Dean's Response to Recent Law School Rankings.
Law School Community and Friends:
The US News & World Report magazine recently published its annual ranking of American law schools. We are disappointed in the results of the recent ranking and I am writing to provide you with some information about the law school's program and about the US News and other law school rankings.
Last year, the law school was ranked by US News as tied (with three other law schools) for #94 in the first two groupings of law schools. This year's ranking dropped the law school into the next group or tier of schools which are not ranked numerically. This development is not only disappointing, but surprising as well. Our careful analysis of the US News 2005 ranking reveals the following:
- Examining the scores on individual criteria scoring, it is clear that Santa Clara is at the top of third tier. However, it is unclear why the law school was demoted a tier. The law school improved over last year's report in two significant criteria: its reputation among lawyers and judges (weighted at 15% of the entire scoring system) improved from a 2.5 to a 2.7 and its entering class undergraduate grade point average (10% of entire score). More importantly, Santa Clara had essentially the same numbers as last year on all of the remaining criteria (e.g., LSAT scores of entering students, bar pass rate, etc.). There is only one criterion (employment rate at 9 months; weighted at 12%) that Santa Clara declined over 2004 scores--from 93.4% in the '04 report to 84.4% in the most recent report.
- Therefore, with the law school's improvement in two areas collectively weighted at 35% and its continuing strength in nearly all areas, it is puzzling why the rankers moved the school downward in this year's ranking.
- More importantly, when the internal rankings data, obtained from US News’ editors, is reviewed, it becomes even clearer that the law school should not have been moved downward. The magazine provided the following analysis of the law school’s comparative ranking (’04 over ’05).
| || |
| ||Overall rank |
| ||Academic Reputation |
| ||Reputation Lawyers/Judges |
| ||Selectivity |
| ||Faculty Resources |
| ||Placement |
This data shows that under US News’ own methodology, the law school improved considerably in ’05 compared to ’04. Its comparative ranking increased in 2005 in the categories of academic and non-academic reputation, in its selectivity and in its faculty resources. The school’s ranking decreased only in it’s comparative placement data. US News cannot explain the decrease in the law school’s overall ranking when the school increased in all categories except one (placement at graduation) which was a relatively minor part of the overall weighting scheme.
In the areas of “specialty " rankings, the law school was rated #4 in the country for the diversity of its student body and tied for #15 for its Intellectual Property Law program.
The annual US News ranking project has long been criticized for its methodological flaws and its attempt to reduce a complicated task to a simplistic formula. This is a reason that just about every American law school dean has encouraged prospective law students not to rely on the rankings for any serious consideration of law schools. Moreover, the ranking process has encouraged disingenuous behavior by some law schools, such as misstating placement rates for graduates, failing to report LSAT scores for all admitted students, and other misconduct.
The criticisms of the ranking are particularly pertinent to this year's report on Santa Clara's law school. The survey demotes the law school when all stated criteria are as strong or stronger than last year, fails to consider the law school's recent election to membership in the Order of the Coif (the "Phi Beta Kappa" of legal education), and elevates several other law schools with decidedly lower measures on the stated criteria above Santa Clara.
The law school’s leadership take seriously the task of continuously improving the law school’s academic programs, the levels of student support and services, and the opportunities for its students to benefit from professional opportunities in law school and in the practice of law. For example, some of the steps Santa Clara Law recently has taken (or is in the process of implementing) to improve its programs, include:
- Hired a new career services professional who will work with third year students and recent graduates to expand their employment possibilities and opportunities;
- Initiated a new preparatory program for 3L students to better prepare them for the state bar examination;
- Created and widely distributed new marketing materials accurately promoting the law school's programs, strengths, new faculty and student and faculty activities;
- Hired (and continue to hire) nationally recognized faculty members;
- Designed a position for a dean of student academic and professional development who will assist our students in their preparation for entry into the legal profession, including passage of the state bar examination.
Santa Clara Law will continue to strengthen its programs and curriculum to make it a better law school and will continue to market the law school in rankings, surveys, and other similar endeavors. I believe that continuing to focus on the fundamental attributes of a good law school program will make this a better law school and that will be reflected in the many surveys and rankings that attempt to provide information about law schools. More importantly, it will be reflected in the students and faculty we will attract to the school and will improve the "value" of a Santa Clara Law degree. We also will continue to report our information accurately to the providers of law school surveys and rankings.
Finally, it also is useful to note that there are many rankings purporting to evaluate law school programs and many have noted areas of strength of Santa Clara's law school. The Consus Group, a national organization of business and law consultants published a national ranking of law schools and ranked Santa Clara as the #64 law school in the country based on a comprehensive set of criteria. Brennan's "Judging the Law Schools" ranks Santa Clara as one of the top 10 American law schools in its annual "Diversity Index. Princeton Review recently listed Santa Clara as a one of the top 100 law schools in the country and #10 in the country in the criterion of "best environment for minority students."
I have encouraged our students, faculty and alumni to continue their pride of the law school, Moreover, I hope they will continue to encourage their friends and family to strongly consider Santa Clara as a great place to study law.
Donald J. Polden, Dean