TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New 2012 U.S. News Tax Rankings

U.S. News LogoHere are the new 2012 U.S. News Tax Rankings, along with last year's rankings. The big changes from 2011 are (1) Florida moving ahead of Georgetown at #2, and (2) the number of schools without tax LL.M. programs moving up in the rankings (10) and the number of schools with tax LL.M. programs moving down (6):

2012

Rank

 Tax

Program

2011

Rank

1

NYU

1

2

Florida

3

3

Georgetown

2

4

Northwestern

4

5

Miami

5

6

Harvard

8

7

UCLA

11

8

Virginia

10

9

Boston University

6

10

Columbia

14

10

Loyola-L.A.

9

10

Stanford

13

10

Texas

18

14

Michigan

16

14

USC

16

16

Boston College

18

16

Pennsylvania

n/r

16

San Diego

6

16

Villanova

21

20

U. Washington

n/r

21

Chapman

n/r

22

Chicago

21

22

UC-Hastings

18

n/r

Denver

12

n/r

SMU

14

Here are the rankings of the graduate tax programs, along with last year's rankings:

2012

Rank

Grad Tax

Program

2011

Rank

1

NYU

1

2

Florida

3

3

Georgetown

2

4

Northwestern

4

5

Miami

5

6

Boston University

6

7

Loyola-L.A.

8

8

San Diego

6

8

Villanova

11

10

U. Washington

n/r

11

Chapman

n/r

n/r

Denver

9

n/r

SMU

10

The U.S. News tax survey instrument states that it is intended "to identify the law schools having the top programs in tax law." The survey is sent "to a sample of law school faculty listed in the AALS Directory of Law Teachers 2009-2010 as currently teaching a course or seminar in tax law." Recipients are asked "to [i]dentify up to fifteen (15) schools that have the highest-quality tax law courses or programs. In making your choices consider all elements that contribute to a program's excellence, for example, the depth and breadth of the program, faculty research and publication record, etc."

As Donald Tobin (Ohio State) has noted, it is more than strange that NYU has finished ahead of Florida and Georgetown each year that U.S. News has conducted the survey.  Because the survey ranks the schools by how often they appear on the respondents' "Top 15" lists, this means that some folks list NYU, but not Florida and Georgetown, among the Top 15 tax programs.

For more on tax rankings, see our article, Pursuing a Tax LLM Degree: Where?, which compiles information about 13 highly ranked tax LLM programs: (1) NYU; (2) Florida; (3) Georgetown; (4) Northwestern; (5) Miami; (6) Boston University; (7) San Diego; (8) Loyola-L.A./LMU; (9) SMU; (10) Denver; (11) University of Washington; (12) Villanova; and (13) Chapman. The topics on which information is reported in the Article include: (1) tuition; (2) scholarships; (3) the full-time tax professors who teach in each program and the tax courses they teach; (4) the number of full-time and part-time students enrolled in each program; (5) general information about adjunct professors teaching in each program; (6) required courses; (7) elective courses, specialty certificates, and concentrations; (8) opportunities to develop tax practice skills by taking experiential learning courses and simulated practice courses; (9) extracurricular tax activities; (10) opportunities to graduate with honors or receive academic prizes; and (11) career planning and placement services offered to students in each program. The article also ranks the tax faculty at these thirteen law schools by citations (the Top 5 are NYU (1), Florida (2), Georgetown (3), Miami (4), and Northwestern (5)) and SSRN downloads (the Top 5 are Loyola-L.A. (1), NYU (2), Chapman (3), Florida (4), and San Diego (5)).

Other resources available on TaxProf Blog include:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2011/03/new-2012.html

Legal Education, Tax, Tax Faculty Rankings | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c4eab53ef014e5fe192c5970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference New 2012 U.S. News Tax Rankings:

Comments

"As Donald Tobin (Ohio State) has noted, it is more than strange that NYU has finished ahead of Florida and Georgetown each year that U.S. News has conducted the survey. Because the survey ranks the schools by how often they appear on the respondents' "Top 15" lists, this means that some folks list NYU, but not Florida and Georgetown, among the Top 15 tax programs."

By this theory, shouldn't NYU, Georgetown, and Florida ALL be #1 as it would be strange for all 3 schools not to appear on any respondents' "Top 15" list?

Additionally, it is SHOCKING that after rightly passing Florida last year that Georgetown would be surpassed by Florida this year. Florida had major losses to its tax faculty impacting the quality of the faculty whereas Georgetown continued to expand its course offerings for LL.M. students. Additionally, being located in D.C. with opportunities to work at the IRS, the Hill, all the major tax law firms, and the national and D.C. office of Big 4 accounting firms wildly overpowers being located in Gainesville, FL.

Sending the survey "to a sample of law school faculty listed in the AALS Directory of Law Teachers 2009-2010 as currently teaching a course or seminar in tax law" is woefully inadequate. Not all professors who teach tax have an LL.M. and some have no idea about the quality of various LL.M. programs.

