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What is law school ranking all about?
Law school ranking is all about perpetuating a myth. Its all about getting worked up and fighting tooth and nail.
To understand the sinister design behind these rankings, you must consider the origin of these ranks. There was a time when there was only one law school, as an experiment of a maveric visionary. This was the case for one whole decade as that law school struggled in Bangalore hidden away from public eye to prove itself as a model. Then there were two in 1996. Rankings were not relevant – people knew these are two law schools, both good with the first one having some advantage, and like sane people they got into the one that they managed to get admitted to. Then NLIU was started in Bhopal, largely unnoticed – and it had a terrible admission procedure. It was not remarkable, at least not for the first decade of its existence. In 1999, the same maverick visionary Dr. Menon came and did a slightly different experiment in Kolkata, when he was invited to start a law school there by late Jyoti Basu. Still, no one calmoured over rankings, although within few years NUJS students left a mark in every aspect of academics and professionalism, like the first two law schools.
Soon the 2nd VC of NLS Bangalore Dr. N.L. Mitra built another law school in Jodhpur with his trademark work culture and great intellect. Each of these places were great because the people there worked hard to make them great. The faculty, the administration and the students toiled to excel. They did very, very well.
Then the model was copied everywhere. Too many law schools mushroomed, not all of them were good. And this was the time when the national media realised what a great opportunity higher education is for business – even the poorest of poor will spend last penny of their hard earned money to send their child to a good school, and then they will borrow more. This was a ripe market.
The vultures descended
Magazines started to come out with ranks to make the job of the parents easy – it started with India Today. What random rankings! And the rankings changed every year – like TRP of TV serials. If this year Amity is the best law school in the country (I think that was the case in 2004 or 2005, when i was preparing to get into NUJS), then next year it is Symbiosis. NUJS did not even make it to the rank list until 2007.
I always wanted to meet the people who trusted those rankings and joined a law school based on that information. I would love to hear what they have to say about India Today rankings now. Well, that legacy is being continued.
According to a ranking by The Week, NUJS is ranked 13th and NUALS is ranked 2nd. Some NUALS students are elated at this, not that this is their fault, but what a sad joke.
The first sensible ranking I saw anywhere was at LST, by Sachin Malhan. And the ranking has not really changed since then. Rankings don't change, by definition. Guess why?
There is no tangible way of measuring a law schools success. Not even by seeing who wins MPL. Not by looking at how many Rhodes Scholars have come out a stable. Not even by counting the number of successful entrepreneurs or senior counsels.
I am better than you: rankings to fuel egos
Wake up, open your eyes. Law school rankings are myth, passed down from generation to generation. NLSIU is the best. Then NALSAR. Then NUJS. Then NLU. Hold on, NLUD is better.
Damn it, after seeing the law schools for 5 years, seeing what happens before, after and within the walls of law school, I can vouch for the fact that this makes no sense. This is just vanity. One up-manship which has no meaning no value.
If NLS was better than NUJS or even NLUJ in any measurable, intelligible and substantial way, then the recruiters would have recruited only from NLS and not amke it a point to visit NUJS and NLUJ also. Then you could predict that everytime NLS teams meet others in a moot NLS will always win. Or that there would be things that only NLS kids can do and no one else.
What should you look at while choosing law schools?
Am I saying that there is no intelligible way of choosing a law school over another? No, thats not what I am saying. I am just saying don't fall for self-perpetuating myths.
What should you consider before choosing a law school? Here is a list of things you should think of before deciding to go to a law school.
1.Fee. Spend as less as possible. Some law schools are much costlier than others. Factor that into your decision.
2.Recruitment is the touchstone. If recruitment has not happened yet, take into account the possibility of recruitment. For instance, colleges like KIIT and UPES already have a bunch of recruiters hiring engineers and managers from the campus, and they are likely to have good recruitment for the law students too. This is better than CNLU which completely failed with respect to recruitment.
3.Academic culture or the lack of it – this one is tough. Let me help here – I saw a real, impressive academic environment only in NLS. The rest lacks it. I have heard NLUJ had it when Prof. Mitra was there. NUJS or NLUD might just be able to do it someday. I can not even imagine most law schools to ever have it. If there is only one reason that NLS is still somewhere ahead of the pack, then this is the reason. If you are reading this many years later after this was written, and have found a law school with a good academic culture, go for it. Don't think much.
4.Quality of life is super important. Even if the academics suck, you have a chance to be a good student, a hardworking person, a self made man or woman and do well in life. But a bad quality lifestyle is soul destroying. There is no cure for that. How is the hostel? What sort of amenities are there? Is the place far away from the city? The fact that NUJS is right in the middle of the city, in quiet yet convenient Salt Lake, made my life easier and happier. You should hear the people living in Nagarbhavi complain. Things have improved compared to before, still.
5. Is the place you are going to liberal in spirit? This also goes into fundamental making of a person. Is the place full of conformists? Does the institution encourage diversity and individuality? Also, imagine a place that allows you to go out only for two hours in a day. That's NLUD, and despite all its goodness, I shall avoid it for that reason alone. Same for NUALS, where the authorities insist that students wear blazers to class, not to forget the uniform. My life would have been very different had I not been able to go out of the college. For instance, I would not have taught hundreds of students for thousands of hours, training them for CLAT, or just teaching speed reading. I would not have surveyed the Kolkata food and drinks scene like I did. I would not have been able to attend startup saturdays, meet entrepreneurs and start a legal risk management company while I was still in college. Thats the kind of miracle that giving freedom and liberal approach brings about.
6.New institutes are better than failed institutes. I will trust a law school which has a clean slate and a good plan, a good VC rather than one which has failed in delivering what it orgainally promised. Example: HNLU, CNLU. I am not recommending any of these to my students any time soon, let them have at least one good recruitment cycle first. I shall rather trust NLU Assam over these (even though those who are studying at either HNLU or CNLU are going to hate me for that) which has show some promise and good measure of planning so far.
7.Closer to home, the better. Can you go back home quickly if needed? Home is a great support system everyone deserves but only few gets. One great thing about NUJS is that it does not insist on you to stay in hostel. Guess what? The day scholars' average CGPA is a notch higher than the rest of the college.
8.No, there are no other considerations. Faculty is more or less similar everywhere – and quality of faculty drastically changes. NUJS had worse faculty than HNLU in my first year, by my 4th year it had the best. Its something you can neither foresee not control. Don't bother.
And remember, law school rankings are self perpetuating myths. Take a decision based on what really works for you, not based on myths people have been propagating. In the end of the day, it is all about what you do with what you have, which has no ceiling, and no floor.