Law School ranking drops

Administrators and students said the GW Law School’s drop from 23rd to 25th in the U.S. News and World Report rankings was not significant and attributed the change to minimal changes implemented by other law schools.

“Because the law schools around us in the rankings are very tightly bunched together, the slightest change in any factor … could account for this small movement,” said Roger Trangsrud, a senior associate dean for academic affairs and Law School professor.

GW is tied for 25th with Boston University and Washington University in St. Louis, and the Universities of Illinois, Washington and Wisconsin-Madison.

Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and New York universities hold the top five rankings.

Students said they are not concerned with the drop.

“It doesn’t concern me that much, because I understand that rankings aren’t accurate gauges of how a school really is,” said Mikhia Hawkins, a first-year Law School student. ” It would be nice to have a higher ranking, however I think our reputation speaks for itself.”

The average LSAT score for this year’s entering class was between 160 and 164

“I don’t think it’s a deterrent for prospective applicants, and therefore I am not that worried about (the rank),” first year student Joyanna Smith said.

Trangsrud said he thinks the methodology of measuring the schools is flawed, arguing that schools of such different caliber cannot be compared on one scale.

“Law schools are very different from one another and should be. Some are publicly funded; some private,” Transgrud said in an email. “Some are large and some tiny. Some are in urban areas and others in the boonies.”

The rankings take into account LSAT scores, undergraduate GPAs, acceptance rates, employment rates, bar passage rates, student-to-faculty ratios, spending per student and the total number of library volumes and titles, according to U.S. News “2003 Best Graduate Schools” guide.

Trangsrud said he is concerned that U.S. News “completely ignores” the quality of teaching at schools.

“For law students, quality of teaching at a law school is obviously a very important factor … U.S. News and World Report admits that this is true but does not assess this factor at all because it doesn’t know how to do it,” he said.

According to Trangsrud, the Law School is working toward “real, tangible and substantive improvements,” whether it will affect the ratings or not.

“We are striving every year to increase the quality of the students entering the law school, to hire the best teachers and scholars for the faculty, to improve the administrative services available to students and faculty and to improve the physical plant where we all work and study,” he said.

He noted that the recent construction of new Law School facilities will not affect ranking because a school’s physical appearance and quality of facilities are not among the factors considered by U.S. News.

The Law School is currently undertaking an expansion project that includes a new facility opened last month and will eventually allow the Law School to expand into Stuart and Lisner halls when the Elliott School of International Affairs offices move to a building under construction at 1957 E St.

U.S. News also ranks law schools according to the racial diversity of its student body. GW is ranked ninth in diversity out of 76 schools. On a diversity index, GW is listed as a .51 on a 1.0 scale making school diversity. GW’s largest minority group, African Americans, comprise 13 percent of the student body.

“That’s something that’s not unexpected, because I actually came to GW because of their diversity,” said Smith, who received her undergraduate education from Brown University, on the ranking.

The diversity data, drawn from each school’s 2001-02 student body, does not include international students. Queens College, a City University of New York, is ranked first with .62 on the index, racially diverse with 17 percent African-American students.

Faculty members who teach in selected fields nominated their top choices for law schools that specialize in specific programs. Under this category, GW ranked second in intellectual property law, sixth in international law and ninth in environmental law.

Students were not surprised by these high marks.

“GW is a great school, and the fact that it’s ranked in the top 10 for all of these specialties indicates that,” Hawkins said.

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