What Deans Say About The Rankings

Dean Ken Gormley, Duquesne Law School

Dean Ken Gormley, Duquesne Law School

Dean Ken Gormley, Duquesne Law School (Ranked #121)
We made a conscious decision, with the strong support of the university, that we weren’t going to sacrifice our high standards just to fill seats. That has financial ramifications, but we stuck to our guns and decided to stay focused on our mission of developing educated, ethical lawyers.”
“But I think in most cases, [students] are sophisticated enough to figure out much of [the rankings] is a PR tool. Most professional schools’ reputations, unless you’re Harvard or Yale, are regional. But [the rankings] do contribute to developing an image both regionally and nationally.”
Our Take: Sure, it is holier-than-thou and the appeal to student wisdom is transparently self-serving. Still, you have to credit Gormley for hammering home this same message in subsequent interviews. Consistency is a virtue.
Dean Davison Douglas, College of William & Mary Law (Rose 9 Spots)
“[The rise] confirms what we already know: that William & Mary Law School continues to make impressive strides forward with its terrific new faculty hires, highly accomplished students and alumni, and an increasingly rich array of educational opportunities such as legal clinics and externships.”
Our Take: When your performance jumps from #33 to #24, you get a free pass. In this case, the school also takes pains to tout new faculty and increased capabilities. Top 20, here we come!
Dean Marc Milhaly, Vermont Law School, (Ranked #129)
We are extremely proud and humbled by this ranking as the number one school for environmental law. I applaud our faculty, students, staff, and alumni who use the power of the law to make a difference in their communities and the world. This ranking reflects their unwavering commitment.”
Our Take: PR 101: Play to your strengths, appeal to grand sentiments, and never (ever) leave anyone out of the accolades. And be sure to check out Associate Dean Melissa Scanlan’s laundry list of environmental programs in her statement. You know what they say: “If you throw enough slop against the wall, something is bound to stick.”
Shawn D. McShay, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Washington & Lee (Fell 17 spots)
Shawn D. McShay, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Washington & Lee

Shawn D. McShay, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Washington & Lee

“Since the U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools were first released in 1987 … W&L Law has had an average ranking of 23rd nationally, ranging from a high of 18 to a low of 34. The most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings have placed W&L Law far below our historic national average ranking …
And yet, all of the qualities that make W&L Law a wonderful law school—for example, the welcoming learning environment that comes with our small class size—remain the same. As rankings may fluctuate from year to year, W&L will continue to offer a legal education that is innovative and personalized. The small student-to-faculty ratio supports small class sizes, as well as independent study opportunities, tutorials, seminars, and small practicum courses and facilitates direct dialogue and one-on-one meetings between the faculty and students …
Over the last year and a half, we have taken steps to offer new initiatives and programs not available to prior graduating classes. These efforts include stronger bar preparation support, externship and interview programs in Washington, D.C., a more robust post-graduate fellowship program, changes in our approach to the employment market, and new leadership in our career planning office.”
Our Take: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” That’s Washington & Lee’s core message. In reality, what else could they say about the wizard in the room? They’re better off reminding students why they chose the school and the steps they’re taking to regain their Top 30 status. That said, you have to wonder why the school trotted out an assistant dean, not Dean Nora Demleitner, to handle the dirty work.
Dean Rebecca Hanner White, University of Georgia (Rose 4 spots)
The law school continues to focus not on rankings but on providing an outstanding legal education for the next generation of lawyers. We are pleased to offer a wide range of civil and criminal experiential learning opportunities–now totaling 14–in addition to strong co-curricular programs including moot court and mock trial. Earlier this year, Georgia Law teams brought home the top trophy in our country’s oldest and most prestigious moot court competition and in the invitation-only ‘best of the best’ moot court tournament–the National Moot Court Competition and the Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Competition, respectively. Further demonstrating the quality of education provided by Georgia Law is the fact that six Georgia Law alumni in the last nine years have served in U.S. Supreme Court judicial clerkships, which are widely considered the most selective and impressive positions that recent graduates can obtain.”
Our Take: Never miss an opportunity to rattle off accomplishments. Too bad her readers dozed off by the third one.

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