I was in the law school faculty/staff staff kitchen the other day, making a cup of coffee and overhearing a conversation. Seems some anonymous person on some blog or other called the school that employs me “the worst law school in five states.” Given that every business on earth has someone out there saying how lousy they are (ever visit Walmartsucks? WholeFoodsSucks? IHateStarbucks?) I was surprised at how offended people were. We’re not used to nasty anonymous attacks at law schools, but we’re going to see a lot more of them.
On the merits, it’s hard to tell what “worst law school” means. If you look at our student credentials, they stack up pretty well compared to most fourth-tier and many third-tier law schools. If you look at our bar passage rate, we do pretty well. Our bar passage rate averages about ten or fifteen points below test takers from top 10 law schools. But when you realize the strong correlation between bar performance and LSAT/UGPA credentials, and realize also that it’s doubtful that any of our students could even have been admitted at one of those schools, you’ve got to assume that we’re doing a pretty good job of actually training students for practice. Given that 80 percent of my students will likely pass the bar, it’s almost impossible to believe that anyone at at a school whose average LSAT score is more than two standard deviations higher than ours could possibly fail if they got even a decent amount of instruction.
Since I’ve neither taught nor attended any of the other 19 or so law schools in the five-state area. I obviously can’t say that we’re not the worst. Somebody obviously has to be, right? (Think Texas Tech in basketball.) Certainly we’re the newest and almost certainly the least prestigious, so for prestige-driven students we’re a bad choice. If you’re planning on relying on the reputation of your degree-granting institution as the primary proof of how good a lawyer you are, and don’t care how much money you pay for the degree, by all means go somewhere else. I’ve heard that everyone at the top ten law schools gets a great high-paying job these days, and for every 10 places in the USNews rankings the expected salary of graduates goes up by $7,500 a year.