There are a number of law school rankings that focus on prestige, but that isn’t the only factor applicants should consider. When it comes to choosing a law school, one of the most important questions applicants should ask themselves is this: Which law school will offer the greatest value at the start of my career?
The National Jurist, a legal education magazine, recently published its ranking of the “Top 25 Best Value Law Schools.”
Georgia State University topped the rankings, which measures variables ranging from low tuition to debt load to employability. According to The National Jurist, average student debt of Georgia State University law students is $64,384 and with an employment rate is 82.3%. In fact, Georgia State Law’s employment rate is nearly 10% higher than the national average employment rate for J.D. graduates at 73%, according to the American Bar Association.
With any ranking, it’s crucial to understand the methodology. In determining the “best value” law schools, The National Jurist based its rankings on American Bar Association data using the following weights:
- Employment rate (35%)
- Resident tuition (25%)
- Bar exam pass rate (15%)
- Average indebtedness at graduation (15%)
- Cost of living (10%)
“The Best Value Law Schools ranking is designed to recognize the law schools where graduates have excellent chances of passing the bar and getting a legal job without taking on a ton of debt,” according to The National Jurist.
Top schools fall short
So what do these rankings say? Prestige isn’t the most important factor when it comes to law school.
Many of the schools that ranked highly in terms of “best value” are not your typical big name law schools. In an industry that has been roiled with economic turmoil, low student debt has become a priority among many law school applicants.
According to U.S. News, “the average debt for 2016 graduates who borrowed was $112,776. In contrast, at the 10 law schools with the least indebted graduates, the average debt was $62,055.”
What Makes A Valuable Law Education?
In April, Whittier Law School announced the closure of its law school program. The unthinkable had happened — an accredited law school had finally closed its door.
The closure of Whittier Law has raised an important question, however. What makes a law education valuable today?
Raul Ruiz is the Director of Bar Preparation and Assistant Professor of Academic Support at Florida International University — a law school that has recently propelled itself into top 20 rankings for its high bar passage rates. Ruiz tells The National Jurist that FIU’s success boils down to its teaching practices.
“We teach students how to learn,” Ruiz says. “It’s science. It comes down to science.”
Ruiz tells The National Jurist that legal education not only has the responsibility of producing lawyers, but ensuring that it produces quality lawyers.
“If not,” he says, “what value are you bringing here?”
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