St. Mary's Law Journal
It is too early to determine if law school branding will have a positive or a negative effect on legal education. A recent shift in legal education has led law schools to consciously brand themselves, claiming an educational distinctiveness in selling their services to consumers. Branding is an attempt to create a desire in targeted prospective students to join the branded law school. Although a law school may brand itself by claiming it delivers an excellent legal education, branding is about distinctiveness, not quality. Law schools have used a number of approaches to attract students, including aggressive marketing of a school’s brand. Law school applicants seem much more interested in rankings than any other group of graduate school applicants. In a market that is more and more competitive, law schools will continue to attempt to improve their position in the U.S. News rankings, including efforts that might be regarded as deceitful.
There are at least two paths that a school may take in branding itself. First, the school may continue to strive to improve its ranking via the traditionally accepted method of accomplishment and prominent faculty scholarship. Alternately, a law school may attempt to make its institutional reputation outside the control and direction of its faculty. The point of distinguishing oneself from others may be understood not as saying "we're better," but simply, "we're different." Difference itself may be the point of these efforts, just as difference is one option in the marketing of consumer goods. It is no longer enough to be an "ABA-accredited law school." Instead, law schools will survive or thrive on the basis of their "brand."
Michael S. Ariens, Law School Branding and the Future of Legal Education, 34 St. Mary’s L.J. 301 (2003).