Please remember this the next time a law professor or law school dean tries to sell you a load of bull about “revamping” 3L year. Washington & Lee did just that. The school changed its third-year program to focus on so-called “practice ready” skills.1. If they dramatically dropped class size, they avoided even worse numbers on various factors (LSAT scores, GPA, and acceptance rate). Other schools did that too. Who knows what the ranking would be without all the strategies schools use to play the U.S. News game?
Employers didn’t take the bait. As we explained this summer, Washington & Lee’s job numbers are really down. Then this fall, we told you that W&L had the most dramatic drop in class size. The class of 2016 at W&L is down just over 40 percent.
Now, U.S. News has come in with the hammer. W&L has dropped from #26 last year to #43 this year. When reached for comment, George Washington and Robert E. Lee said, “THE CENTER MUST HOLD! Wait, what are we talking about?”
Just remember, when legal academics try to sell you on “practice readiness,” they might not necessarily have any idea what they’re talking about.
2. The Washington & Lee plunge will be used against proposals to turn law schools more toward the experiential learning approach, whether that explanation for the drop is correct or not.
3. Presumably, prospective students will be scared off of schools leaning too far into the "experiential" approach, leading to even more of a negative effect in the rankings for schools that go this route, which will further hamper efforts to radically reframe law school education.