Dear 4th-tier law school from which I proudly graduated a few years back:
First things first: Yes, I have a job—a law job. My law school loans are being paid.
I can hear you sighing with relief. Now, the real reason for this letter:
Despite all that, I don’t expect you to voluntarily close your doors any time soon (even if that might make the job market a little better around here for your graduates). After all, being a law professor or dean sounds mostly fun, and the money ain’t bad. But I have another suggestion that you might consider.
I think you could make things a lot easier for everyone, students, faculty, and graduates included, if you would just stop cooperating with US News when they get in touch with you about your next law school ranking. That is a rigged game you can’t win, so you should really just stop playing.
Why you should stop playing
Law school rankings are all about how much money you have. You don’t have enough money, so you are low-ranked. It’s just that simple.
You complain about how the rankings are a mess, and don’t measure how cool your professors and students are, but you keep trying to raise your ranking. The more you try to raise your ranking, the more harm you do to your students because you waste money on stuff US News cares about when you could be spending that money helping your students.
If you just announced to the whole world that you refuse to chase your tail this way any more, and you are going to dedicate all the energy and time and money you used to spend chasing a higher ranking to making your students as employable as possible when they graduate, you’d enjoy a number of benefits, like a ton of free publicity, a load of stress off your mind, and my admiration.
You might just start a trend among other (4th-tier) schools. Wouldn’t that be sweet? You could stick it to the Man! (Or Woman. You choose.)
You could also save money because you wouldn’t have to chase after slightly-more “desirable” students by offering them scholarships. (You recall, I’m sure, that you have to take away a lot of these scholarships after the first year because you don’t have enough money to maintain them. Some people might call that a wee bit, um, disingenuous.)
A radical idea: teach lawyering
You could drop a lot of the classes that you now offer only because the rankings formula doesn’t like the idea of offering classes that would be really useful to new lawyers. For example, you could bring in practicing lawyers to teach students how to practice law and run a law office or a non-profit! That would be sweet. As much as I enjoyed annoying my Admiralty professor, a class on how to do things lawyers actually need to know how to do would have been helpful.
You could require those shy law students to participate in clinics that would teach them how to do lawyer stuff while helping real people in the community! Don’t worry, if the students survive a year of Civ Pro, they can survive a clinic or two. (Now that I think of it, you could shorten Civ Pro to one semester!) You could even offer free law student help to local law firms that could really use it! That might help newer law offices (they seem to be popping up all over, have you noticed?) to succeed, and some of them might even be able to hire your graduates! Crazy!
After all, you don’t even have to play by the ABA rules any more, as a degree from an accredited law school isn’t even required now to take the bar exam in your state! And, let’s be honest, it’s not like big New York law firms snap up too many of your graduates. Just go nuts! What do you have to lose? I mean, the future of 4th-tier schools is not looking bright right now. Honestly, if the number of students applying for law school continues to drop, your very survival might start to come into question.
One more thing before I go
Remember how I noted that I have a job? Just to be clear, while it pays enough to cover law loans in addition to helping feed a family of four and keeping the house from falling down, it doesn’t leave a lot left over to give to you. So, could you please stop asking for a while? Imagine what you’ll save on printing and postage! Perhaps you could wait until my loans are paid off? I’ll be happy to hear from you then. I’ll be retired, so perhaps I’ll have time to stop by and put a few dollars in your tip jar.
Now go out there and make me proud!