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Joe Patrice

Joe Patrice is an Editor at Above the Law. For over a decade, he practiced as a litigator at...

Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal is the Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline and the Editor-At-Large of Breaking Media. He’s appeared...

Episode Notes

The US News and World Report law school rankings have been leaked, and the gang breaks down who’s on top and who’s making big moves — both good and bad — in this year’s rankings. Joe and Elie also have an extended discussion about racist cars, specifically what to make of a new report suggesting that self-driving cars are more likely to strike African-American pedestrians.

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Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer

Law School Rankings Recap



Intro: Welcome to Thinking Like a Lawyer with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture, all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.


Joe Patrice: Hello. Welcome to another edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer. I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law and with me is Elie Mystal.

Elie Mystal: Black man is still alive Joe, can’t ask for much more.

Joe Patrice: That is true. Well, you could ask for one thing more, which is to have a show that’s sponsored, so also thanks to for sponsoring the show, but those two things. Yeah, so what’s new with you these days?

Elie Mystal: I am just happy that our sponsor isn’t trying to kill me like some other technology in this world.

Joe Patrice: Ooh, what was your run-in with technology?

Elie Mystal: I didn’t have a personal run-in; I read this story on Fox today.

Joe Patrice: Okay.

Elie Mystal: Apparently, self-driving cars, which are supposed to be the future —

Joe Patrice: They will be.

Elie Mystal: –have not been sufficiently tested in terms of their person recognition. So the cameras that they are using in some self-driving cars according to a study out of Georgia Tech, they can’t recognize black people and so there’s a — they have a 5% chance higher likelihood of striking dark-skinned pedestrians because their models, their tracking models weren’t tested, as far as we can tell, on people with darker skin.

Joe Patrice: Well, the question would be, and I have seen just the news report about this, I would be interested to see, not that this makes it okay, but I would be interested to see what the distinction is between that elevated likelihood and the elevated likelihood of just regular drivers, because the issue here is more nighttime driving, that it’s not — because they are using visual cameras that darker-skinned folks with less reflectivity are harder for those cameras to see in the dark, which is a bad thing. Though it is also a thing that effects manually driven cars, I would believe at a higher rate.

The question then is not get rid of driverless cars because they have an issue seeing dark skin at night and more, they are probably — A, they may actually still be better than the common driver; and B, shouldn’t this then be the sort of situation where we demand that our driverless cars be even better than that with other technologies like infrared or something like that.

Elie Mystal: So you have retcon the story from, oh my God, the driverless cars are trying to kill me, to no, no, no, I am forgetting just how racist regular ass people are who are also trying to kill me when they are driving their vehicles.

Joe Patrice: I don’t necessarily know as though it — well, I mean there are certainly racist ass people who are trying to kill you in their cars, those people exist mostly in Charlottesville but — actually I shouldn’t say mostly, but most notably in Charlottesville. But that’s not who we are talking about; I am actually saying that I would be interested in comparing this number to just eyesight issues.

Elie Mystal: I see what you are saying and it’s a nice retcon, but I think that the bigger issue here is kind of the lack of diversity in tech, right?

Joe Patrice: Okay, that’s a good angle to spin it into a bigger story, yeah.

Elie Mystal: Like this is a baseline thing that would have been tested or would have been found out or at least they would have had an answer for if you had more diversity in these companies making these kinds of technologies, testing them on a wider range of, in this case, skin tones.

Joe Patrice: Situations, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I mean I think that’s true too and I think that there is something to be said for an engineer working on this project who was black would probably have said earlier in the process, is there a way we can make sure this is better than the way normally —

Elie Mystal: Is there a way we can make sure this can see me?

Joe Patrice: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I think —

Elie Mystal: Because that’s going to be important at some point.

Joe Patrice: I absolutely agree, but I do think — I do think that —

Elie Mystal: You think that the robots are still going to end up being better than the actual humans. Even their racism will be less impactful than human racism.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I don’t — yes, in this instance I think this is a vision thing and less a racism thing. Professors from Tennessee law schools, notwithstanding, we were making reference to a law professor who actively told people to run over black people a few years ago, but —

Elie Mystal: Protesters.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: That happened to be why.


