank Gehry-designed campus!  (This is a joke.  Architecture won't make this decision for me.)
  • Really expensive cost of living, but of course, much of that is alleviated by scholarship.
  • Terrible economy in LA and CA in general right now.
  • Worse job prospects.
  • It's in a shady area, and in a city I really don't much care for.  (Love the roller coasters, that's about it.  Well... the weather is really nice, too.)
  • Suspicious jump in rankings: makes me think they're just numbers oriented, not necessarily worried about quality.
  • Now the highest ranked school to which I was accepted.
  • Again, singles' wards, great community.
  • More classes in areas I'm interested in.
  • Cheaper than Mason, but more expensive than Loyola.
  • Blasted HOT!
  • Don't really know how much I want to live there, but I've heard some people say they really like Tempe.  I'm skeptical.  
  • Also skeptical of their lack of reporting of employment at graduation.  This is a statistic almost all law schools will report and/or flaunt.  ASU hasn't reported it for the last few years, and it was getting worse in the last few years that they DID report it.
  • Not getting a great employment vibe from ASU/Arizona in general.
  • Very suspicious of the jump in rankings what with the lack of any great reports of employment.

Ok, sorry to subject you all to that.  But I think I needed a good reminder that these rankings don't really change my opinions.  I paid my seat deposit at George Mason, so I had pretty much made my decision, but then these lame rankings came out tonight.  I still feel that George Mason is the best choice at the moment, and I think that's where I'm headed barring any surprise financial offers, or acceptances offered from my schools that have waitlisted me.  (BYU?)

K, well, yeah, really need to go to bed.  Umm... bye.

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