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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Managing partner of K and L Gates derides U.S. News and World Report Rankings

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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Peter Kalis, the chairman and global managing partner of K and L Gates challenges the efficacy of the U.S. News and World Report Rankings in Gripes About Law School Rankings From a Law School ‘Customer’ in the National Law Journal.

I’d like to take up the cause of “nondesigner” law schools. I’ll focus on the University of Pittsburgh School of Law but there are many “Pitt Laws” in our markets — law schools with dedicated teachers and researchers, fine student bodies and solid market reputations that, alas, do not rank them with Yale or Harvard.

The real Pitt Law was hammered this year in the U.S. News ranking and dropped 16 places, from 57 to 73. Other law schools experienced abrupt movements up and down this year’s ranking as compared with last. Such sudden changes among stable institutions reveal more about the ranking than the law schools themselves. If change comes slowly to law firms, it comes even more slowly within academia.

I am a graduate of Yale Law School. It was and is a great place — but it’s no Pitt Law. Yale Law is the same tiny size it was 50 years ago — about 165 students per class. The 50 largest law firms in the country now employ about 65,000 lawyers. Yale Law today, sad to say, is quantitatively beside the point to most of the country’s leading law firms. And, of course, “Yale Law” is merely a metaphor that embraces Harvard, Stanford, Chicago and the other “designer” law schools whose entering class sizes are frozen in time like the fetching smile of a prom date you haven’t seen in 40 years.

Consider the impact of the real Pitt Law on my firm. We have 29 partners and 60 lawyers overall who are graduates of Pitt Law. It has supplied us with a global development partner, a global general counsel, a global head of litigation and the managing partner of one of our largest offices. It trains great leaders as well as great lawyers not only because ideas matter there, but also because emotional intelligence and analytical intelligence go hand in hand. It doesn’t sit well with me when Pitt Law is unfairly maligned.

It’s fairly easy to see from the numbers: 33 lawyers from Yale Law School and 61 from University of Pittsburgh Law School (not to mention 7 from the University of Houston Law Center despite not having a Houston office). Some of this is obviously choice, see Law Professor Hiring: Statistics on JD Placement, but of course the beauty and the disease of rankings is that they sell simplicity rather than explanation.

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