Law school jumps to 22nd

The GW Law School bounced up three spots to 22nd in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, released earlier this month. Law school officials attribute the jump from last year mainly to an increase in applicants and a rise in LSAT scores.

The Law School’s ranking marks an improvement over last year, when it fell from 23rd to 25th in U.S. News’ annual graduate school rankings. This year GW shares the 22nd spot with Boston College and Notre Dame. Yale University claimed the top spot, repeating its performance in last year’s listing.

“While we are pleased to be ranked higher this year, we do not expect it to have any significant impact on the Law School,” said Ronald Trangsrud, senior associate vice president for academic affairs at the Law School.

This year the school received more than 11,400 applications, about 25 applicants for every seat in the entering class, Trangsrud said.

This year is also the fourth year in a row that the average LSAT score of the entering class rose by a full point, to 165 out of a possible 180, Trangsrud said.

“For the last three years the LSAT scores of our entering class have moved upward and we expect that trend to continue again this year,” he said, noting that GW is in the top percentile for number of applications received.

In addition to its overall ranking, the Law School’s environmental and international law programs were both ranked sixth in their categories, while the intellectual property law program was ranked second in the nation.

Trangsrud criticized the U.S. News ranking system, calling it “methodologically flawed and based upon an arbitrary mix of inputs, outputs and self-reported data.”

The formula used to determine rankings considers peer assessments, assessments by lawyers and judges, undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores of the entering class, acceptance rate, student/faculty ratio, employment rates after graduation and bar exam passage rates.

“For example, we have one of the very best teaching faculties of any major law school in the country,” Law School Dean Michael Young said, noting this factor is left out of the rankings formula.

The Law School also ranked 18th in diversity of the student population.

Young said GW is ahead of other institutions in terms of African American diversity, while most other schools were ranked higher because of their percentage of Asian American students. African American students comprise 13 percent of the law student population.

“There’s definitely a very diverse student body here,” said first-year law student Myra Jen. “That’s one of the reasons you come to a school like GW. They should take pride in the diversity of their students.”

While Young said the Law School is deserving of the ranking, the listing is useful for another reason as well.

“You can learn from your peer institutions about ways in which the various arrangements of the law school, physical and otherwise, can be better deployed to improve the quality of the legal education offered,” he said.

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