Joe Patrice: But I will note that I am now looking back just because I have the power of the computers here and I am looking back and there was a study done a year ago about how African-Americans are disproportionately killed in — African-American pedestrians are disproportionately killed in car crashes already, just like regular ones driven by people. So I would like to compare before we write off driverless cars, compare that number with the manual number, not that that means we shouldn’t strive for better, but I think it’s probably true that it’s already still safer.

But I do think your questions about diversity and the importance of it within the tech industry are well noted.

Elie Mystal: You be sure to let me know how that study goes when I am sitting dead under the wheel of a Tesla.

Joe Patrice: Right. My issue is the actual numbers show that the odds that you are sitting dead underneath the wheel of a Chevy driven by anybody today is still higher than that. So you can have that complaint all you want, but I am comparing the two and one of them wins probably, because there’s just a statistically better chance. I mean, you are a poker player, you don’t say I hate full houses because once I lost to — like it’s —

Elie Mystal: No, I hear that, but I am thinking that — I understand what you are saying in terms of the likelihood of human driver error.

Joe Patrice: Right.

Elie Mystal: This is all solved with infrared technology.

Joe Patrice: Oh, that I completely agree with, yeah.

Elie Mystal: And from these studies I haven’t heard a reason for why that’s not the backstop here.

Joe Patrice: Right, my guess is that there’s a —

Elie Mystal: I mean, unless they are worried about like accidentally running over zombies.

Joe Patrice: Right. Well, the vampire population we would have to worry about, but no, I think that there is probably, and I don’t know, there is probably some reason you can’t fully go to IR, which has to do with false positives and stuff like that.

That said, there is no reason it shouldn’t be integrated into the mix, maybe with algorithms that balance out when things are — there is no visual, but there is an IR versus not — like I think there is ways to deal with this and this should all be considered, because you can never reach 0% of fail with something, but you can — you should be with all of these technologies aiming towards the idea that it must be at least, as if not significantly more safe than human error.

And I think they probably are better now, but that is not an excuse not to continue to strive to make it better, especially when the incidences like this are something that is disproportionately affecting the population.

Elie Mystal: Look, with all of these, and we have had episodes on this kind of technology before, with all of these situations I ask the same fundamental question, when it fails, because it’s going to fail.

Joe Patrice: Right.

Elie Mystal: Who are we suing? Are we suing the operator, are we suing the company, are we suing the company that made the technology? I mean this is a study done by professors at Georgia Tech, based on what public data they could have, they are not — these are professors — these companies are not like giving away their data for these studies to be done. And they are not for the most part really on the road causing death and destruction and damage. If you have the car out there on the road, 5% more likely to kill black people and then 5% more black people are being killed or injured, who are we allowed to sue at that point, right?

I think that is the big unanswered question with a lot of these technologies. When it’s a real human driver you understand, we have an entire system based around when you can sue the real human driver or their insurance company, or when it’s a design defect that allows you to sue the automaker. I don’t think that that has been figured out sufficiently in the driverless car space and we need to figure it out.

Joe Patrice: Absolutely it hasn’t. Actually, our friends over at Legaltech News wrote an article about this today that was included in Morning Docket, for those of you who read Above the Law, which all of you should, there is a link to it in Morning Docket that talks about the ways in which the driverless technology is going to change aspects of the law in unpredictable ways, one of which is definitely going to be the insurance industry and how it deals with stuff.

And you say who are we going to sue, the issue right now is the insurance companies generally look at everything and figure out who is to blame; about 85% of accidents are human error, yada, yada. Now, that number is going to go massively down, even with this fail rate it’s going to be way less than 85%, we know that.

So we are actually making everything safer while people who are going to knee jerk crazy like — and not really thinking things through are going to say oh, it hit this one person, we have got to get these cars off the roads. It is still statistically going to always be safer than the drivered cars once the technology is ready. So it’s going to be safer.


Now, in those rare instances where it doesn’t work, what do we do? Theoretically, the fact that the pool of money that needs to be paid out is going to be way less because there are fewer accidents will mean that we will have to rethink the whole concept of insurance, because those industries probably won’t exist, because they won’t be able to make the margins that they currently do. So what happens then?

