At the risk of bringing attention to a matter that deserves to be forever silenced, law students need ammunition to combat tier-orists: people who believe that the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings data has any correlation to a quality legal education, happiness, or the opportunity for a successful legal career.
Know The System
The ranking system changed. There are two tiers. Tier One is comprised of law schools ranked #1 to #145. Tier Two is comprised of the remaining 50 schools. The top 14 of the 195 schools are held in high esteem. There are approximately 45 thousand graduates this year and only 25 thousand jobs. Unless you graduated from a school listed in the top 14, a J.D. from a Tier One school holds little weight. In addition, a diploma from a top 14 law school is nearly meaningless without resume-worthy achievements to back it up.
Know The Research
In the book The Happy Lawyer by Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder, the authors’ research found that “graduates of lower-ranked law schools report higher levels of happiness than graduates of top-ranked law schools.” Once employed, the graduates of top tier law schools were much more likely to express a desire to leave their jobs. Happiness does not come from a Tier One school.
Know The Leaders
If Tier One schools do not promise influence or happiness, then what about breeding success?
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~Thomas Edison
All successful attorneys worked hard. They did not all attend Tier One schools. Most Supreme Court Justices are graduates of the top 14, but modern legends like Gerry Spence, Gloria Allred, and Mark Geragos graduated from law schools that are not in the top 50.
Tier-orists hold on to an invalid notion that a J.D. from a top tier school is a ticket to attorney nirvana. Combat tier-orism with the facts, and with hard work that raises you above other law school graduates, even those from the top 14.