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The more things change, the more things stay the same. If this is true of anything, it is true of the US News law school rankings.  Every school in the top 14 held its standing or gained ground, reinforcing the somewhat obvious fact that the rankings primarily reflect opinions already held about the schools by people who were influenced, among other things, by the US News.

They admit as much when explaining their methodology; 40 percent of the schools ranking is determined by peer review, AKA people’s opinions.  Can you really rely on a study that primarily relies on itself to form its opinions about something as complex and important as admissions?

Rather than offering meaningful reform or addressing law school's serious issues head-on, US News tries to make something headline worthy out of the fact that they changed their methodology a bit this year. Specifically, they weighted school sponsored jobs less heavily, a token nod to the continuing furor over the limited job prospects for graduating law school students. By using this tweak as their headline, the organization seems to be suggesting that they have acknowledged ongoing criticism that law school is useless below a certain tier.

But if they have acknowledged that criticism, their fix is a fig leaf at best.  The table they show indicates that the problem is widespread – top ranked schools like U. VA Law employ nearly 17 percent of their own graduates each year.  The proportions for Emory and William and Mary are even more striking; more than a quarter of students are employed by the University at both schools.  This fact does not, however, seem to have had much effect; UVA and Emory held steady at #8 and #19, and William and Mary, the biggest offender, dropped only five spots down to #29.  Since US News does not give numerical values for its rankings, it’s hard to know whether this represents a big jump or a small one.

All in all, the new rankings do not change the equation much for students thinking about applying this year. If you get into a top 14 school, or even the top third, law school can definitely work for you, provided you work hard after you are admitted and graduate in the top half of your class.  But if your only admits are at schools like Brooklyn or Loyola, you are probably better off re-applying next year or choosing another career path.

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