Winners & Losers In U.S. News' 2015 Ranking

Penn State Law School

Penn State Law School

In 2014, Dean Blake Morant left Wake Forest Law for the same role at George Washington Law. Looking back, maybe Morant was wise to get ahead of the posse, as Wake Forest tumbled 16 spots to 47th. While Wake Forest may be the most recognizable dud in this year’s rankings, Penn State’s Dickinson Law would be a close second, falling 20 spots to 71st. Talk about a rags-to-riches story, with Dickinson rising from 76th in 2013 to 51st in 2015. And the main culprit behind this fall – as it often is – was nine-month placement (which accounts for 20% of a school’s rank). Here, Penn State dropped from 64.9% to 52.3% in just one year. In addition, the school slipped slightly in survey assessments from academics (from 2.4 to 2.2) and practitioners (from 3.2 to 3.1). While Dickinson produced a dazzling 94.3% bar passage rate (just 2.1% behind Penn, which is ranked 64 spots ahead of them), this strength simply couldn’t offset the other deficits.
Lewis & Clark was another disappointment. Long known for offering the top-ranked environment law program, the school has also dropped 30 spots in the past six years, bottoming out at 94th in 2016. Despite survey marks from academics and practitioners that belie its low ranking, Lewis & Clark was tripped up by a low placement rate (66%), a middling bar passage rate (81.2%), and an overly-generous acceptance rate (66.9%).
Like Lewis & Clark, Louisiana State’s Paul Hebert Law Center also plummeted 22 spots. Other big declines were experienced by the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville (-14), Yeshiva University (-11), West Virginia (-11), Loyola University of Chicago (-10), and the University of Tulsa (-10).
University of Missouri School of Law

University of Missouri School of Law

For years, the University of Missouri (Columbia) had been gathering momentum in the U.S. News rankings. Ranked 93rd just six years ago, the school has clawed its away up to 59th (up five spots from the previous year). It’s solid across the board. With Missouri, no numbers stick out for the good or bad (though a 93.3% bar passage would be welcome in many top-20 programs). Instead, its data remains slightly above average, which gives it room to rise even higher. Like Missouri, the University of Nebraska also ranked 93rd in 2011. It has since bobbed-and-weaved its way to 56th. However, this represents a two spot drop from 2015 (with the main culprit being a 51.6% nine-month placement rate). Like Missouri, University of Richmond Law has soared in the past six years, jumping 34 spots to 52. Richmond too is hamstrung by a languid placement rate (52.1%).
Other big gainers in recent years include Temple Law (+19) the University of Alabama (+16), the University of Buffalo (+14), the University of Denver (+13), and Arizona State (+12).
On the opposite end, the University of Cincinnati, which has fallen from 56th to 82nd since 2011, is a school to monitor closely. Only able to place barely a third of its graduates (36.2%), the school has seemingly resorted to accepting nearly all comers with a 59.8% acceptance rate. With its relatively small enrollment (293) for an urban school, one wonders if Cincinnati could eventually become a merger target. Other schools that have experienced major drops in the U.S. News rankings over the past six years include: Yeshiva University (-23), American University (-23), University of Illinois (-20), Villanova University (-20), University of California-Hastings (-17), University of San Diego (-15), Louisiana State (-14), and Boston College (-10). On the plus side, the University of San Diego, Loyola Marymount, and Villanova each rose six or more spots in the 2016 rankings.
(See the following page for the actual rankings and six year trends)
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