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The U.S. News & World Report law school rankings remain king — at least, according to a poll of aspiring law students. Of the 1,383 would-be law students polled recently by Kaplan Test Prep, 30 percent said that rankings were the most important factor they consider when choosing a school. Rankings outpaced location (24 percent), academic programming (19 percent) and affordability (12 percent) as the most important criterion in school selection. Just 8 percent of the respondents listed job placement rates as the most important factor. Asked a different way, a full 86 percent of those polled said that law school ranking was either “very important” or “somewhat important” in determining where they would apply. “Our survey shows that pre-law students are heavily influenced about where to apply to law school based on rankings, likely because of the perceived benefits that come with graduating from a top-ranked program,” said Howard Bell, the executive director of Kaplan’s pre-law program. Conventional wisdom long has held that law students should attend the highest-ranked school they get accepted into, but that advice was challenged in a research paper released in July on the Social Science Research Network’s website, “The Secret of My Success: How Status, Prestige and School Performance Shape Legal Careers.” Authors Richard Sander, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, and Jane Yakowitz, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, concluded that law school grades were the best predictor of career success, not law school prestige. Student who “trade up” to more elite schools may take a career hit if they earn lower grades there, the researchers found. Bell advised prospective law students to choose a school that best fits their professional goals and personal needs.

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