Some of the schools who have clung to the bottom of the first tier are finding the current law school market to be toxic for them, Catholic U., St. John’s U., and Santa Clara U. have all slipped below a Tier 1 ranking and will now find themselves fighting to find a way back. Schools in the lower echelons of the first tier historically show a struggle in the 80th and 90th positions for several years before waking up one day and finding themselves below the #100 benchmark. While it is discouraging for staff, it can be devastating to students as they accumulate debt while betting on what looks to be the losing horse in the law school market. DePaul and Hofstra both found themselves below the 1st ties benchmark for the first time last year and neither of them were able to rally and make even a slight comeback. Don't let the smiling faces on their admissions pages fool you, the job market is rough. And it will get worse for the students who find their schools slipping below the requisite Tier 1 benchmark when they go hunting for a job. If you’re one of these students, seriously consider your options. You are accumulating a lot of debt; make sure your interests are best served whether you decide to finish up your program (i.e., accumulating more debt while facing dire job prospects) or jump ship. It honestly is okay to quit if you feel that is in your best interests.
What other schools look iffy – even if they aren’t quite as iffy as the ones mentioned above? West Virginia and U. of Hawaii have dipped below Tier 1 twice in the past six years. Michigan State is languishing in the bottom of the Tier after pulling up into Tier 1 in 2001. St, Louis U. placed in 93rd place after years of being a 2nd tier school. History shows they will have to show steady, consistent improvement if they are to keep this tenuous hold. That’s the bad news (maybe good news if you are just getting started in your law school career and are considering attending at one of these high risk schools – it’s not too late to back out). You don’t really pay for what you get; they still cost tons (ranging from $33,714 to $37,615 per year for tuition alone for the schools mentioned in this paragraph).
It’s common knowledge that you’re best positioned for a job if you’re attending school in a T14 law school. But what about other schools? Schools that have recently pulled up into remarkably higher positions (and have surpassed position #60) include University of Richmond (ranked in the 50s for the past 3 years and currently ranking #51), Arizona State (hanging steadily in the 30s and currently #31), and Baylor ( solid showing in the 50s for the past 3 years and currently ranking #51). These are the schools that have increased their ranking despite today’s unfriendly market - so they may be schools that are doing things right and might be worth checking out.
We wish there was better news. It’s still a pretty bleak world for graduating law students everywhere. But if your heart is set on practicing the law and you’re okay with taking the risk with law school debt, know that graduating students are reportedly finding jobs. So keep your chin and your hopes up while you consider your options and make your dreams (or adjusted dreams) a reality.