BY KATIE THOMASON
One of the most astonishing findings of the recent Record rankings was the great discrepancy between JD and LLM students’ perceptions of which school retains that coveted number one spot.
Over eighty percent of LLM students placed Harvard first on their lists, while JD students were almost evenly split on the issue: only fifty-four percent gave the top spot to Harvard.
Ramsi Woodcock, a 3L, said that he thought this discrepancy could be caused by Harvard’s international reputation: “It’s the US flagship school, so non-Americans recognize it quicker.” This fact may cause LLM students to place HLS higher on their lists, not only because of their own perceptions but also because they believe that upon returning to their home countries, their degrees will carry more weight: “Their local colleagues will continue to think of Harvard as superior.”
1L Sarah Isgur agreed: “Perhaps LLM students are more inclined to rank the school that seems more ‘famous’ and JDs almost do the opposite by picking the school that is more exclusive.”
Jamie Bartholomew, a 3L, said of Harvard’s international reputation, “I especially found this to be the case in England, where I earned my Master’s Degree at Oxford. When you say Harvard, people swoon.” She added that other universities, including Yale, seem less impressive.
An LLM speaking on condition of anonymity thought that the difference was more related to age: “JD’s tend to be younger and, I believe, buy way more into the U.S. [News and World Report] rankings and the prestige factor. When you get a bit older and have practiced law for a while you realize the limits of the rankings.”
Indeed, both Woodcock and Isgur cited the U.S. News and World Report rankings as a deciding factor in their analysis of which school to place at number one. But this was not the only factor; both also relied on student perceptions, including experiences of friends who had gone to law school, and also on their own impressions from visits.
JDs and LLMs did agree on much of the list. The JD group seemed to disagree among themselves (in 1L, 2L, and 3L subgroups) as much as the JD group as a whole did with the LLM group as to the lower rankings.
The major difference was the unanimity of LLMs in deciding the best law school in the country, though other differences seemed to occur further down in the list. LLMs, for example, ranked Cornell significantly higher than JDs, and Virginia somewhat lower.
Why place Harvard at the top of the list? One LLM liked the course offerings: “I think the main thing Harvard has going for it besides the obvious Harvard name is its size and the number of classes offered.”
This particular LLM ranked Yale at number seven. “Yale is simply overrated – they are [ranked] number one because they are able to turn down more people than Harvard – what’s so great about that unless you want to be a complete snob?”
On the other hand, Woodcock said that Yale had the advantages of a “much more community feel,” more professorial interaction, and the fact that “they don’t have to put up with . . . grade competition to the same extent that we do.”
But he was willing to concede that “Harvard has a great critical legal studies/left community that doesn’t exist at Yale. And of course Cambridge is a million times more pleasant than New Haven.”