Law School Deans, Law Schools, Media and Journalism, Ridiculousness

The U.S. News Rankings: Law Schools Lose Their S**t React

US News World Report small cover 2009 law school rankings ratings Above the Law blog.jpgAs we reported earlier this week, the latest U.S. News & World Report law school rankings are out. And some schools are flipping out over their falling rankings. A tipster at the University of Iowa College of Law writes:

[B]elow is an email the Iowa law students received yesterday from Dean Jones about the new US News & World Report rankings. Apparently our dean is setting up small group meetings with the students. No faculty. No other administration. Methinks this may be somewhat of a divide and conquer strategy. These meetings may be in part a result of the newly formed Facebook group “Stop the Bleeding at Iowa Law.”

My favorite part, though, is that the “faculty” have dubbed their concern about the rankings “Project Apollo.” Well, if they’re not going to do anything about it, at least they can come up with a secret, clever code name, so it looks in hindsight like they’ve been planning D-Day part 2. Bravo profs and administration, you’ve really impressed me this time.

Dean Jones’s email appears after the jump. Meanwhile, a source at University at Buffalo Law School reports:

For the return on investment — a Biglaw job for $13k a year in tuition (for the top of the class) — many students were OK with the shortcomings of this law school. [But] with T3 looking over our shoulder, some fellow students are contemplating jumping ship….

It’s hard to justify leaving for debt-ridden T25 greener pastures when L. Rev. and a market-paying job in the City are likely. No one likes to be on the Titanic, though.

The message sent to the Buffalo student body by interim dean Makau Mutua, after the jump.
Update (10:50 AM): Add the University of Minnesota Law School to the list of institutions whose deans are sending out school-wide emails about their declining rankings:

Students at the University of Minnesota Law School received this email today from the two interim co-deans. It’s pretty hilarious that they try to claim we are still a top 20 school even though we are now ranked #22. It’s particularly amusing that they have decided to “address the particular factors that caused a decline this year.”

The email from the school’s two interim co-deans, after the jump.
Update (11:10 AM): From a source at UNC School of Law:

Since you’re posting panicked USN&WR reactions, add this one to your list. You know it’s bad when you have to respond in Latin.

Dean Boger’s email, after the jump.

