“Beware the Ides of March.”
Remember that warning to Julius Caesar? Well, everyone knows how that story played out. At law schools, you’ll find a similar dread settling over deans come mid-March. That’s when U.S. News releases its annual rankings. Climb a few spots and your dean will be hailed as successful, even visionary. Lose ground and your school is set for a year of soul-searching, as faculty second guess and alumni grumble.
With so much on the line, rankings naturally produce winners and losers. Boston University and the University of Iowa, which each vaulted into the Top 20, were clear winners in the 2017 U.S. News Best Law Schools ranking. Considering the overall rise in index scores among the T14 schools, any school retaining a Top 10 ranking should be deemed a winner as well. However, spring can be a cruel season. Just ask Duke Law, which slid from 8th to 11th, costing it some shine among prospective students. And Brooklyn Law plummeted 19 spots in the 2017 rankings – and 32 spots total in the past five years.
Which schools earned bragging rights? And which ones are heading back to the drawing board? Here is Tipping the Scale’s list of the schools that gained and lost the most from this year’s rankings.
The Big Winners
University of Indiana: Some joke that Maurer might not even be the best law school in Indiana, particularly with its Indianapolis cousin holding the high ground among political and judicial alumni. However, Maurer vaulted nine spots into the Top 25, buoyed by a 9% boost in placement coupled with reining in the acceptance rate from 61.9% to 53.1% (without sacrificing incoming LSAT and undergraduate GPA numbers, no less). Oh…and Maurer now ranks 75 spots above McKinney, ending any debate on which program really belongs at the kiddie table.
University of Cincinnati: The alma mater of William Howard Taft, Cincinnati made the biggest move in this year’s ranking, skyrocketing 22 spots to 60th overall. Most noticeably, the school’s placement rate jumped from 64.3% to 82.4%, with students earning a median of $91,500 to start.
University of Houston Law Center: Forget “Houston, we have a problem.” This year, Houston scampered up nine spots to sneak into the Top 50 for the first time in four years. What was their secret? For one, they boosted the undergraduate GPAs of their incoming class (from the 3.21-3.62 to the 3.29-3.72 range) while holding LSAT scores steady. Simultaneously, the school lowered its acceptance rate (from 42.2% to 38.3%) and boosted its placement (from 75.2% to 83.6%). Those may not be eye-popping numbers, but they’re solid metrics that the school can use to lure better applicants (and maybe even some extra donor dollars).
Wake Forest: Last year, Wake Forest fell from 16 spots from 31st to 47th (after the departure of Dean Blake Morant). Two years ago, Washington & Lee crumbled in a similar fashion, going from 26th to 43rd. The difference between the two schools: Wake Forest has already started to recover. It regained seven spots to reach 40th, thanks in part to higher placement (up to 83.4% from 76.9%) and an assessment score (3.5) from judges and lawyers that either equaled or beat out scores given to higher-ranked programs like Ohio State and Brigham Young. And having a dean in place – Suzanne Reynolds – can’t hurt either.