Paul L. Caron

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Buffalo, Case, Iowa, Miami, Minnesota & UNC Deans React to Decline in U.S. News Rankings

Us_newsDavid Lat collects school-wide emails (updated here) sent by these deans in response to their school's decline in the just-released U.S. News rankings:  Buffalo (#100, down from #77), Case Western (#63, down from #53), Iowa (#27, down from #24), Minnesota (#22, down from #20), and North Carolina (#38, down from #36).  Miami (#82, down from #70) is here. (The deans should read Brian Leiter's caution about placing undue emphasis on the overall ranking.)

Update:  These schools have issued press releases in response to the U.S. News rankings:

  • Alabama:  "The University of Alabama School of Law is ranked 11th among public law schools and 32nd among all law schools in the nation, according to U.S. News ....  The 2009 ranking is the highest ever for UA Law School, eclipsing last year’s mark of 15th among public law schools and 36th among all law schools. UA Law has been ranked among the top 50 law schools for 10 consecutive years."
  • Boston College:  "Boston College Law School has moved up to 26th"
  • BYU:  "The J. Reuben Clark Law School is ranked 46th."
  • Chapman:  "March 28, 2008, ushered in a new era for the School of Law in its ongoing reach for excellence. Early that morning, the latest U.S. News ... rankings revealed that Chapman had moved into the 3rd tier -- a noteworthy achievement for a school that is only early in its second decade. The surprise news was announced by Dean Eastman to thunderous applause at Chapman's monthly “En Banc” reception that evening. The Dean noted, “While we are happy that others are recognizing the hidden gem that is Chapman, we will not rest here. Our aspirations are, quite simply, to be recognized as one of the best opportunities in legal education.”
  • Creighton:  "Creighton University School of Law has climbed to the rank of 12th in the nation among the nearly 200 law schools offering dispute resolution classes."
  • Denver:   "The Sturm College of Law ranked in the top 100 law schools in the country for the seventh straight year at No. 88. Four Sturm College of Law programs also were ranked among the best in the nation, including two in the top 20. The Environmental Law program moved up three positions to No. 13, and the Tax Law program rose two places to No. 19. In addition, two law programs unranked last year are now listed as among the best: the International Law program at No. 23 and the Clinical Training program at No. 36."
  • Duke:  "Within the law school, Duke was tied for fifth in environmental law and placed sixth for intellectual property law."
  • Emory:  "Emory Law again ranks No. 22 in U.S. News."
  • George Washington:  "The GW Law School (20) moves up two spots on this year's list of 184 accredited law schools. For the fourth consecutive year, GW's intellectual property law program is ranked third in the nation. The international law program is ranked eighth and environmental law 16th. The GW Law School also is recognized for its student diversity."
  • Georgetown:  "The Law Center retained its overall ranking of 14th place in the 2009 list. Among the specialty categories, the Law Center is ranked in the top 10 for clinical training, tax law, environmental law, health law, international law and trial advocacy."
  • Georgia:  "The School of Law rose four spots in this year's rankings, moving to 32nd from 36th."
  • Hamline:  "Hamline ... has moved into the third tier in the national rankings in the latest U.S.News ... assessment of the nation's best law schools .... In addition, Hamline’s Dispute Resolution Institute has been ranked in the top five in the nation for the eighth consecutive year. ... "The third tier is a level of recognition that we know employers and students are looking for in an institution,” said Hamline University President Linda Hanson.
  • Indiana-Bloomington:  "The IU School of Law-Bloomington remained at 15th among public law schools and 36th overall, the only Big Ten public law school that didn't decline in the rankings."
  • Indiana-Indianapolis:  "The IU School of Law-Indianapolis experienced one of the largest improvements in the rankings, from 85th to 68th."
  • Kentucky:  "[T]he College of Law ranked 59th."
  • Loyola-L.A.:  "Loyola Law School Los Angeles jumped three spots in the law school rankings ... Loyola also ranked sixth in trial advocacy and 11th in diversity. In tax law, Loyola Law moved up to 13th in the US -- or seventh in the country among law schools with graduate tax programs, according to the TaxProf Blog."
  • Mercer:  "The Legal Writing Program at the Walter F. George School of Law of Mercer University is again the top-ranked program among all of the law schools in the nation as announced today."
  • Michigan State:  "U.S. News ... again placed MSU Law in the third tier in its 2009 rankings. The U.S. News data also shows that MSU Law ranks in the top 100 in terms of the credentials of our entering class, and our reputation among lawyers and judges."
  • Nova:  "Nova ... rose to No. 22 in the U.S. News and World Report’s specialty rankings for legal writing, up from a No. 30 ranking last year. For the second year in a row, NSU and Stetson are the only Florida law schools ranked in the top 40 in legal writing."
  • Pepperdine:  "Pepperdine ... is now ranked as No. 59 in the nation .... In 2006, the school was ranked 77th, 87th in 2007 and 66th in 2008. Associate Dean for Student Life Jim Gash said the school is rapidly moving in the right direction. ...  The new ranking is a vote of confidence in what [Dean Ken] Starr has been doing, according to Gash, who said Starr has transitioned the law school into a new category. “Starr is probably the busiest dean in the country, which is how our reputation continues to increase,” Gash said. “He is the best known and most accomplished law school dean in the country.”
  • St. Louis:  "For the fifth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has named Saint Louis University's health law program the best in the nation."
  • Santa Clara:  "Santa Clara Law was once again named one of the top 100 law schools in the country."
  • Stetson:  "U.S. News ... has ranked Stetson ... among the nation’s top 100 law schools again this year. U.S. News also ranked Stetson Law first in the nation for trial advocacy and number six for legal writing."
  • UNLV:  "In addition to moving up 12 spots from 100 to 88 in the overall rankings, the Boyd School of Law also advanced their already impressive position in each of the following specialty rankings: • Boyd’s Lawyering Process program, which includes legal writing, was named the nation’s 3rd best program of its kind. • UNLV’s Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution was named among the top 10 programs, up three spots to number nine. • The Thomas and Mack Legal Clinic jumped eight spots from number 20 to number 12."
  • Utah:  "The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law is rated 51st among the nation's top 100 law schools .... In 2008, the Quinney College of Law was ranked 57th in the same guide. The college's 51 ranking was just one point behind five schools that tied at 46."
  • Vanderbilt:  "Vanderbilt Law School moved up to No. 15 in U.S. News['] ... annual ranking of law schools. Vanderbilt tied for 16th in last year's rankings."
  • Washington University:  "The School of Law remains in the top 20 for the third straight year, retaining its No. 19 ranking. Within the School of Law, the trial advocacy program remains among the nation's best at No. 4 in the nation, as does the clinical training program, which ranks No. 6."
  • University of Washington:  "U.S. News ... has ranked the UW School of Law a top 10 public law school in the magazine's annual which looks at America's best graduate schools. The UW School of Law was ranked 30 among all U.S. law schools in the report."
  • Widener:  "U.S.News ... has listed the law school’s health law program among the nation’s 10 best."
  • William & Mary:  "William & Mary ... moved up in this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings .... [T]he law school came in this year at 30th, tied with the University of Washington. Last year, the school was ranked at 31st in the nation, tied with Ohio State and the University of Wisconsin."