Perhaps the answer is some form of state organized — I mean I would lean towards a state run through the DMV process of being licensed and whatever, workers’ comp style system, where there is a schedule of you were injured by this driverless car, here is a pool of money that goes to the fact that you were injured by this driverless car, because it will be the sort of thing where private industry probably won’t get in because economies of scale just aren’t big enough when there are that few accidents and it’s the sort of issue where a state can probably schedule it out better, but those questions are all still up in the air for when this gets done.

But it is going to be safer long-term and it is generally safer already. And the fixation on these big outlier stories is going to be out there, because the media is going to look for overblown things to scream about the robots coming to kill you, but don’t fall for that sort of stuff, because the statistics are our friends and it is statistically safer. But likewise, statistics are our friends and when we see that statistics show that some people are being disproportionately hurt, that’s a reason to take clear and concrete steps towards fixing that.

No, that’s a good one.

Elie Mystal: I will agree with the closing flourish.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. And I think that’s a good point. So while we were talking here, a lot of things —

Elie Mystal: Did more rankings drop?

Joe Patrice: No, no, no, a lot of things could have happened while we were having that extended discussion and we might not have known about them, but we might have known about them if we had someone answering our phones for us, which brings me to, are you missing calls, are you spread too thin, interruptions kill your productivity, but clients demand a quick response? The US-based professional receptionist at help law firms screen new clients and schedule appointments by phone and website chat. Plus, integrates with your software including Clio and LawPay. Plans start at just $60 per month. Get a free trial at

All right, so what’s the big news in law this week?

Elie Mystal: If you are a prospective law student, the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings have dropped and they have leaked and we have them on Above the Law right now. If you are a current law student and just want to know how your school is doing, the U.S. News rankings have leaked and we have them on Above the Law. And if you are a lawyer and just want to check in with whether or not you are still prestigious enough to have your job, the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings have leaked and we have them on Above the Law.

Joe Patrice: So yes. So in all those situations U.S. News every year ranks schools. It is a fair enough ranking; it is not our preferred ranking, which is of course the Above the Law Top 50 ranking, which will come out later, because it uses more recent data every year, so it actually comes out a little bit later, but the U.S. News numbers are here, and what happened basically?

Elie Mystal: Well, first of all, I want to do my plug. I want to do a plug for our series called The Decision.

Joe Patrice: Oh yes.

Elie Mystal: If you are applying to law schools and you are choosing between two schools, perhaps three schools with different financial aid kind of situations, please feel free to email us, we might answer your question on the website, we might answer your question on the show, on this very show. And they are always popular posts, which is why we want to do them. People always have interesting questions for us and we are happy to give that advice for free on which law school you should go to.

So now that U.S. News & World Report are out, that’s usually about the time — that’s a signal for law students to really get serious and start trying to figure out where they are actually going to go to law school. If you are making that decision for yourself, please feel free to email us at Tips at Above the Law and we will either answer your question online or talk about it here on the show.

Joe Patrice: Yes, absolutely,, let us know. And if you are in this process, even if you haven’t formulated a question, our previous episodes about this are still out there called The Decision, we also have stories on the website that are tagged The Decision, so you can read what other students going through your current predicament have done and what we have advised them to do and so you will get a good sense of what decisions to make.

All right, that was a great plug.


Elie Mystal: What happened this year? Top 14 is still the top 14 and the reason why we call the top 14 the top 14 is because since the U.S. News & World Rankings came out, the same 14 law schools have been in some order different every year, but in some order the same 14 law schools have been in the top 14, except for one. Glorious year, where it was —

Joe Patrice: Texas.

Elie Mystal: Texas, UT broke into the top 14 for one year.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: They are back down to 15, where they belong.

Joe Patrice: I mean, it is a completely arbitrary ranking, because it falsely makes it seem as though that makes those top 14 all some order of magnitude better than the ones below it, that is untrue, because I always make the distinction that if you wanted to you could say RC is one of the top three sodas in America, and it’s like no, there is a big gap between two and three there.