Someone at US News recognizes that NYU is #1 and ever shall be so (like how the top J.D. schools don't change). I think battle between Florida and G'town has been lost by Florida -- in both real world placement opportunities, and in academic offerings. Any other LL.M. in tax is irrelevant as far as a "pedigree" degree; however, it can be useful for local practitioners who want to learn about tax more in depth but don't want to take a year to leave Denver, Washington, or San Diego.

The only excuse I see for FL #2 and G'town #3 is academy bias. G'town uses a number of adjunct faculty, many of whom are regarded as the expert or a premier authority, to teach a variety of specialized offerings. Florida has a tax "tenured" staff. A staff of "tenured" professors does not make a school better. Also, with a cadre of adjunct professors teaching numerous courses in their specialties, Florida is going to beat G'town in the publication race. Adjuncts don't write law review articles. They practice tax and then teach what they practice. Academy bias against adjunct faculty likely has something to do with ranking Florida over Georgetown. But as I noted earlier, Florida recently lost some of its preeminent faculty which should cut against the "tenured" faculty bias.

Posted by: tax guy | Mar 16, 2011 5:39:58 AM

Counterpoint to tax guy's argument that tenured faculty (i.e. Florida) are good only for writing inane articles while adjunct practitioners (Georgetown) are more effective teachers. I took tax classes from adjunct instructors at the J.D. level and from the tenured faculty in the Florida LL.M. program. On balance, in my opinion, the tenured faculty are much more effective teachers, if for no other reason than they are more experienced at teaching. The tenured professors know the areas in which students consistently need more instruction and focus on those areas. They know how to pace the classes over the semester because they have worked it out over many years. They know how to write and grade exams.

Adjunct instructors can offer a "real world" perspective, but they often focus disproportionately on the areas in which they practice, depriving students of a broad knowledge base of the subject area. They are much less available for student interaction (no one wants to have to call the instructor's secretary for an appointment in order to ask a question). They are usually less experienced as teachers and often experiment with course coverage and pacing at the students' expense. Exam grading by adjuncts seems to be highly inconsistent.

I don't disagree with tax guy that law and economics articles written by the tax academy are virtually useless to tax practitioners.

Posted by: anon | Mar 16, 2011 8:49:10 AM

Great post, Tax Guy. I really have nothing more I could add.

Posted by: Kona | Mar 16, 2011 10:14:48 AM

I would like to see a ranking of graduate securities/business law programs

Posted by: Anon | Mar 16, 2011 10:34:08 AM

People seem to forget that the US News survey only ranks J.D. tax programs *NOT* LLM programs.

There is no US News ranking of any LLM program.

Using the JD rankings, TaxProf extracts the tax programs that also have LLM's and comes up with a de-facto list of graduate tax programs, but that is not a scientific evaluation of any LLM program.

Posted by: AnonFromPDA | Mar 16, 2011 11:57:09 AM

AnonfromPDA is right. It is a ranking of tax programs, which can exist on both the JD and LLM level. Indeed, there is nothing about the presence of an LLM degree (or even a JD "concentration") that makes one school's tax program better than a school only offering a JD, especially when many classes are only available to LLM students and not to JD students. If you are a prospective JD student considering where to apply to law school and concentrate in tax, the presence of an LLM might be a disadvantage because it diverts faculty resources away from JD students.

My guess is that the annual fluctuation in tax rankings has much to do with the divide between those who think they are ranking LLM programs and those who think they are ranking tax programs read more broadly (e.g., the courses offered, the professors who teach there, and the other opportunities for students (JD and otherwise) interested in tax). When the mix of voters includes more people who subscribe to the former view, the LLM programs do better. When the mix of voters includes more people who subscribe to the latter view, the JD programs with outstanding tax faculty and course offerings displace the schools with less prestigious LLM programs. The schools at the top generally remain constant. This difference in perspective on the question being asked also explains Tobin's puzzle. If you think this is about ranking schools in tax for prospective JD students (which is reasonable, given the overall orientation of the rankings toward JD programs), you could decide to leave off one or more of the top "LLM schools" entirely on the ground that they are not as strong for JD students interested in tax.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 16, 2011 5:24:25 PM

This type of "gar-bage" is what you get when you listen to a magazine report done by a person with a high school education a/k/a US News. Complete "gar-bage" based on "pseudo" objective criteria. I attended both Denver and U. of Miami and I love both schools-but to say Miami is "better than Denver" NO WAY! The programs are different.
My wife went to USC and NYU and the report was the New Yorkers are very 'narrow minded' (thinking the world revolves around New York) the international students at UM said this as well. When I attended Harvard ( I am an education junkie) I noticed that the law library had multiple reporters, where UM only had one- they were stacking the reporters so they could say they had more books in their library LOL!! buying the same book over and over again so they can say they have more books!!. Good US News fodder!!. When I went to Oxford, they thought Harvard was just an "upstart school" with no class. Unfortunately you cannot solve.."I am the best school" on the court. It would be great if there was a "tax competition" for the students (and maybe the professors) and then these newspaper reporters would go away.

