Wall Street Journal reporter Amir Efrati continues to make a name for himself by aggressively covering the legal education beat. Today's WSJ page B1 story (How to Cut Debt, Boost Job Prospects from Law School) lays out some the calculus that prospective law students should consider in making the decision to enroll in law school. It also includes reference to the benefits of transferring to a national law school after a successful 1L year at a lower ranked institution; in my last post, I learned that this is a very sensitive topic.
The story contains a quote from me and a reference to an alternative law school ranking that I am working on with Andy Morriss (Illinois Law). I would like to add two key pieces of context:
- Chances of landing a large law firm job. In the story, I am quoted, "If you go to a school ranked 35th or 40th over one that's ranked 70th or 80th, you are by no means substantially increasing your chances of landing a high-paying job." This is more than just my opinion. When I made this statement, I was looking a data that took months to compile. Further, the same analysis holds true when you compare, say, the 25th or 30th with the 50th or 60th. My point is simple: a higher rank in US News does not necessarily provide students with an opportunity set that justifies a price premium. That will be the central takeaway of our alternative ranking--from a student perspective, over-reliance on US News can be a big financial mistake.
- Alternative rankings. The story notes that our alternative rankings will include large law firm employment. Our project, however, is actually much broader than that. If a student wants to preserve maximum financial flexibility upon graduation in order to pursue a variety of interesting legal jobs (government, public interest, small firm practice) with little or no law school debt, we will show students how to do this calculus using actual law school data.
As I have said before, the future of legal education is driven by labor markets.