And that’s the issue, there obviously are gradations between law schools, but the 14 number, as evidenced by that one year, is a bad number to use as a marking line, because it makes it seem as though by virtue of stagnation that there is a order of magnitude difference between say 13 and 17 and there really isn’t.

Yes, there is a difference between 1 through 3, and 10 through 14, that’s true, but don’t view that T14 as though it magically imbibes much credence to the people who are say below 6.

Elie Mystal: I know that you picked those numbers somewhat at random, but I just–

Joe Patrice: No, no, those numbers were for a reason.

Elie Mystal: I just looked it up. So 13 this year is Cornell and 17 this year is USC Gould School of Law.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: One of the points that I like to make and we will I am sure hit this when we do our Decision episode, if you do not know if you want to live in Ithaca or Southern California, you have got problems that I cannot help you with.

Joe Patrice: Right, that’s fair.

Elie Mystal: Like if you do not know if you want to practice in kind of Upstate New York or Southern California, you have got problems that I cannot help you with.

Yes, these rankings give you some idea of how your peers are going to view your law school, but in most cases it is way more important that you are living in a place that you want to live, because you will most likely get a job close to the place where you went to law school, or at least in their feeder markets.

Joe Patrice: Right.

Elie Mystal: If for no other reason, you are going to spend three years at this goddamn place, you should probably spend three years not hating every second of your life.

Now, there are people who would hate every second of their life if they were in Southern California. Obviously there are people who would hate every second of their life if they are in Ithaca. Those decisions are just as important in your law school decision as these arbitrary distinctions between, as Joe put it, 13 and 17.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. I think that there is — I am very opposed to the T14 label, though we use it all the time, because it’s a rubric that the industry follows, but I am opposed to it because I think it artificially inflates those schools and I did not pick all those numbers at random, like 1 through 3, as we sometimes call the YHS Group are definitely a level different than the CCN Group, which is the Chicago, Columbia and NYU group. And all six of those are markedly different than the stuff that comes below that, but I don’t think that there is a —

Elie Mystal: You just call Penn stuff.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. But I just don’t think that Northwestern or Georgetown are so appreciably different in reputation in anyone’s mind than Vanderbilt or Washington and St. Louis. So that’s why I have often spoken ill of the T14 moniker because I think it gives people a false understanding of those schools.

Elie Mystal: Whereas Stanford is appreciably different than Berkeley.

Joe Patrice: And Stanford is I would say appreciably different than NYU and Columbia, but it’s just a different animal in those top three, next three, and then the rest of the group down. I don’t know where the cutoff really is between the people who are in a kind of dogfight with the Georgetowns and Cornells of the world and the Vanderbilts and the Washingtons of the world, but there is a cut off somewhere, but it’s not 14.

Elie Mystal: Right. Let’s talk about this year’s big winner, big mover, big shaker, University of Florida, up 10 spots.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: It’s tied for 31. What do you think about that? What do you think about Florida Levin School of Law?

Joe Patrice: It’s great for the southeast. They needed a public school down there that could really help produce more lawyers. Florida is a big market for legal needs.

Elie Mystal: Good for them. I find a couple of things interesting.

Joe Patrice: Okay.

Elie Mystal: One, what we have is really clear separation between Florida and Miami at this point in the rankings; with Florida coming up so much. Given how important the southeast is and given how important Florida is in terms of job opportunities and finances, that really I think is something for people to recognize and notice, right?


Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: Not to mention the fact that Florida is fundamentally a state school and so if you are in state you are fundamentally getting a better deal if you go to Florida. Now when you look at a school like Florida versus even other schools in the southeast outside of Florida, I think you have to consider Florida a really strong option.

So if you are choosing between potentially Florida and Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt is going to do a lot for you if you want to work in DC.

Joe Patrice: I mean I think Vanderbilt is in the group where you could probably go to a lot of different places.

Elie Mystal: Right. But I am saying Vanderbilt is going to do a lot for you if you want to work in DC versus Florida.

Joe Patrice: I see, if you want to be other places besides the southeast.

