From reading this thread, it is clear to me that William Mitchell alums/students feel the need to argue out their superiority, while their school has been around for 100 years, compared to UST's 10 or whatever. What surprises me is that after 100 years of teaching law, they stuck in the 4th tier (while brand new UST law has surpassed them in rankings)
The University of St. Thomas, itself, is very well respected in the Twin Cities. That school has a ton of resources to invest in developing their law program. So, while the statistics certainly fall in favor of WM today, what about 10 years from now? I predict that UST will have left WM and Hamline in the dust...
These are interesting points to consider. My earlier posts were a little tongue-in-cheek, but I'll try to answer this one more seriously.
Regarding whether I personally "feel the need" to argue about William Mitchell's "superiority," I would say that yes, I am
interested in presenting to others on this forum the school's admirable characteristics. It has many of them. (As do St. Thomas and Hamline, for that matter. I've worked with students and attorneys from both schools and had generally good experiences.) I try not to sound too partisan, but in my short time on this and other boards, I've sometimes noticed that St. Thomas cheerleading goes hand-in-hand with William Mitchell bashing. Turnabout is fair play. However, I think everyone would agree that the lawyerly thing to do would be to temper rhetoric with facts, which is precisely what I want for this forum. The point-counterpoint is great, but conclusory statements alone don't help OLs much.
To your second point--you rightly noted that William Mitchell (in one form or another) has been around for nearly 110 years, while St. Thomas reopened its law school in 1999 and graduated its first new class in 2005 (somebody correct me if I'm wrong). As everyone also knows, William Mitchell lies in the fourth tier while St. Thomas is in the third. With those two facts in mind, it's not unreasonable to think, "Hey, WTF with Mitchell?" and conversely, "St. Thomas--impressive." But for that thought to be true, we have to assume that the U.S. News rankings are an objective and completely accurate representation of a law school's quality. As they said when we all were studying for the LSAT, "That's a big leap in logic."
40% of the U.S. News rankings, the lawyer/judge peer assessment, are inherently subjective. If I understand the process correctly, a randomly-selected attorney in Ohio could be asked to rate the quality of the U of M, William Mitchell, St. Thomas, and Hamline on a scale of 1 to 5. You can see how numbers might not reflect reality ("The U of M? Well, Walter Mondale went there. I know one or two other lawyers who went there, and they work in decent NLJ firms. The U must have a pretty good law school. I'd say they're a 3.75.") The other 60% of the rankings, quite frankly, can be "gamed" to some extent by the school in question. For example, law schools can report 100% employment nine months after graduation by hiring their jobless students at the library.
Another thing to consider is that the U.S. News rankings have only been in existence since 1989. Someone at the magazine sat down one day and came up with what he or she believed to be some appropriate measure of a law school's worth, when the vast majority of ABA-approved law schools had already been functioning for decades, and in some cases, for over a century. The rankings ain't perfect; that's why the ABA doesn't endorse them. (One could argue that schools coming into existence in the post-U.S. News rankings era have a vastly different set of priorities from the get-go.)
Nonetheless, it would be foolish for any OL, law student, alumnus/a, legal educator, etc. to claim that the rankings don't matter. Clearly they do, imperfect as they are. I would simply argue that considering William Mitchell, the quality of its faculty, and the quality of its graduates, U.S. News has it wrong. If anything, it's a Tier "2" school, somewhere in the 85-100 range. And IMHO the culprit, surprisingly enough, is the 40% "reputation" portion of the rankings. Consider this: from 1980 to 2010, the Minnesota Supreme Court will have had six chief justices. Three were from William Mitchell, two were from the U of M, and one was from YLS. Let's go back further: from 1960 to 2010, the court will have had nine chief justices; still, the numbers don't change much. Four were from William Mitchell, four were from the U of M, and then we have the one lone Yalie. You can argue that political appointments like these are based partly upon luck, but an attorney wouldn't get the nod if his or her skills (and accordingly, his or her legal education) weren't up to snuff. And if we looked at any other state high court, would you find another "Tier 4" school with similar numbers? Would you find another "Tier 4" law school with graduates placed in the same position as a T-25 and a T-2 law school, consistently, over the course of many decades? I guess anything is possible. If someone wants to dig up the actual numbers, they certainly could, but I think my point is a valid one: William Mitchell doesn't get as much respect as it deserves.
It's my opinion that the school simply needs to learn, as an institution, how to better market itself. Under the current ranking regime, it's just a matter of taking additional steps to reflect what Minnesotans and Midwesterners already know: it's an excellent law school that has trained scores of successful graduates.
for a verifiable list.)
If indeed St. Thomas plans to leave it in the dust in the next decade--and that's their goal--then that gives William Mitchell ten years to prove them wrong. That's a discussion I look forward to seeing.