UpdateBrian Leiter (Texas) chides these schools in Hall of Shame: Schools Publicizing Their Meaningless US News Ranking.

Law School, Law School Rankings | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Buffalo, Case, Iowa, Miami, Minnesota & UNC Deans React to Decline in U.S. News Rankings:


For North Carolina the fall from 36th to 38th is worse than it looks. The school was 27th just two years ago.

Posted by: changeup | Apr 3, 2008 11:21:23 AM

Indiana's claim that they are the only Big 10 public law school not to drop in this year's rankings is incorrect; Penn State Dickinson rose from 92nd to 77th.

Posted by: anon | Apr 1, 2008 12:36:21 PM


The difficulty with your duping theory is that the alumni who care already have strong views about what the rankings mean. The same alumni who think 2 moves up is great this year thought that the 2 moves down the previous year was a sign of a school in decline. There is no "conning" going on because the alumni don't assess the meaningfulness of the U.S. News from the press releases put out by their former institutions.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Mar 31, 2008 6:53:39 PM

No, what is 'meaningful' is not in the eye of the beholder. If a school touts their improved rank as showing their school is better, then they are simply duping their alumni. You apparently think that's fine. Others, including the alumni, might be concerned to know that they were being conned by an 'irrational' figure.

Posted by: anon | Mar 31, 2008 5:48:18 PM

To "anon." As Hans points out, it's the same phenomenon as powers irrational market fluctuations. I don't see the "trick." There is no misrepresentation, nothing "misleading." What is "meaningful" is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: cyclingprof | Mar 31, 2008 2:25:14 PM

In reply to cyclingprof: so basically schools should trick their alumni into giving money by advertising results that they, in fact, know to be meaningless and misleading?

Posted by: anon | Mar 31, 2008 7:27:44 AM

It's the same effect that powers irrational market fluctuations. Even if I know the numbers are meaningless, I may expect others to consider them meaningful. Thus I may expect them to have effect. Thus they become meaningful for me. I don't understand Leiter can't wrap his head around this cycle.

Posted by: Hans | Mar 31, 2008 6:59:40 AM

Leiter is too hard on schools that advertise improvements in the rankings. Even a school that fully appreciates the statistical insignificance of any improvements would be foolish not to advertise them. The good news excites alums and students, who do not understand just how meaningless is the difference between 36th place and 68th place in the rankings. A jump in the rankings creates the impression of an upward trend that may lead alums to open their wallets a bit wider, and that's good for the school.

Posted by: cyclingprof | Mar 31, 2008 6:28:54 AM

Maybe someone should think about a 3 year, 5 year, and 10 year average of these scores/rankings (like with mutual funds).

I know my alma matter has hovered around the top 25 for many years. Not to validate USN Rankings, but a 5 or 10 year avg would provide a much more realistic portrait of USN's ranking of the school. Will USN provide this result alongside the 1 yr results, or will someone (like Leiter--hint hint) have to do it for them?

Seriously, what is the difference between 22 & 20 or between 30 & 31? But if a school has consistently averaged #30.5 or #21 over 10 years at least that gives you a feeling for where it stands in USN's rankings.

If you wouldn't invest your money in a stock or a mutual fund based on how it did just one year, why should you invest in a law school based on one year's results. and if your stock or mutual fund dropped (or plummeted) one year, would you dump what was otherwise a fundamentally solid investment? you might reanalyze whether the investment is fundamentally solid, but you wouldn't panic that your stock now was #27 instead of #24. You might panic if you invested in the financial sector (or a law school whose signature program seemed to be obsolete or in a down cycle).

but c'mon people. i bet most law students have less invested in the market than they have "invested" (and "speculated") in their law school education--6 figures. perhaps they, and law schools too, could learn a little from the buy & hold strategy of law term investing and the fact that short term gains & losses are not necessarily reflective of long term outcomes.


Posted by: Adjunct Law Prof. | Mar 29, 2008 5:34:25 PM

Don't forget Pepperdine which has moved up nearly 40 spots in the last 2 years by reporting questionable emp. at 9 mo. figures, most recently telling usnews that 95% were empl. at nine monts, which is an absolute fairytale:

Posted by: ! | Mar 29, 2008 9:26:31 AM