By all accounts the ranking of law schools by U.S. News and World Reports and its imitators has become a driving factor in the scope and nature of change in legal education since U.S. News inaugurated its rankings 25 years ago. Nevertheless, say three law professors in a forthcoming Indiana Law Journal article, Enduring Hierarchies in American Legal Education, the law schools considered at the top of the heap remain unchanged. Among the "established elite" is the University of Michigan Law School. The others are California at Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Pennsylvania, Stanford, Virginia and Yale.
The three authors -- William Henderson, Olufunmilayo Arewa, and Andrew Morriss -- suggest that the turmoil in the legal industry has the potential to upend elite status in a way that the rankings has not:
Hiring the top 25 percent of the top 10 law schools’ classes remains a low short-term risk strategy for many legal employers—the “no one ever was fired for buying IBM” approach,” the article says. “But this is a time of considerable disruption in the legal marketplace, and not just for graduates. A potentially enormous opportunity exists for employers to cut their costs and improve their outcomes by hiring people who have skills such firms need who did not go to the top schools. … We believe schools that find ways to innovate and firms that are early adopters of different hiring strategies are likely to gain competitive advantages. After all, IBM ended up selling its laptop business to Lenovo.
Photo: University of Michigan Law School quadrangle