Thank God for Those Bulls#!t U.S. News Rankings

Obviously, when I look at the latest U.S. News and World Report law school rankings, I care about them much, much less than some unfortunate sap stuck in interview hell who’s trying to explain why he couldn’t do better than Thomas Cooley.

“Um, it just seemed like the best fit.”

That ain’t gonna land you a job that pays anywhere near six figures. With a decreasing number of slots at the high-paying shops and more and more people coming out of law school, it’s no wonder these rankings mean more than ever. But they’re still bullshit.

Even though law school pedigrees mean less after working a certain number of years in BigLaw, it never escapes you. It’s still blazoned on your online firm profile and the elitist douchebags who roam these halls are more than aware of where everyone went. Not to mention, the guys from my firm doing the law school recruitment these days can hardly stomach a two-number ranking. And, selfishly, I’m happy as hell about it.

Let people focus on them. It only further validates how great it feels to be me right now, and it gives me more ammo to feel superior to everyone else. The best advice I ever got was, “Only go if you get into a top-10 school.” And so I did. And I got mediocre grades. And I’m more than OK with that.

Would I have been better off top-of-the-class at a second-tier school? Hells no! In fact, it’s a huge fallacy to assume that, just because you were middle of your class at a top school, you would be slaying it at a St. John’s or Cardozo. You probably wouldn’t. At least I know I wouldn’t. My work ethic puts me middle of the pack no matter where I would’ve gone. Lucky for me, I excel at standardized tests. Yay, white people! (Kidding, err, sort of.)

Basically, I’m gloating. The legal community orgasms over these rankings every year, and because it does, a bizarre information cascade is created, for which I’m a product of cumulative advantage. Like Justin Timberlake. Not making sense? What I’m saying is: Because so much emphasis is placed on rankings, an average schlep like me made it big time (or as “big time” as you can get in the law firm system) with minimal effort. By virtue of nothing more than a great LSAT and a top admissions director who said, “Why not?” I nabbed a job most students only dream of.

So, while on one hand I should thank the rankings for turning me into the well-perched monster I am today, on the other hand, my point is pretty obvious. The rankings are lame—and “survival of the fittest” would play out much better if they didn’t exist. I know these rankings mean a lot to firms and to all of you poor law-school saps, but unless you’re attending a T14, you should be pissed that they do.

I sometimes think about what would have happened if I actually took that full scholarship to Thomas L. Cooley School of Law and Plumbing…


  • NO DEBT;
  • I would be forced to face that fact that the legal profession is a joke anyway;
  • I’d figure out how to use the skills that I learned in another way;
  • Much hotter girls (I’m guessing).


  • No one other than my classmates would respect me;
  • Prospects of getting a real law firm job would hover around, say .000000001 percent;
  • I’m not sure I would even be ABA certified;
  • I would be a laughingstock the rest of my life.

Knowing myself, I would not have turned out to be the exception to the rule—like my friend. Yes, believe it or not, I have a friend who is a graduate of the esteemed Thomas L. Cooley College of Lawyering and Appliance Repair. And you know what? He’s doing better than me.

Me: A middling associate at a top Manhattan firm who is destined not to make partner and destined not to save any money because I have a pimp apartment and I spend too much on women. Grateful to keep the job I have (given my behavior), I’m too big of a pussy to exit BigLaw or even make a simple lateral jump.

Him: A spirited entrepreneur. After law school, he took some shit job ambulance chasing and realized, “Fuck this! I have a law degree, I learned some shit, and I have no debt. Let me give it a shot at starting a business.” He started a successful title insurance business in Arkansas, where nobody knows the difference between Thomas Cooley and Thomas Jefferson. And even if they did, I presume he just tells people he went to Michigan anyway. That’s what I would do. How many people are going to be like, “Show me your diploma!”?

As for the middle-ground schools, if I had ended up going somewhere in the second tier, I don’t see any way it would have ended well for me. I actually was admitted into a bunch of those, but only one top-tier school. I considered not going at all after being rejected from my “dream school” (Harvard), which probably would have been the better move for me, but then my school’s acceptance letter rolled in, and I realized that Matthew Richardson relies too much on his pedigree for everything in this world: Jobs, women, networking, women, etc.

Everything in my life would’ve been exponentially worse if I had graduated from a T2 school—or worse, tried to work a bar with nothing but a flimsy bachelors degree. Had I went to the next-highest-ranked law school that accepted me, I would have been stuck begging and pleading to get into a top firm and begging and pleading for above-average girls in the city to give me a look. Sure, when I graduated in 2005 it was possible for a T2 guy to get a BigLaw job and a suitably attractive girl. But in 2010, I’d have a better chance getting a small-business loan for my startup escort/limousine service.

What I would really love to see is a chart that tracks performance at firms based on where you went to school and where you ranked in your class. If I were a betting man, I’d say no single factor is more determinant than another. I’m sure Ivy Leaguers are probably slightly more clutch because we have larger brains. (It’s just science.) But maybe we take longer to do things because we’re cocky and read more articles in The Economist to waste time. And maybe T2 grads with chips on their shoulders bust their asses and are more efficient. And maybe the T3 kids are so friggin’ cool that nobody even cares that they read on a seventh-grade level.

What I really think is hilarious is that U.S. News has a major portion of the rankings dependent on law school professors who rate other schools’ reputations or “prestige level,” which accounts for 25%. Can you imagine that conversation?