Posted by: Nick Paleveda MBA J.D. LL.M | Mar 17, 2011 9:02:05 AM

I do not read US News and took Paul at his word: "Here are the rankings of the graduate tax programs, along with last year's rankings:" I know that in the past the tax rankings were just JD rankings, but I thought from Paul's presentation and words that US News had actually ranked Tax LLM programs. I agree, as I always have, that the "tax list" is a useless measure of LLM programs if it is ranking JD tax programs.

I guess Nick has never seen the classic cover of The New Yorker (often known as A New Yorker's View of the World: http://mappery.com/map-of/A-View-of-World-from-9th-Avenue-Map).

Look, pedigree is pedigree. When someone says tax to a non-tax attorney they don't want to even hear the word tax. When someone says tax to a tax attorney they do not say Denver or Miami, they say NYU. I think tax also know Georgetown and respect it and know Florida too, but beyond that no list matters.

Posted by: tax guy | Mar 17, 2011 11:58:24 AM

Rankings Degrade Legal Education:

The US News & World Report Rankings have done nothing but degrade legal education in the United States. I am an attorney who has worked with law school faculty and staff, and I have seen the effects of the rankings first-hand. The result is under-served, undereducated, disillusioned law students, and underemployed recent graduates. Below is my assessment of what should factors should be considered.

What Matters (high weighting):

- Employment Rates for Graduates: The most important factor. Law school is professional school. You go to law school to get a job. If you can’t get a job, then the rest doesn’t matter. Furthermore, the way that Employment Rates are calculated should be amended. Law schools are hiring recent grads at alarming rates. The positions are only temporary and end nine months after graduation, long enough for the US News & World Report Rankings. All law schools are doing this. In fact, I am familiar with at least one law school listed in the top 10 that hires recent graduates to skew the US News & World Report rankings.

- Bar Passage Rate: You can’t practice law if you don’t pass the bar. You go to law school to get a job. If you can’t get a job because you can’t pass the bar, the rest doesn’t matter.

What Doesn’t Matter (not considered):

- Peer Assessment: The Peer Assessment Score should be taken out of consideration. Educational institutions do not hire students post graduation (except to skew the rankings). For a prospective law student, the rankings serve as tool to gauge their hirability after law school. I am an attorney who has worked closely with law school faculty and staff. For the most part, their perception of what makes a good attorney, and what constitutes an appropriate legal education is absolutely wrong. The truth is that students are leaving law school abysmally unprepared for a legal career. Practitioners are best suited to assess the quality of a student's education -- if anyone. Why the Peer Assessment Score is the highest weighted criteria is beyond me, and beyond reason.

- Expenditures Per Student: This does nothing but increase the cost of law school for students.

- Library Resources: Law students have unlimited access to Lexis and Westlaw. Lexis, Westlaw, and other on-line resources have everything most, if not all, students and faculty need to complete their research. The total number of volumes in a law library does nothing to enhance the legal education of law students. Also, law school libraries are manipulating this measure by having useless titles in the law library, including legal fiction sections complete with Dr. Seuss and Legally Blond. I am not saying eliminate law libraries, but there isn’t much need for materials beyond federal primary and secondary authority, and the primary and secondary authority of the state in which the law school is located. Maintaining a law library is a very expensive endeavor. Anything beyond what is necessary is superfluous. Considering this factor does nothing but increase the cost of law school for students.

- Student/Faculty Ratio: There is some benefit to a high faculty to student ratio, but it shouldn’t be considered. To be accredited, a school must maintain a certain student to faculty ratio. A ratio of 20:1 (student:faculty) presumptively indicates that a law school complies with the ABA standards. A ratio of 30:1 or more presumptively indicates that the law school does not comply. Anything between 20:1 and 30:1 will be reviewed by the ABA. Assume a school’s ratio is 29:1, and the ABA approves this ratio for accreditation purposes. I am not convinced that increasing the number of faculty per student beyond 29:1 adds any value. This isn’t elementary school. The study of law is largely an individual endeavor. Increasing the number of faculty increases the cost of law school for students, without actually enhancing their education.

Other (low weighting):

- Assessment Score by Lawyers/Judges: I hesitate to include this factor. A lawyer or judge’s assessment should be reflected in the Employment Rates, eliminating the need to use such subjective data. Also, if you read the description, the response rate of lawyers/judges is extremely low. I can’t believe that what was reported to US News & World Report is an accurate measurement.

- Median LSAT Scores: LSAT scores should be taken into consideration, but the weight of this factor should be low. LSAT scores are not a good indicator of a student’s success in law school, or more importantly, their success as an attorney.

- Median Undergrad GPA: This should be taken into consideration, but with the varying measures of undergraduate institutions, it is difficult to assess the success of the student or the law school based on an undergraduate GPA.

- Acceptance Rate: There are many reasons why a school may not receive as many applications as another school. These reasons may have nothing to do with the quality of the school. The primary factor is likely location. However, I am not convinced that acceptance rate should be taken out of consideration. Thus, I will leave this factor under Other.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 17, 2011 12:37:03 PM