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Can somebody please explain the significance of the top 14?

mephist0mephist0 Registered User Posts: 734 Member
edited November 2008 in Law School
Why such an arbitrary number? Does a graduate of the 14th ranked law school have that much better prospects than one of the 15th ranked one? Why isn't it the top ten or fifteen that are always talked about? Pardon my ignorance
Post edited by mephist0 on

Replies to: Can somebody please explain the significance of the top 14?

  • crnchycerealcrnchycereal Registered User Posts: 400 Member
    Though it seems arbitrary, the reason why people refer to the top 14 law schools as belong to their own tier is because of two reasons.

    1. These 14 schools have occupied the top 14 spots for the past few decades, with rankings being swapped amongst themselves. No school currently ranked 15 or lower has cracked this "tier".

    2. These schools also have the most national purchase when it comes to employment. A degree from one of these schools opens many doors and imposes few restrictions in terms of where you want to practice geographically or legally. On the other hand, there is a very real drop in the value of the law degree from schools below this threshold. Though schools ranked 15-20 are generally still competitive, once you get below that, your best bet is to find employment in the geographical region surrounding the school you attended. It also becomes more difficult to find prestigious, high-paying jobs, as top firms and public interest always dip far lower into the barrel (in terms of grades) at the T14 schools.
  • jonrijonri Registered User Posts: 7,031 Senior Member
    Every school in the top 14 has been ranked in the top 10 at least once. (I believe Northwestern was the last of the top 14 to crack it, in 2004). No other LS has ever cracked that top 10. Moroever, this means that depending on the year, some of these schools may or may not be "top 10."

    I disagree a bit with crunchy. There is nothing magic about the 15-20 group. Moreover, other than UCLA and Texas--which have always been ranked just below the top 14 and are really regional law schools mostly because they are public law schools which limit out of state enrollment--15 to 20 hasn't been that stable. So, making the cut off #20 is, IMO, very unwise.

    This year, it's Vandy (15), UCLA/Texas (16), USoCal (18), WUSTL (19) and GW
    (20). In 2004, i.e., 5 years ago--not a heck of a long time ---it was Tx (15), UCLA
    (16), Vandy (17), USC (18) Minnesota/ Washington&Lee (19). GW wasn't in the top 20. (Currently, Minnesota is 22 and W&L is 25. )

    Once you get into law school, most people don't pay much attention to any rankings other than perhaps that of the ls they attend or alma mater. So, when you sit down to talk to a 4th year associate during a job interview, the odds are high that if (s)he has any idea of how the ls you attend ranks, (s)he'll be thinking of how it ranked when he STARTED law school about 7 years earlier. The schools which ranked 15-20 back then may well not be in that group any more.

    I have a Rohrschak (spelling?) test for ls rankings. Ask a lawyer whether BC or BU law is higher ranked. The answer has NOT been consistent over time. So. lawyers of different ages will be convinced that they are giving the right answer--which was the right answer when they applied to law school. It even works when you ask the question in Boston!

    And lawyers are pretty out of it if you ask them to rank ls outside their region. Most NYC lawyers haven't a clue how highly ranked the U of Minn LS is. I think most would assume that Fordham ranks higher. I think most Southern lawyers would assume that W&L outranks UMinn.

    Please understand that I am NOT saying that the difference between #17 and a third tier (US News no longer has a second tier) LS is meaningless. It isn't. But while there really is a genuine drop after the top 14 or, if you live in Cali or TX, those 14 plus UCLA and U-Tx, there isn't the sort of drop off between #20 and #25, in large part because the rankings are pretty fluid in that zone.
  • LawSchoolBound86LawSchoolBound86 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    I also heard that the differentiation relies upon the fact that the top 14 schools have all ranked in the top 10 in the past.

    T-14= national.
    Below that=regional. That is the simplest distinction.
  • tcabtcab Registered User Posts: 31 New Member
    I thought this whole top 14 concept started on internet.
  • LawSchoolBound86LawSchoolBound86 Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
    ^ Um, ok...are you ****?

    Some firms hire according to this distinction as well. Some of the v100 firms do not dip below the T-14, and some don't dip below the T-10. All lawyers know about the T-14.
  • educ8educ8 Registered User Posts: 48 Junior Member
    "^ Um, ok...are you ****?"

    'why, yes, it seems that I am ****'

    grow up
  • km7hillkm7hill Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    the dropoff after T14 is real, and serious. Dropoff after T6 is even serious.
    folks say "as long as you end up in the top 2/3, you're fine"
    1) that was before the economy started sucking, although the prospective law students will hopefully catch OCI during recovery phase
    2) 2/3 fine means 1/3 is NOT fine. That's 33%. That's rough dude. Law school is hard, certainly a lot harder than I expected. You can obviously say that "oh if youre dumb/lazy enough to finish in the bottom third, even at a good school, you don't deserve a job". This may be true, no probs with that. But given that there is no guarantee that hard work necessarily = good results, $180000 and 3 years is a big investment for something so uncertain. Go to a T6, or go to a T14 only if you're getting significant sums of money. I would not advise outside T14 at all, unless you're cool with regional midlaw.
  • NeonzeusNeonzeus Registered User Posts: 1,234 Senior Member
    I went to a T3 school and work for a Fortune 500 in a senior position, with attorneys who went to T14 schools (including H) doing the same work for the same salary. I wouldn't be so pessimistic. It's also about working harder than anyone else, being socially presentable, and taking advantage of networking and opportunities. I've had a great career from my T3 law school. Perhaps if you're determined to work in Chicago, NY or Boston or biglaw, you have to focus on T14 schools....but that isn't the entirety of the legal profession.

    My kid got his first acceptance yesterday, from a T3 school. He's thrilled and since this school was one of his top 3 choices. We're a very happy household right now.
  • sallyawpsallyawp Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    Dropoff after T6 is even serious.

    In my experience, this is not the case. Though the extraordinary law firm layoffs, cold offers and cancellation of recruiting cycles facing those looking for jobs in law firms may eventually change my mind, you won't find a whole lot of law students in the T14 without job opportunities for after graduation (and often, several of them).
  • km7hillkm7hill Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    all jobs are not created equal. Given the opportunity cost of law school (tuition and forgone income, which is often quite high for many accomplished students out of decent schools), the 2/3 is not as big a faction as many would like, especially when within the T6, a market salary is pretty much guaranteed. Of course everyone has a job, the employment rates are like, 100%. It depends on what you want, i guess, but I'm guessing most of those who aspire to go to Michigan or Georgetown do not have in mind handling real estate transactions in south jersey.
    And for those that wouldn't mind settling for that, you better hope that the school's paying for a big part of your tuition.

    And of course, you're right. The economy WILL get better and outlook for those applying in 2-3 years is probably more optimistic than that.
    But for those in law school right now, and those that are applying in perhaps the most competitive cycle in recent memory, not all is well =(
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