Paul L. Caron

Friday, October 29, 2010

U.S. News Annual Peer Assessment of Law School Tax Programs

US News Tax I received in the mail yesterday my ballot for the 2012 U.S. News Tax Rankings (for prior U.S. News tax rankings, see 2011 and 2008-2011).  As in prior years, the survey 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.  

In filling out your survey, you may want to consult 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:

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My Two Cents - Three very underrated tax law programs: (i) Northwestern; (ii) Chapman; and (iii) Loyola-L.A.

Posted by: dtc | Oct 29, 2010 1:45:38 PM

It would be odd if a respondent listed fifteen programs and omitted Georgetown and Florida. But would it be as odd if a respondent listed only NYU?

Posted by: Anonymous | Oct 29, 2010 11:11:52 AM

Why would anyone assume that USNews was asking faculty to rank the top tax LLM programs? There are many specialty rankings in the surveys, receipients of the survey in all of those areas are asked to rank the top "programs" in those areas, and in most of those areas there are few LLM programs or such programs are not considered very important to practice in that area. Furthermore, the magazine is clearly trying to appeal to prospective JD candidates in its overall rankings. The LLM pool is very small by comparison. It is far more sensible to conclude that USNews is asking faculty to rank the programs from the perspective of the JD student and from the perspective of the oustide influence of the program on tax policy and law than from the perspective of the LLM student.

Of course, that doesn't mean the presence of an LLM program shouldn't be considered in ranking the resources and classes available to JD students interested in studying in the area. It by no means clear, though, that going to a school with an LLM program is an unimitigated good. Many of the courses are not accessible for JD students, faculty attention will be divided, or worse, focused entirely on the LLM students (especially if full-time faculty teach some courses at night to LLM students only), and placement in that subject area will be focused primarily on the LLM students. Indeed, a JD student interested in tax could well be better served going to a school without an LLM program for their JD and then continuing on to a different school to get the LLM (if needed).

Posted by: Anon | Oct 29, 2010 9:16:00 AM