GW Law reclaims top 20 ranking

Correction appended

The GW Law School jumped eight spots in the 2011 U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best law schools in the country, propelling the school back into the nation’s top 20.

The jump, announced late last Wednesday night, erases a deficit generated after the school fell eight spots last year to No. 28. Law school Dean Frederick Lawrence attributed much of the drop last April to a change in the way the rankings were calculated, but said last week that this year’s rank brings the school back in line with its previous rankings.

“Last year is old news,” Lawrence said. “They changed methodology, and we were able to respond to that. We are where we always have been.”

Last year’s methodology change was somewhat controversial, as the new rankings formula combined admissions data for part-time and full-time students. In years past, the rankings only included data for full-time students, and Lawrence said last year that it was this change that caused the biggest blow to the program.

This year, the rankings once again separated part-time and full-time programs. GW’s part-time law program ranked second, behind Georgetown.

Lawrence called this year’s rankings a “restoration” rather than a jump, saying the drop last year was an anomaly.

“This latest U.S. News ranking is highly consistent with our U.S. News rankings over the past half-decade,” Lawrence said. The school was ranked 22nd in the 2008 rankings, 19th in 2007, and 20th in 2005 and 2006.

Lawrence said, however, he does not focus on the change in the school’s rank, adding that the rank of a law school is not the most important thing for students to consider when deciding which school to attend.

“I think you don’t want to make much about rankings,” Lawrence said. “What makes a school is not rankings, but the quality of the rankings and the quality of students and faculty.”

Nick Rajabzadeh, a first-year GW law student, said he is glad to see GW back in the top 20.

“I was very excited to see that GW jumped in the rankings,” Rajabzadeh said. “One of the reasons I originally chose to go to GW law was that it was so [highly] ranked. A lot of people were understandably ticked off when GW dropped several places in the rankings within a month or so of arriving here, and to be back in the top 20 is a pleasant surprise.”

Although third-year law student Ben Grillot said he did not attend GW because of its rank, he said he is glad the school is back in the top 20.

“We’re back where we should be,” Grillot said. “I think it was an aberration.”

First-year law student Robert Platt said the change in rankings will help students looking for jobs in areas far away from the East Coast.

“Everyone around here knows that GW is a great program – so going from 28 to 20 won’t make a huge difference,” Platt said. “It really only matters if you want to get a job on the West Coast, or far outside the D.C. area.”

Other graduate schools in the University either kept their spot in the publication’s graduate school rankings, or saw a slight jump.

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development jumped one spot to 31. GW’s graduate program for political science kept its spot at 39, sharing the slot with Georgetown and Johns Hopkins University.

The School of Business kept its spot at No. 55. Last year, the school saw a significant jump in the ranking from No. 67 to No. 55.

Matt Rist contributed to this report.

The article has been revised to reflect the following correction (April 19, 2010).

The article originally quoted Ben Grillot as saying “I think it was an arbitration.” The quote has been corrected.

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