From: Dean Carolyn Jones
Date: March 28, 2008
Re: US News Rankings
The US News and World Report law school rankings for this spring show that our ranking is 27 (down from 24 last year). Some members of law school community have expressed anxiety about that change. Given the publicity that surrounds the rankings, I understand and respect your concern. There is some information on this subject that you might not be aware of, and that I think you’ll find relevant and reassuring. I’ll refer briefly to some of it here, but I believe a face-to-face conversation would be especially helpful. At the end of this memo you’ll find information about scheduling a time to get together.
Please be assured that the law school administration has not been asleep at the switch on this issue. Indeed, we have been studying the US News rankings at a very high level over the past year. Hundreds of hours of sophisticated thought by alumni, faculty and staff have gone into this project, informally dubbed the Apollo Project. We have been considering ways of bringing new resources to the law school that will enhance our rankings and – more importantly – substantively strengthen the institution. The Iowa Law School Foundation Board has already taken important steps in this direction, and it will take additional ones at its meeting this weekend. I will provide more information when we meet.
As you may know, the U.S. News rankings themselves have been the subject of rather intense study. Without ignoring their obvious importance, it’s also essential to understand something about how they work – and don’t work. I may be able to share some information with you on that subject as well, but in the meantime, you might find it useful to look at Theodore Seto’s article, Understanding the US News Law School Rankings, 60 S.M.U. L. Rev. 493 (2007). It is thought-provoking, thorough and extremely helpful in understanding how the rankings work.
Like you, I care very much about this school. It is my alma mater. I have very high ambitions for the College of Law, its students, faculty, staff and alumni. My aim is to continue our strong traditions and to improve this school in ways that assure this is a top notch educational and professional experience. At the core of that project for the coming years is more student financial aid and strong support for our faculty in their teaching, research and service missions.
Times for discussion groups are listed below. I hope that you will sign up for a session in the Dean’s office. This is a College of Law with a wonderful and respected faculty, outstanding students and a dedicated staff. We do have a challenge, but it is one we can meet constructively and positively. That process is well-underway.
Meeting times – please sign up at the reception area in 280 Boyd Law Building:
. Tues, April 1 from 11-12
. Tues, April 1 from 4-5
. Wed, April 2 from 11-12
. Mon, April 7 from 9-10
. Tues, April 8 from 8-9
. Wed, April 9 from 3-4
. Thurs, April 10 from 1-2
. Fri, April 11 from 9-10
. Fri, April 11 from 4-5
Our Dear Students:
As you may be aware, U.S. News & World Report will issue its 2008 ranking of law schools tomorrow. Unfortunately, our ranking has dropped from 77 to 100. You are the future of this Law School, and I want to assure you that we will do everything in our power to rectify this situation as quickly as possible, and move this School forward beyond our previous position. My goal is to get this law school into the top 50. We are carrying out an aggressive internal planning process to raise funds, attract star faculty, recruit a stellar class, raise our LSAT, and produce good scholarship–all important factors in how we will rank next year. In addition, we are reaching out to our employer partners and prominent alumni, all of whom remain confident in the quality of our legal education. We know that this is unsettling news for each of you. Please know that the value of your education is of the utmost concern to this administration and faculty.
Makau Mutua, Interim Dean
SUNY Distinguished Professor and
Floyd H. and Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2008 09:06:38 -0500
From: Law Deans
Subject: [ALLLAWSCHOOL] UW News Rankings
To: [All Law School]
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
Some local newspapers reported this morning that the current U.S. News
Rankings show us in a tie for 22nd place. Many law schools are closely
ranked and a slight shortfall in any one of the technical categories can
lead to a shift of one or two places, as happened this year. The U.S. News
ranking is a combination of many factors (e.g., reputation among other
legal educators and practitioners, LSAT scores of the entering class, what
percentage of applicants we accept, how many books are in the library,
etc.). We plan to address the particular factors that have caused a decline
this year.
One key factor is our reputation among the leaders of other law schools. On
that measure we remain in the Top 20. We expect to build on this academic
reputation, and to address the technical factors that have caused a slight
decline. We also believe that the arrival of a permanent dean – Dean
Wippman – this summer will also help in bolstering our rankings.
Dean Wippman is committed to maintaining and improving the quality of the
school. We look forward to working with him to address this question.
Fred Morrison and Guy Charles
From: Jack Boger
Date: Thu, Mar 27, 2008 at 5:29 PM
Subject: US News Rankings: 2009/ Carolina Law
To: Law Students
March 27, 2008
Dear Carolina Law Students,
Tomorrow, March 28th, the US News & World Report will officially release its 2009 ranking of law schools. Because those numbers have been widely reported during the past 24 hours on websites throughout the nation, we are sharing them with you today, after the close of business. The results for Carolina Law are mixed; we slipped slightly from 36th to 38th overall. The data nonetheless show big positive developments since last year — our student/faculty ratio has improved dramatically, from 20.1/1 to 15.7./1; the GPAs of our 2007 entering class are up from 3.39-3.77 (25th and 75th percentiles) to 3.45-3.80; and first-time North Carolina bar passage rates for our May, 2006 graduates are up from to 83.4% to 86.5%. Moreover, we have significantly more resources per student (thanks to the University, the North Carolina General Assembly, and our generous alumni). We have also retained the outstanding scholarly reputational ranking we’ve long held among other scholars and academics (still 17th in the nation) and among lawyers and judges (still 19th in the nation).
I fully appreciate that rankings do matter to many, including students. Let me assure you that we at Carolina Law will be working every single day during this coming year to strengthen our already excellent faculty, to augment the quality and usefulness of our students’ preparation for law practice, and to deepen the assistance we afford each student throughout the academic year and upon graduation.
We will further enlarge the size of our faculty with wonderful new hires. We will continue to attract extraordinarily talented students from North Carolina and throughout the nation. And once our students arrive in Chapel Hill, they will continue do inspired work — in their classes, in 55 student organizations, in five law reviews and journals, in nationally competitive moot court teams, in splendid lectures and conferences, and in selfless public service activities. We now have a special new source of focus and energy: the University’s commitment to build a splendid new law building at Carolina North in the near future, which will reflect the finest in 21st century legal training and community outreach. In sum, there is much of which to be proud.
So how then can we have lost a little ground? Most obvious are US News’ reported figures for “employed 9 months after graduation,” which at 88.8% seem lower than many of our peers. Yet this year’s US News relies on figures for our May, 2006 graduates that are now nearly two years old. During the ensuing two years, Carolina Law has undertaken a major, yearlong study and subsequent reorganization of our Career Services Office. We have made the outstanding hire of Brian Lewis as Assistant Dean. We have increased the CSO professional staff from 2 to 6. Alas, these tremendous changes are not reflected in the new US News data, nor is the placement rate for the most recent, May, 2007 class (which is 93.3%). Thus Carolina Law finds itself judged by a metric that reflects the CSO office of two years ago, before our new CSO leadership, our much improved staffing, and our much clearer mission.
According to US News, Carolina Law also appears to have slipped ever so slightly in our raw reputational score among lawyers and judges. Yet a ‘3.8’ score still places us 19th in the nation, exactly where we stood last year. Indeed, earlier this week, we were heartened when another national survey conducted among 100+ law firms ranked Carolina Law graduates 23rd among all law schools in their knowledge of law, level of skills, and readiness for law practice.
Finally, although we met the US News deadline of October for reporting our total finances per student, that deadline came just BEFORE we actually received a generous and crucial $2 million appropriation in recurring State funds from the North Carolina General Assembly — new funds that are already having a major, positive impact on student and faculty programs.
North Carolina’s state motto, as many of you know, is Esse Quam Videre, to be rather than to seem. We know in our hearts and we experience every day how outstanding and perfectly wonderful this venerable public university law school is. (That’s precisely what the ABA site inspection team assured us after their four-day visit in February). We’d very much hope in the future not only to be outstanding (as we are), but also to SEEM so to everyone who glances in our direction. Regrettably, US News has still not fully captured either our present worth or our future trajectory. We will work hard to assure that our ‘being’ and our ‘seeming’ will soon coincide. Best wishes to all.
Jack Boger
John Charles Boger
Dean and Wade Edwards Distinguished Professor of Law
School of Law, CB# 3380, University of North Carolina
Law School Rankings: Top 100 Law Schools (PDF) [U.S. News. & World Report]
Earlier: Please Do Not Wet Yourself With Excitement: The 2009 U.S. News Law School Rankings

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments