5) Best Schools and Programs for Environmental Law: When you picture law schools, you probably envision those hallowed brick buildings at Harvard or Yale. When it comes to the hottest program on campus – environmental law – you’ll only find one Ivy League school ranked in the top 10 (No. 10 NYU). In fact, you’d have to travel to locales like South Royalton, Vermont; Portland, Oregon; and White Plains, New York to find the best scholars in environmental law.
In our series on the top programs in various legal specialties, Tipping the Scales examines what makes certain schools so special in certain fields. From exhaustive course offerings to expansive internship programs, these are the schools that set the standard for their peers. Want to know what makes the University of Vermont, Lewis & Clark, and Pace University the most respected programs in environmental law? You’ll find the answers right here.
6) Schools With the Highest Pay and Biggest Debts: FIfty-seven per cent: that’s the number of 2013 law grads who’ve landed full-time jobs within nine months of graduation. If you think that number is scary, here’s another one: $140,616. That’s the average debt sustained by 2012 law grads. Oh, and that’s up from $88,634 in 2004.
Does that make you feel discouraged? Well, don’t be. Depending on where you graduate, you can command higher salaries – or incur lower debt – depending which school you choose. Take the University of Southern California. It may cost $52,000 a year – and you’ll only earn (on average) $80,300 to start. Fast forward 15 years after graduation and your annual compensation jumps to $192,800. Talk about return on investment!
Wondering what you could be making at your career midpoint? Click here to see the 25 schools with the highest starting and mid-career salaries. If debt is your big worry, check out the 25 biggest (and 25 smallest) average school debt loads here.
7) How Lawyers Rank Law Schools: You probably know this intuitively, but it warrants being repeated. Your law school is a reflection of who you are – particularly your intellect and capabilities. And you’ll be judged accordingly by judges, fellow lawyers, and clients. Question is, are those opinions grounded in reality?
Earlier this year, Tipping the Scales ranked the collective survey scores given to law schools by practicing attorneys and judges. Sure enough, there were plenty of surprises. An example: Legal professionals actually rank perennial darling Yale Law behind Harvard and Stanford – and equal to the University of Chicago and Columbia University. Here’s another: the University of California-Hastings is actually a top 20 program according to legal professionals, as opposed to the 54th-ranked program based on U.S. News metrics.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Here are some additional shockers from our exclusive analysis of U.S. News data.
8) Which Schools Produce the Most Super Lawyers: Rankings are often criticized because most are only a here-and-now snapshot. In reality, we truly don’t know how well a school performed until 10 to 20 years after a class has entered the workforce. But there is one ranking that attempts to bridge this gap.
Last winter, Online Legal Programs created a novel approach to ranking law schools. They took Super Lawyers’ state listings of attorneys who’d earned peer recognition and professional achievement and broke them down by each attorney’s alma mater (i.e. collecting the number of super lawyers per school). The result: Programs like Georgetown and the University of Texas punched well above their ranking.
Sure, this methodology has plenty of flaws – for example, large programs have the advantage of sheer numbers. If you’re wondering which programs turn out the most successful attorneys after graduation, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Super Lawyers rankings here.
9) The Best Law Schools for Teaching Excellence: Georgia State is better at teaching law than Yale? Wait, say that again?
You could argue that point if you measure bar passage rates, where Georgia State has a two point advantage – 96.8% vs. 94.4% – even though law students enter Georgia State with far lower GMAT scores and average GPAs.
And that was the interesting reality behind Tipping the Scales’ attempt to quantify an art form: teaching. While measuring teaching quality using bar passage rates poses some inherent challenges, for example some bar exams are far more difficult than others, it does reveal that some graduates are passing the bar at a much higher – or lower – rate than their overall rank might indicate. Does that reflect real learning or teaching to the test? We’ll leave that up to you. In the meantime, click here to learn which schools best prepare their students for the bar.