Despite recent gains that saw USD Law rise 26 spots in the past two editions of the US News Law School Rankings, the 2012 numbers weren’t as kind, as the school dropped to #67, from it’s all-time high of #56. USD’s part-time program fell slightly from 10th to 12th, and it’s tax law specialty ranking fell out of the top-10. Perhaps it’s all my fault, as I wasn’t paying attention to this year’s release date, so I couldn’t participate in helping leak the rankings as I did the previous two years. Seems like a reasonable explanation! I didn’t expect that the 2012 rankings would be released a full month earlier this time around. At this pace, the 2013 rankings will be released in December, 2011! Well, at least I don’t feel obligated to post screen shots or go through a thorough analysis this year, but I will list the biggest risers and fallers from the 2011 rankings.
Biggest gainers are: Indiana-Bloomington (23rd from 27th), UC Davis (23rd from 28th), Washington (30th from 34th), Washington & Lee (30th from 34th), Maryland (42nd from 48th), Florida State (50th from 54th – Tier Change), Baylor (56th from 64th), Penn State (6oth from 72nd), Illinois Institute of Technology (61st from 80th), Seton Hall (61st from 72nd), Temple (61st from 72nd), Richmond (67th from 86th), Northeastern (71st from 86th), Catholic (79th from 98th), DePaul (84th from 98th), Santa Clara (84th from 93rd), Buffalo-SUNY (84th from Tier 3), Nebraska (84th from 93rd), Marquette (95th from Tier 3), Michigan State (95th from Tier 3), and Louisville (100th from Tier 3).
Biggest fallers are: Emory (30th from 22nd), Georgia (35th from 28th), Wisconsin (35th from 28th), Colorado (47th from 38th), USD, Miami (77th from 60th), Kansas (79th from 67th), New Mexico (79th from 67th), Villanova (84th from 67th), St. John’s (95th from 72nd), Hawaii (95th from 72nd), Syracuse (100th from 86th), Chapman (Tier 3 from 93rd), Missouri-Columbia (Tier 3 from 93rd), and William Mitchell (Tier 3 from 98th).
So, USD Law’s 11-rank fall isn’t the worst of the bunch, but it’s still notable, and 67th is noticeably behind both Pepperdine and Loyola (both at 54). I don’t have the full rankings, so I can’t compare numbers and try to guess what caused USD’s drop, but recent lackluster Bar performances surely don’t help. The US News rankings are pretty arbitrary once you get into Tier 2 territory, as many schools are tied, and a 1-2 point drop in a school’s raw score can send it falling by double-digits in the rankings. This arbitrariness is clearly demonstrated by USD’s recent rankings, as the school has been in the 80′s, 50′s, and points in between.
As far as other California schools are concerned, Davis sure looks impressive at 23rd. I remember when Davis and Hastings were comparable rankings-wise, but Davis now has a 19-rank advantage on it’s UC counterpart. Also, poor Chapman just couldn’t hang onto it’s surprising Tier-2 rank from a year ago, falling to 104th. Hopefully we’ll see them up there again in coming years. (It’s interesting to note that US News is now ranking Tier 3 schools individually, so now a school like the University of New Hampshire can say, “We’re the 143rd-best law school in the country!” Perhaps they won’t say that.) Alas, fellow San Diego schools Cal Western and Thomas Jefferson are still Tier 4 schools, with no published ranks.
That’s about all I have for now. If I find out anymore interesting details about the rankings, I’ll update this post. I still highly recommend a legal education at USD, no matter where the rankings roulette ball may fall each spring! (I mean, late winter.)
Update: I feel a little better now about my lack of attentiveness to the rankings this year. Dan Filler at the Faculty Lounge states: “The most surprising thing about this year’s U.S. News law school rankings is that the magazine (if you can properly call it that) managed to embargo the list right up until its release on the web. They did so by deferring sale of the hard copy version of the rankings until April 5 – thus denying thieves, snoops and other crafty characters a chance to score a photocopy of the new rankings prior to the moment of formal release.” For the record, I consider myself to the third type of person in that group!