Awaiting an expanded home in Stuart and Lisner halls, the GW Law School improved upon its student and teaching quality this year after receiving a $1.5 million budget increase from the University.
Considered among “top (University) priorities” by Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman, the school spent the bulk of the funds on four full-time and eight visiting professors. The new professors come with expertise in campaign finance, international e-commerce, voting and Chinese law.
“Our main goal is to hire more faculty so that we can continue to expand the program,” Young said.
Lehman said the law school will continue to focus on maintaining the high quality of education it offers and raising it to an even higher level this year.
“For the entering class in the fall of 2001, one of the goals of the Law School was to have improved LSAT and GPA statistics,” he said. “This goal was met since the median LSAT rose from 162 to 163 and the median GPA rose from 3.43 to 3.47.”
The new goal for next year is a median LSAT score above 164 and a GPA greater than 3.5, he said.
Although the number of applications rose from 8,500 last year to 10,700 this year, the school accepted the same number of students – 2,000 – as last year, Young said.
More students also applied this year because of GW’s heightened standards of excellence, Young said.
“The quality of the faculty and the education is increasingly known to all prospective law students,” he said. “These young adults find it exhilarating to study law at the nation’s capital.”
Most students said D.C. and GW’s reputation, despite its ranking drop from 23 to 25 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2003 Law School rankings, influenced their decisions to attend.
First-year law student Rahul Rao said that although schools in rural areas might be ranked higher than GW, he was attracted to the University because of potential job opportunities in the District after graduation.
Most law students said ranking is not important as long as GW can hold a spot close to the top.
“The top 25 is generally the cut-off (for good schools),” second-year law student Eric Marsteller said. “As long as we stay in the top 25, we’re fine.”
“If we were to fall out of the top tier it would be hard to get a job,” first-year law student Shanna Singh said.
Some other students said they do not think about rankings, but focus instead on class and faculty quality.
“I think we should focus more on education, and if that gets us into the top 20, that’s (a positive thing),” third-year law student Molly Bupp said.
The number of GW students who pass the bar exam is 10 percent above the national average, and most graduates accept jobs with the government or law firms with an average starting salary of $67,000 to $97,000, Young said.
Young called the school’s No. 25 spot an “under-ranking.”
He said being in the top 20 is not a priority for the school, but it would be a “nice accomplishment.”
Lehman said that although ranking occurs “solely from objective data, it does tell a story.”
“One or two placements different from the previous year is of no concern.however, I certainly would not like to see the Law School drop out of the top 25,” he said. “Being in the top 20 Law Schools would be a significant measure of improvement.”
After the academic portion of the 1957 E St. building opens next semester, the Law School will take over the Elliott School of International Affairs’ current facilities, Lisner and Stuart halls. Classes are scheduled to begin in the new location this spring.
-Julie Gordon contributed to this report.