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25 March 2007



I have been thinking about this issue a lot and I have another possible factor to suggest, but I do not have the statistical expertise to actually examine it myself. Could you look into the possibility that the underratedness of a school correlates with the percentage of students who stay in that city after graduation? While staying in the region may sometimes be a reflection that the school does not produce students strong enough to get a job anywhere, it could also be merely a reflection of the fact that a certain city is very attractive to students. For example, graduates of New York schools might all want to stay in the city because of its many opportunities. If this is the case, then very few people in other parts of the country will have contact with these graduates and the school's general reputation may lag because of its lack of visibility.


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William Henderson


Great to hear from your. Your comment reflects the brilliance and realism of an IU grad! I hope things are going well for you. Good luck. bh.

Conor Granahan, IU '05

Professor Henderson,

I read the Vault article and thought it was a great publicity piece for the schools involved. I am trying to figure out if it was good or bad that IU was left off!

I would say that lower ranked regional schools have the ability to offer a more "practical," but not necessarily "better" education. First, their students are going to predominantly practice law in the state or the city where their school is situated. This means that a school can teach more state law to a student body that presumably would desire to learn that over more theoretical or general material. Clinical work and internships during the school year will be more fruitful because they are based where you will practice and can lead to job offers and exposure in the community. Local schools can specialize. University of San Francisco School of Law offers a course on how to take the performance section of the CA bar. This most certainly helps their bar passage rate and should make them more desirable to employers. Is this a better education? A whole other debate.

A lower school that is obviously not attracting the top candidates has to offer something of value. You aren't playing the same game. I like your "moving the market" line to explain this. I think the USNWR rankings cannot and will not move fast enough to track innovations employed by law schools in the middle because the rankings have a vested interest in maintaining some continuity and stability. If they fluctuated too much, they would become irrelevant to employers. So that makes them ripe for underrating of schools.

On the other side, better students sometimes go to lower schools for scholarships, to be close to family, etc. So there are diamonds in the rough. Plus, hard work is not always an ethic instilled in the brilliant.



I put my LSAT score on my resume when I first started out. I did it because (1) I had a very high LSAT score, and (2) I went to practice in SoCal, where nobody knew a thing about my non-California school. I put my LSAT so recruiters 'would know' that I was smarter than the anybody else applying, be they from Stanford or some other rip-off private school.

And I'm posting anonymously, under my web wide handle, because nobody likes someone who says they are smart (Makes you sound like Fredo from the Godfather).

Didn't make much of a difference. I got a job, but not a super high paying one. Looking back, I should have turned down the free ride at my law school, and taken out a huge loan to go to some top 10 school. That's what I tell pre-law students: unless you plan on practicing in the regional area of your school, you need to go to the highest ranked school you can get into, no matter the cost or location. Rankings matter more than anything for that first job out of school.

William Henderson


I am happy to accept criticism of my analysis, but your comment does not provide much guidance.

Sure, it would be great to know the characteristics of who replied to the survey and how it matches up to the population. Unfortunately, we don't have that information.

Why analyze it anyway?
1) Vault has a decent track record as a publisher of industry information (I have used their data before and am familiar with the company). Why should we assume they are manufacturing information?
2) 512 respondents is a fair N when 200 law firms employ over 10% of all lawyers in the country, and those firms have a history of being surveyed by Vault.
3) Assuming the survey is representative (an open question), this data is intrinsically interesting and is unavailable from another source; it is expensive to collect. If hiring partners depart from ranking in their recruiting, it may be as significant as the rankings themselves.
4) If sample biased the results, what is the mechanism? Regardless, now it is worth our time to inquiry further on Vault's sample.

Finally, why post anonymously? When commenters reveal their identity, the tone and dialogue tends to be more constructive. Let's have a discussion and learn, not just score points. bh.


Your highly flawed analysis shows that there is a statistic to prove anything.

Before you start proving Vault's results, you might want to ask yourself if Vault’s results themselves are valid. Did you even ask them how they came up with their results? Consider the possibility that Vault made up the "study" solely to attract readers.

To prevent further abuse of statistics, I implore you to please put the excel spreadsheet and step away.

William Henderson


This post is not intended to give prescriptive advice to students. I would be cautious about the inferences in both #1 and #2.

Under the Strong Student theory, the 75th LSAT number is associated with recruiter perceptions of being underrated. But in the individual school case, that may not be true at all. The relevant measure here is whether a school's placement outperforms it rank (data I am currently compiling); LSAT is at best a proxy for this.

Regarding students placing their LSAT on their resume, that raises some difficult signaling problems. If it higher than a recruiter might expect, one might wonder why candidate X is not higher in the class; if is lower than expected, it does the candidate no good. These dynamics work against this practice being commonplace.

More importantly, once in law school, grades are a better signal. The 75th percentile, in contrast, speaks to overall strength of the class; thus, it might be relevant to which school to interview at. But it provides no information on which students to hire. bh.

Jeff Stake

What does that mean?
1) To the extent that the "stronger students" theory explains the Vault rating, hiring decisions are made according to student aptitude as measured by LSAT. Therefore, students should not worry about the usn&wr ranking but about the LSAT of the school?
2) Students should put their LSATs on their vitas, and schools should stop discouraging students from putting their LSATs on their vitas?

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