Elie Mystal: Right, but if you want to work in Miami and you are choosing between Florida and Vanderbilt and you are native to Florida, you are getting that tuition discount because you are native to Florida, you have got to consider Florida as a real option, even if you do get into a Vanderbilt or a Georgetown or a school like that.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. I mean frankly, the whole SEC had a pretty good run here, because Alabama is in the top 25, up a couple of spaces. Georgia is up five spaces this year. Florida, as we have been discussing, is up 10. The public schools of the southeast have had a really good year in these rankings and that does bode well for markets that are bigger deals.

Like no, there is not going to be a big law firm moving into Tuscaloosa; however, with the boom of business in places like Houston, this is where those schools can kind of excel, because that oil and gas gulf area, energy work is there and they hire out of those places. So it’s been a good year if you are from the southeast and want to live in that general neck of the woods.

Elie Mystal: And yet, it wasn’t a good year for Emory.

Joe Patrice: Correct. As I said, public schools, Emory is still 26, so it’s still in a good shape, but it did fall four spaces and one wonders if part of that — I mean that has to be — I mean — and I don’t mean like just kind of ephemerally, no, it probably directly is related to the success of Georgia and Florida, right?

Elie Mystal: Right.

Joe Patrice: Because the U.S. News rankings are based on inputs rather than outputs, they are based on the quality of the students choosing to go there, Florida got a bunch of students that in another year would have gone to Emory and didn’t and that hurts Emory a little bit and helps Florida.

Elie Mystal: Yeah. And one of the reasons why I imagine a Florida, a Georgia are getting those student — and even an Alabama are getting those students and Emory is not is because of the price tag, like the smarter you are and the more kind of concerned you are about law school debt and how much — and law school debt, cost of living, all of these factors, the less attractive a private school in that same area is going to be, unless that private school can really blow you away with superior job prospects.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: Obviously if you are looking at Emory versus Florida State, Emory is still —

Joe Patrice: Which is down one place this year.

Elie Mystal: Emory is going to still look like an option, right, but if you have states — but in general if you have state schools that are really competing in the job market, then the extra bump in private school tuition starts to make a lot less sense.

Joe Patrice: We would be remiss to not mention that UNC also, North Carolina also had a giant bump of 11.

Elie Mystal: You are switching conferences, now you are in ACC.

Joe Patrice: I know, I am switching conferences, but I am not switching regions of the — generally regions of the country where those folks can go to work.

Pepperdine, also a big winner, up 21 from two years ago, and infinite from last year as it fell into the dreaded unranked last year, it’s now 51, just a shade out of the top 50, but good for them. Crawling out of the unranked is almost impossible and to do so and storm clear up to the 50s is really impressive.

Elie Mystal: Well, here are some things though, right, like why was it unranked last year and it was unranked last year because they didn’t submit their information correctly.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, but it was up 21 from the year before.

Elie Mystal: From two years ago, right?

Joe Patrice: Yeah, right.

Elie Mystal: So A, it was never unranked, incomplete is what it was last year, right? But I looked at that and I thought this is a larger point, but we know from our work and many of the people listening who have worked in legal education understand this from their work, law school administrators and law school deans are so obsessed with these rankings.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: People lose jobs over them. People have careers derailed over them in legal education because of this goddamn report.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.


Elie Mystal: And what Pepperdine just showed you is that you can get slammed, completely destroyed by this magazine for a year and have it ultimately not matter that much, right? Like it’s not — as you said, U.S. News is very input-driven. So having a year where it was listed as unranked, did it kill their 1L class? No, no, it did not. People still apply to Pepperdine. Good people with good LSAT scores still apply to Pepperdine even though the school was unranked, because they could find the information widely available around the web, including our website, for why Pepperdine was unranked, right?

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: So one of the things that I think administrators need to understand and do a better job of is — and especially if you are an administrator of a school that is getting hurt in some way by the U.S. News, you have to put out the narrative for why your ranking is your ranking. And if you put out that narrative kind of clearly and convincingly, we live in a world where students are going to find out. People didn’t abandon Pepperdine like it was Nova Southeastern, all right, people were just like oh, they didn’t submit their forms on time, well, that’s pretty embarrassing. Anyway, I am going to apply to Pepperdine, for all of the reasons that a person might apply to Pepperdine.

