The US News top 100 are here, and here is the list of "tier 3" and "tier 4" schools. Which law schools do readers consider overrated and underrated relative to the more traditional academic criteria of merit that play only a minor role in the US News rankings? (A comparison with the academic reputation results may shed some light on this, at least for the top 20-25.)
Underrated is always more pleasant to comment on, so here are the schools that strike me as obviously underrated (and even allowing for the fact that I'm not exactly a neutral observer as to the first two): Chicago at #6, Texas at #18, Illinois at #25, Wisconsin at #31, Hastings at #36, Arizona at #44, Arizona State at #51, Case Western at #53, Florida State at #53, Chicago-Kent at #60, Loyola/LA at #66, the two Rutgers law schools at #70 and #77, Miami at #70, San Diego at #85, Hofstra and Syracuse in tier 3, Wayne State in tier 4. Truth be told, even a relatively well-informed observer of legal education like myself really is not in a position to comment on a majority of the tier 3 and tier 4 schools--so perhaps others will weigh in. My guess is that in some sense most of them are being underrated simply by virtue of being dumped into a demeaning category like "tier 4."
I'll leave "overrated" to the commenters, though a comparison with the reputation scores suggests that at the high end the most obvious candidate is Penn (#6 in the overall ranking, circa #10 in reputation). No anonymous comments (meaning I have to be able to confirm the identify of the poster from the name and e-mail address); post only once, as comments may take awhile to appear.
UPDATE: An anonymous comment was submitted regarding one of the schools mentioned above, which I won't post in its original form since I have no way of confirming its accuracy. This individual wrote in part:
I appreciate your blog, but can you please not cavalierly call [School X] underrated? The employment prospects out of [School X] are awful. Having [School X] on your resume does not open any doors. Most of my 2L peers are working for nothing this summer. Almost half of the class does not have a job at graduation. Only the top 10% of students have a chance at a job which pays enough to justify the school's tuition....I could go on and on, but I could never express how much I regret attending this school. So sir, please, this is an important decision to students and your blog is highly credible. Please give applicants the whole picture.
As I noted, above, my judgments about "over" and "under"-rated were by reference to academic criteria, such as faculty and student quality. But it is surely fair for professional students to emphasize, as this correspondent did, employment prospects. Even so, I suspect that employment prospects do not distinguish many of the schools that are similarly ranked by US News (and not only because the self-reported employment stats printed in the magazine are largely works of the imagination).