If you are at Boalt you are probably pretty happy with the new rankings. If you are at University of Miami School of Law you are probably not. If you are at USF you are too cool to care. If you are at the University of Baltimore you are just happy to be included.
Maybe you are inspired. You want to create some rankings of your own. You could rank based on library square footage and number of minority students. You could rank based on mean LSAT scores and peer assessment ratings. Or you could cross reference the 2009 U.S. News Law School Rankings with the Top 44 Law Schools by Peer Evaluation in your search for Law School Rankings Truth.
I don’t get too worked up about rankings, and I agree that law schools and law students often seem to suffer from a complete lack of perspective regarding the U.S. News rankings, but I was still worried when I saw U.C. Davis had dropped 10 spots to 44. Apparently, so were quite a few of my classmates, many of whom attended a student meeting last night to discuss the fall.
After reading the responses of students and law school deans compiled on Above the Law, I was also worried that the response would be more embarrassing than the ranking. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a relatively even-tempered email from Dean Perschbacher blaming “weak placement figures and bar passage during 2006” for the drop and assuring us that the 2007 numbers, which are “already in the bank,” are better.
Since employment is the ultimate goal of law school, the placement numbers are, to me, the most important metric in the U.S. News formula. Career Services at Davis is pretty useless, so if rankings hysteria ushers in a new era of employment emphasis here, I am all for it. If pouring resources into Career Services doesn’t have the “happy side effect” Sexy Rexy is looking for, maybe messing with the employment numbers will do the trick.
So, while Davis probably won’t be issuing any press releases regarding its U.S. News rankings this year, maybe the 10 spot drop and any student uproar that follows will make the job search a little easier for future King Hall-ers.
Full email after the jump.
Dear Members of the King Hall Community,
I see that many of you have heard our latest and deeply disappointing overall ranking in the new U.S. News &World Report listing. It is indeed distressing to find us at number 44, down from 34 last year. I know you are concerned and troubled, and that you understand better than many of us in the faculty and administration impact this can have on applicants to UC Davis. This is just as troubling to those of us in the dean’s office who have committed much of our working lives and career to this School, and want more than anything to see it prosper in every way possible.
Despite U.S. News’s claim of relative transparency in their own particular ranking scheme, it is still quite difficult to determine exactly what factors caused this change for the worse. It appears, however, that since our academic and lawyer/judge assessments remained high, we suffered from the relatively weak placement figures and bar passage during 2006, the year U.S. News used as its basis for these particular factors. With a bar pass rate of 75.9%, an employment rate at graduation of 78.8% and an employment rate of 87.1% nine months after graduation, we did not do as well as we usually do that year on the bar or placement of our graduates. That should give all of you some hope for an immediate turn around, as all those figures rebounded for the class of 2007, figures that already are “in the bank.”
As important as the U.S. News ranking is to you, as dean, I have great skepticism about these rankings, which have an impact exponentially greater than they deserve. I do not see King Hall as defined by this one magazine’s assessment, and it has been my practice not to place undue emphasis on it in good years as well as poor ones. Nevertheless, I do see the information behind their “overall score” number as valuable in assessing what we do well and where we need to improve. If, as it appears, student employment and bar passage have hurt us in this year’s ranking, then we need to improve in those areas.
Fortunately, we are doing just that. Led by Assistant Dean Kulwin, we have been increasing our efforts at bar preparation for our current students and recent graduates for the last three years. There are some positive signs in the latest results for the Class of 2007. We will commit even more resources in the next year to improve programming, hire a dedicated academic support coordinator, and look further to see if we can support our graduates as they take bar review courses.
The second big area of concern is student placement. We have been working diligently over the last year with the student committee reviewing career services to assess and improve our placement efforts. I know many of you have criticism of the Career Services Office. It can and will improve. We will add resources to that office and look for improvement in placement success that will benefit all our students and that should have the happy side effect of improving our ranking. I know everyone in that office wants to see all our students employed and gaining positions they truly want. We will need your help as well.
Finally, although there is nothing we can do about this year’s ranking, there is a lot we can all do for King Hall, the School we all care about. Help us and help yourselves out. We have an outstanding faculty, fine if overworked staff, and great new hires here at King Hall. The peer reputation ratings reflect this.
How can you, as students, help? You can support the Class Gift program. Financial support for the School is a component of the U.S. News rankings. Be a spokesperson for the law school; positive word-of-mouth (reputation among lawyers and judges) is important in your job search and career satisfaction and an element of the rankings. Work with us in looking for pre- and post-graduation positions. Stay in touch with the Career Services Office; keep them informed of jobs you attain, within law and without law, so that you can be accurately counted in our placement statistics. Even part-time work can help our numbers. Study hard for the bar exam. Nothing is better for employment success in law than success on the bar examination, as the Class of 2007’s experience demonstrates. If you need help, financial or otherwise, let us know.
Although we sometimes try to suggest that we know lots more than you, collectively that is not true. We welcome all your suggestions for improvement in the School and improvement in collecting accurate statistics, particularly placement statistics, for the assessment regime that U.S. News operates. I am designating Dean Kulwin as the appropriate person for you to address emails or even good old paper messages with suggestions. Or you can contact your LSA President. Sarah Asplin has never been shy about letting me know what is on her and your mind.
Together we can survive this, keep this one event in its appropriate place, and work to make King Hall as good as it can possibly be. The rankings will follow, I am confident.