Benjamin Barton JD magna magna cum laude, 1996, University of Michigan. Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession (2015). p. 177 Bottom.

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Please see the sentence pinpointed by the red arrow. What exactly is ironic?

2 Answers 2


The irony is that even though rankings actually tell you little about the quality of the education that you are receiving in the author's opinion, that the signaling value of a degree from a high prestige school still makes it worth the institution's effort to maintain that status, and your effort to try to attend a school who behaves in that way. This is true even if factors like a focus on publications over teaching at a high prestige law school may mean that you get a lower quality experience as a student there.

N.B. At the time this was published, the University of Michigan Law School was ranked #10 and it was ranked #8 when he and I were applying to attend it. FWIW, it really is a gorgeous facility and if you live on campus you get working fireplaces and steak every Friday.

Fun fact: I was a year and a half ahead of the author at the same law school, so we overlapped in our attendance and may have even taken a class or two together, although I don't remember him personally.

  • The premise "rankings actually tell you little about the quality of the education" blurs what the excerpt actually says: that law schools outright "disagree with the methodology or think it is detrimental to their mission". If the matter were at the mild/inconclusive state of "rankings telling little", it simply would not amount to irony. Here, the author's undeniable connotation is that of irony. Also, references of "focus on publications" & "efforts to try to attend" relate to the previous paragraph/idea of the excerpt, whence using them as patches to misread the irony seems lacking. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 19:12

Please see the sentence pinpointed by the red arrow. What exactly is ironic?

In that sentence, using the expression "probably smart" was not so smart. The author should have expressed in a separate sentence his opinion that competing in such ranking system is smart. That would have made his main point more intelligible.

The sentence you pinpoint can be paraphrased as: "On the one hand, law schools are desperate for ranking high, while, on the other hand, they dislike the criteria that determine those rankings and/or recognize that these criteria contravene the mission of a law school.". The last sentence of that paragraph reflects that this contradiction also occurs individually (that is among professors).

That is, according to the excerpt you reproduce, both law professor and law school essentially say "I hate this game and it is detrimental to the legal profession, but I would love to get to the top of the list". That is the irony to which the author refers. I would be more straight-forward than the author and state upfront that this is just one of so many signs of hypocrisy --aka double speech-- in the legal "profession" (at least in the US).

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    Whoever is voting down, can you explain why? Unless you actually have an different understanding of the pinpointed sentence, bare/anonymous downvoting seems vindictive and useless. Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 13:39
  • Wasn't me. I upvoted you! TY.
    – user89
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 23:59

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