Harvard Dean: Where are you ranking Cleveland State?
Stanford Dean: I was thinking somewhere between Cooley and the University of Phoenix Online. I heard they got the Internet this year.
Harvard Dean: Oh, I didn’t hear that, but I did hear they went back to using the Socratic Method
Stanford Dean: I think you misheard.  I heard the students went back to the rhythm method.

Or the flipside, can you imagine the convo between TTTT deans?

Appalachian Dean: Fuck Harvard. I’m putting them below Ohio State. Ohio State would kill them in basketball
Dean from Thomas L. Cooley: I can never remember, which one is Penn and which one is Penn State?

Seriously, how does U.S. News look itself in the mirror every morning?

All I know is that I’m glad I got a T1 education because things could have turned out a lot worse for me. Don’t let anyone lie to you. There is value in going to the best. Which is why those of you law students who aren’t top-tier should think of a way to overturn the rankings monarchy. Because it’s sinking you kids like stones.

Sure, some of you may think you’re better off at a T2 school where you will excel and get to look at marginally better girls. Plus, that chip on your shoulder just might be what you need to survive in an intellectually superior pool down the road. And some of you may be better off at a T3 or T4 school where you can find a niche like maritime law or pornography licensure…. or better yet, maybe become like my friend who graduated Cooley and started a business. Just remember: NEVER tell people where you went to law school.

So, for all of you employers reading the rankings, please remember that second-tier kids who work hard deserve a chance too… after all the slots reserved for your fellow Ivy Leaguers get filled.

  • Guano Dubango

    I secured an LLM from Georgetown because no one knew anything about Accra State University in Ghana, and I had virtually no chances with USA women lawyers.  Now, this LLM has secured me USA job, a work permit, and at least some attention by attractive women.  Now all I need is a beautiful woman lawyer to woo and return to Ghana to marry me and move back to Ghana and live in riches with my Aunt Ooona footing the wedding bill.  If there is a beautiful woman lawyer interested in being lavished in Laura Ashley furnishings, please let me know.

  • Bitter Overseas

    Good piece. You gotta love a self-declared scumbag who knows which side his bread’s buttered on (and revels in it).
    All that stuff is worth exactly zero on this side of the world – maybe one day I’ll share with y’all what foreign BigLaw was like (but anywhere you go, in-house is invariably better…)

  • Craig

    Enjoyed it . . .  “And maybe the T3 kids are so friggin’ cool that nobody even cares that they read on a seventh-grade level” …  funniest line.  Good stuff.

  • KateLaw

    I just went to the best law school in my state.  I didn’t really care so much about ratings bc I knew where I wanted to live and I believed I could probably get a job after it was all said and done.  Perhaps I was naive at the time, but it seems to have worked out just fine.  I can’t be the only one who did this…

  • Prom Queen

    “Just remember: NEVER tell people where you want to law school. “ I’ll remember not to proof read my shit too when I’m not telling them I went to a T4.

  • OMG

    Oh boy!

    Can I be a lawyer too?

    This all be BS.

  • BL1Y

    The main difference between the elite schools and everyone else is the quality of student they take in.  There are some exceptions (really smart people who want a cheaper education or a local school; and dumb fracks like me who aced the LSAT because they studied analytical philosophy for 3 years before taking a test on analytical philosophy), but generally speaking, going to a top ranked school tells employers you were smart enough to get in and very little else.  Since most people prefer higher ranked schools, unless you have a good excuse for going lower, employers will assume you could not have gotten into anywhere else more selective.  Employers know you learn jack shit no matter where you went, but to quote the Reverend Scalia, “You can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.”

  • Craig

    OMG … Of course it is all bullshit.  That is Richardson’s MO.  Bullshit artist.  Just like he portrays himself as the guy who gets one over on “the system,” laughing at the people who buy into his BS, he probably does the same with these articles.  He clearly bullshits all of his stories and laughs at the people who really buy into it as complete truth.  Don’t get me wrong, he is really excellent in this forum and extremely entertaining.  Keep the BS flowing please.

  • Sabrina

    I’d be more impressed with your T1 elitism if there weren’t grammatical errors in your column.

  • Magic Circle Jerk

    You ain’t the only one. (BTW- 180 on the yay white people comment)

  • miserable associate

    hilarious stuff as usual. I think I once got a full scholarship in the mail from Cooley. One thing…my guess is Richardson doesn’t hook up with very hot girls though, he talks about it way too much. Just my opinion.

  • Guano Dubango

    Unfortunately, I was not told that the best looking women are at T4 schools, and I got my LLM where most women looked like water buffalo.  This was the information I most needed and did not get until my Aunt Ooona put my $25K deposit down.  Big mistake.  Best to go to school and sample the women first.

  • Aunt Ooona

    Guano, if I wanted you to go law school to meet pretty girls, I would have deposit the money at Pepperdine or USC. But I know you all talk an no action on girls even though I tell you to loosen up an be nice not scared of own shadow when pretty girls aroound. So you gotta good degree. Now go finda girl and stop talking about it.An get rid of that greasy hair stuff you probably stilla use.

  • nn

    Some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met went to T1 schools, and some of the smartest people I know went to T4.

  • Bill

    Will one of the more charitable women on this website please volunteer to let Guano bone her so that he will relieve himself of those blue balls?  His predicament and somewhat incestuous relationship with Aunt Oona is not something we want to encourage.  Women?  Step up to the plate please?

  • djasdf

    Fuck YOU Matt.

  • Hmmm…

    Bill, the only one concerned about Guano’s balls is you. Perhaps it is you who should put on a dress and bend over.