Law Schools, Rankings, U.S. News

Open Thread: 2010 U.S. News Law School Rankings (17 – 28)

US News logo.JPGWe are continuing our march through the latest U.S. News law school rankings. So far we’ve learned that students who go to law school in warm weather climates believe their quality of life is much better than what is experienced by students who attend law schools in the Northeast and Chicago. We’ve also learned that the anti-GULC contingent of our readers are vocal and relentless.

The next batch of schools includes some rising stars and one major fade. To refresh your memory:

17. Vanderbilt
18. USC (Gould)
19. Washington (St. Louis)
20. Boston University
20. Emory
20. Minnesota
23. Indiana
23. Illinois
23. Notre Dame
26. Boston College
26. Iowa
28. William & Mary
28. George Washington

Boston University continues its rankings pwnage of Boston College. When are the educationally inclined Jesuits going to bring out the big guns (rulers?) and apply it to the law school? Meanwhile, is Notre Dame really no longer the best law school in Indiana?

After the jump, it’s George Washington University Law School time.


George Washington University Law School logo.JPGBased on the reaction on Above the Law and elsewhere, you’d think that George Washington’s human-pig mating program resulted in some unintended consequences. The school fell eight spots to 28th. But the outcry lead to this response from GW Law dean, Frederick M. Lawrence:

To the GW Law Student Community:

I am sure that you have heard by now that in the U.S. News ranking of law schools released today our position moved from 20 to 28. I want to assure you that this change in rank is a result of a change in the magazine’s methodology, not a change in the quality of our institution or the education that we provide to our students. In fact, in the past year the credentials of our incoming class improved, our faculty expanded in size, our curriculum expanded in size, and our school continued to improve in many ways that cannot be measured accurately or adequately by any ranking system.

The high esteem in which our institution is held by the legal community is another thing that I can say with great confidence has not changed. Employers know our students, our graduates, and our faculty, and they know them through decades of personal experience — these relationships do not change because of rankings. When viewed over time, it is clear that most law schools’ U.S. News rankings move either up or down on a regular basis, and, additionally, that the magazine periodically changes the methodology it uses to rank law schools. Fortunately, it is obvious to most observers that resulting sudden and sometimes dramatic changes in rankings do not reflect sudden and dramatic changes in reality.

Now, as always, I caution students against placing too much emphasis on this and other rankings systems, which most lawyers and academics agree are flawed. At GW Law, we will continue in our commitment to offering what we consider to be an extremely high quality legal education to all of our students. I am confident that this will also be reflected in rankings and that this year’s disappointment will be a short-lived one.

Frederick M. Lawrence

Dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law

It’s too early to tell if the rankings drop will result in a sudden and dramatic change to Dean Lawrence’s job security. Does one magazine really hold such power?

What is clear is that Dean Lawrence is placing the lion’s share of the blame on the U.S. News decision to include part-time students in the school’s overall rankings. But Dean Lawrence might want to be careful at placing too much blame of evening students. It might work for Lou Dobbs, but you generally don’t want to lay the ground work for civil unrest between GW’s full-time and part-time students.

It’s also an open question as to whether the part-time student program contributed to GW’s drop in the first place. One part-time student sent this email out in response to Dean Lawrence’s letter:

All:

I’ll keep this brief as I know we’re all still going through exams (good luck).

The release of the US News & World Report rankings, along with Dean Lawrence’s email (below), have very sadly stirred up some anti-evening student feelings in our community. Because this is the first year that the rankings include evening students’ GPA and LSAT scores, the going thought is that it is our fault that the rankings have declined.

I spent some time independently reviewing the data and fully dispute this conclusion. The fact is that our placement (employment) numbers lag significantly behind our peer schools. This is the primary reason for our rankings drop, not the evening student program, and not the US News & World Report methodology change that includes evening numbers.

Don’t take my word for it; observe that Georgetown and American, both of which have evening programs, did not experience a rankings drop. Or, read today’s edition of the GW Hatchet student newspaper, where the Director of Data Research for US News called the Law School’s statement “incorrect,” highlighting our placement numbers as what hurt us the most.

Be proud of who you are and what you bring to this school. Each of us belongs here and makes this school a stronger place.

Good luck with your final exams.

The GW student newspaper had this to say about the drop:

But Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, called Lawrence’s claim “incorrect.”

“That is not the full reason,” he said. “U.S. News has done calculations that say GW would have fallen in the rankings because of relatively weak placement data. It was a culmination of factors.”

Morse said what hurt GW the most were poor showings in the selectivity and job placement categories.

Should full-time GW students spend less time worrying about part-timers and more time worrying about getting a job? Maybe they should head over to our new career center.

Here’s the most pertinent question: if you got into GW and William & Mary and nowhere else, where would you go to law school?

Law School ranking drops [The Hatchet]

Earlier: Open Thread: 2010 U.S. News Law School Rankings (1-5)

Open Thread: 2010 U.S. News Law School Rankings (6 – 15)

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