So it didn’t need — look, we don’t know what it would look like if Pepperdine was unranked for five years or six years or if it was a long-term problem, it was clearly a one-time blip. But if you have got a school that has a one-time blip down, put out your narrative for why and don’t lie about it. Don’t be like oh, it’s because U.S. News doesn’t respect that we have — no, put out your narrative for why you went down one time for a blip, put out your narrative for why you feel your school is undervalued by U.S. News, if you get that out and it makes sense, students are going to listen.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. One big winner and this is where we pat ourselves on the back for our Decision series, over the last couple of years we have even commented that a lot of our Decision questions revolve around Howard. And we often say ah, just look at this, I say maybe go to Howard out of this thing. Howard is up 20 slots this year, I assume largely because of us.

Elie Mystal: Boom. You are welcome.

Joe Patrice: But no, seriously.

Elie Mystal: You are welcome.

Joe Patrice: No, I don’t think it’s necessarily because of us, but it does show how we kind of saw a value in that school when the U.S. News was kind of a lagging indicator on it, because we have been recommending, not like go to Howard over Yale, but we have been getting questions the last few years of schools that were a good 15, 16 slots above Howard and we were like, I don’t know, it just feels like Howard is a better option, so patting ourselves on the back on that one.

Elie Mystal: Especially when you added in the money that Howard was offering.

Joe Patrice: Right, that sort of thing.

Elie Mystal: Howard was always cheaper than the schools that were 15, 16 spots ahead of them when we were doing the series. We will see if they keep their prices consistent.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, but we saw some value there and we took it and we feel pretty good about that one.

Maine —

Elie Mystal: It’s like a stock, we bought low on that one.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, we bought low on that one, yeah. Maine appears to have been on the other side of all this switch. They are down 20 points.

Elie Mystal: Really? Really?

Joe Patrice: University of Maine falls to 126 after having been 106.

Elie Mystal: Can we just blame that all on Susan Collins? Would that be inappropriate?

Joe Patrice: I mean, I don’t know. I think — I got a feeling that — you say people don’t want to live in Ithaca; it’s possible that the same fear of being in cold places is affecting Maine. I don’t know.

Elie Mystal: Yeah, but it’s not like colder now than it was five years ago. I mean Maine has always been cold.

Joe Patrice: It is interesting, because I would assume the legal market for Mainer lawyers would be the Greater Boston market, which is a hot market right now for lawyers.

Elie Mystal: Or even if you are staying local, if you are staying in Portland, Portland is doing — Portland, Maine is doing fine.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean — but I am — yes, I am speaking more of like where the big firm hiring is, but yeah, no, but whatever it is, people shunned the school this year. We will have to look into what might have happened there.

Elie Mystal: You know what, joking aside, I bet it wasn’t Collins, I bet it was LePage. I mean that guy is an asshole.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, there is that, but I mean it’s not like where you go to law school, yeah.

Elie Mystal: Yeah, but like if you were choosing between going into his state or not, all else being equal.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I don’t think most people make decisions on that basis, frankly. I think people make decisions on where to go to law school based on where they got into law school and what the deal is.

Elie Mystal: I wouldn’t have even gone to Harvard if Bill Weld would have won again. That’s not true.

Joe Patrice: That’s not true at all. Complete lie. Especially considering you had already been going to Harvard before you did that. There is nothing about that that’s true.

But yeah, so that’s the rankings this year.

Elie Mystal: I don’t know why Maine fell. We need some investigation into that, because that’s a weirdly large drop for a school that doesn’t have anything kind of scandalous, at least on my radar, that happened to it.


Joe Patrice: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I have seen nothing here that should suggest that.

Well, that’s all I have on these rankings. Obviously we are going to be pouring over these for the next several days. This is all fresh to us right now.

Elie Mystal: I have got one more thing.

Joe Patrice: Oh yeah.

Elie Mystal: Man, it feels like Harvard is really cemented in that 3 spot. I mean it’s been a couple of years now where it’s been ranked 3, behind Yale and Stanford. I mean Yale, you understand; Yale, they admit eight people, they all go on to be Supreme Court justices, you get it.

Stanford also has that kind of small school. Stanford is a huge university. It is a small law school, whereas Harvard is a giant law school, comparatively speaking, at least in this rarefied era that we are talking about. But while for most of the rankings, they really kind of flip back and forth and flip back and forth, it does kind of feel like somehow Stanford has cracked a code here to really get a stranglehold on that. I think it’s like the third year in a row they are 2.

There were a couple of years where they have been tied, but like Harvard has not been ranked ahead of Stanford at least in three years.

Joe Patrice: I think that’s right. I mean just from the level of — the little bit of hacking we have done of the U.S. News formula, the smaller class sizes probably are playing a big part in that. The fact that they are smaller and therefore can be a little bit more selective probably does help them stay ahead.

Elie Mystal: Your student-teacher ratio is a little better.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, it’s all that sort of thing. But this brings us full circle to why I don’t make the gradations really between Yale, Harvard, Stanford based on these rankings. You shouldn’t either. There are reasons why you might want to go to Yale versus Harvard versus Stanford, but those are all different than one’s 1 versus 2 versus 3.

Likewise, with the CCN schools, you might want to make a decision between Columbia, Chicago, NYU, there are a lot of reasons, and I have my personal choices among them, but those are all independent of what number they happen to be, as long as they are in that group.

But yes, if you come at me and say Penn versus Yale, I have very definite opinions about why one is absolutely the only right answer, and that’s the real key, and that’s the sort of thing that these numbers, because they are ordinal and don’t have kind of the gradation of where the real lines are don’t reflect as well as talking it through with somebody who knows the industry like us on the Decision or anybody else that you can find really helps.

Elie Mystal: I agree with that wholeheartedly and that’s not a slam on Penn. If you notice when our law school rankings come out later, Penn consistently over performs in our rankings than it does in U.S. News because of Penn’s excellent job prospects.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: And we don’t have the, but you employ Amy Wax feel in there just yet. I keep advocating for that.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. That’s a good point. We also have our rankings and they are different than these, because they measure different things and Penn does over perform there. I think it probably performs a little better than it really is, whereas I think there is some argument that U.S. News — well, actually no, right where it is now is probably exactly where it is on that front. But other schools in our system that underperform in U.S. News are doing really well in ours and vice versa. So there’s value to both.

Elie Mystal: I always use Seton Hall as an example, like Seton Hall is the kind of law school that’s not going to look particularly impressive on the U.S. News list. If you want to work as a lawyer in New York or New Jersey, which are two of the biggest markets in the country, Seton Hall is a damn good path.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. Well, I mean if you — certainly if you think you are in a position where it’s the best financial option for you and you are reasonably certain you are going to be in the top tier of that class, obviously finishing towards the bottom of Seton Hall is a bad thing, whereas finishing at the bottom of Yale is, I think you get to be president.

But yeah, if you feel like you are going to be in the top tier of Seton Hall and you are going to get money for it, then that’s not bad.

Anyway, cool, we good?

Elie Mystal: That’s all I have got.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. So thanks for listening everybody. We will be back with more episodes in the very near future.

Sorry, we took a little bit of a break since the last one you heard us on, but we were on the road, doing some traveling to conferences and so we weren’t able to record, so we are sorry about that, but we are glad you are still here.

We are hoping that you are subscribed, that way you get all these episodes as soon as they come out. You should be. You should be giving reviews, not just stars, but just say some things, because the more direct feedback about how awesome it is and how much you enjoyed episodes helps us move up the algorithm that guides who gets to see us as a suggested podcast to listen to.

You should follow Elie @ElieNYC, I am @JosephPatrice, those are both our Twitter handles. You should be reading Above the Law, listening to the Legal Talk Network’s entire range of shows. You should be listening to The Jabot as well as Book of Business, which are two Above the Law podcasts.

And with all of that said, I think we are done and we will chat in the near future.

Elie Mystal: Peace out.


Outro: If you would like more information about what you heard today, please visit You can also find us at,, iTunes, RSS, Twitter, and Facebook.

The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.


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Episode Details
Published: March 12, 2019
Podcast: Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law
Category: Law School
Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law
Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law

Above the Law's Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice examine everyday topics through the prism of a legal framework.

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