Eeny Meeny Miny Mo, To Which Law School Do I Go?



There’s nothing like the rush from discovering multiple fat envelopes avalanching from your mailbox.  The smacking sound as the stacks of enrollment forms land upon your desk.  It is law school admission season!  But, if you’re one of the lucky pre-law or transfer students tasked with the decision to choose between law schools, how will you ever decide?

In today’s economically troubling times, your biggest concern while choosing should be which school will give you the best bang for your buck!  The annual collection of employment statistics are out and are looking grim – with only 56% of the Class of 2012 acquiring full-time, long-term employment, requiring bar passage or a judicial clerkship (oh, you know, only the  jobs that are the entire reason to attend law school!).  Therefore, determining which school is going to give you the best odds of acquiring one of these jobs should be your highest priority.

Although there are lawsuits popping up every other day (so it seems) against law schools for misrepresenting its employment numbers, the American Bar Association has made changes to its policies regarding law schools’ employment reports in order to deter inflated percentages.  Additionally, those law schools accused of misleading students with inaccurate employment statistics are trending as some of the lowest employment percentages for the Class of 2012.  It may be difficult to trust these numbers, but they’re likely better and more accurate than the reports you may have researched in years past.

To help you narrow your choices, I’ve compiled several reports of the best and worst law schools based on the Class of 2012 employment statistics.  Warning:  if one of your acceptance letters is on the “Highest Unemployment List” below, shred your letter and don’t look back.  If you only received acceptance letters from that list, you should consider abandoning the decision to attend law school at all.  Honestly, why spend $150k plus interest to a school that cannot guarantee employment?  Sure, you receive an education, but you only want the education to get the job.  Would you pay money for an entire birthday cake and just shrug your shoulders when the baker only gives you one slice?  Heck no!  Sure, you received cake, but one slice is unlikely to be enough for a party.  Instead, only one person is satisfied and the rest are left disappointed and hungry.  Law schools shouldn’t serve one slice of cake to a portion of graduates and leave the rest disappointed.  Now, all I want to do is eat cake and I digress…here are the lists:

Best Lists

1.      University of Chicago Law School – 94.9%
2.      University of Virginia School of Law – 94.5%
3.      University of Pennsylvania Law School – 94.4%
4.      Columbia Law School – 93.4%
5.      Stanford Law School – 91.2%

1.      Columbia University School of Law – 99%
2.      University of Chicago Law School – 99%
3.      University of California at Berkley School of Law – 96%
4.      Northwestern University School of Law – 93%
5.      New York University School of Law – 96%

1.      College of William and Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law – 34.3%
2.      George Washington University Law School – 32.5%
3.      Florida State University College of Law – 30.4%
4.      City University of New York School of Law – 27%
5.      University of South Dakota School of Law – 26.3%

Top 5 Law Schools within the U.S. News Top 25Rank List with the Lowest Underemployment Rates  (underemployment includes unemployed and those with short-term, part-time, or non-professional jobs)
1.      University of Virginia School of Law (ranked #7) – 1.1%
2.      Columbia University School of Law (ranked #4) – 1.9%
3.      New York University School of Law (ranked #6) – 2.7%
4.      University of Pennsylvania Law School (ranked #7) – 3.0%
5.      University of Chicago Law School (ranked #4) – 3.3%

Worst List

1.      Thomas Jefferson School of Law – 31.5%
2.      University of San Francisco School of Law – 30.3%
3.      University of La Verne College of Law – 29.8%
4.      Western State University College of Law – 27.7%
5.      Loyola University New Orleans School of Law – 27%
6.      Chapman University School of Law – 24.2%
7.      Whittier Law School – 23.5%
8.      Villanova University School of Law – 22.7%
9.      Ave Maria School of Law – 22.3%
10.  University of Oregon School of Law – 21.7%

Top 5 Law Schools within the U.S. News Top 25Rank List with the Highest Underemployment Rates  (underemployment includes unemployed and those with short-term, part-time, or non-professional jobs)
1.      University of Southern California Gould School of Law (ranked #18) – 22.6%
2.      Maurer School of Law: Indiana University, Bloomington (ranked #25) – 22.1%
3.      Vanderbilt Law School (ranked #15) – 21.9%
4.      The Notre Dame Law School(ranked #23) – 20.3%
5.      University of California, Las Angeles School of Law (ranked #17) – 20.1%

Affordability is the other factor you should examine closely when choosing your law school.  Are you receiving any scholarships from these schools?  Are they scholarships that you will receive throughout the duration of your legal education or do you have to reapply?  Can you receive financial aid?  Many of the top schools are private schools.  How will this affect your applications for student loans?  Will you only be able to take out loans from private lenders?  If you are planning to go into a public interest career, does the school offer a repayment program to pay part or all of your loans?  Weigh the financial aspects just as heavily as the employment ratings. 

There are other factors to ponder over as well, so look for Barrister on a Budget when it’s released to get additional strategies and tips!  Good luck in choosing your law school!

-          Jenny L. Maxey
Author of Barrister on a Budget

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