Dean's Blog - Rankings

Dean's Blog - Rankings

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Dean Donald Lewis


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I have some tough news and some good news to share with you this morning; the US News rankings were released today.  The bad news is that Hamline, once again, is in the Fourth Tier, William Mitchell has moved up to the Third Tier, St. Thomas is there also, and the University of Minnesota has moved up a couple of notches to number 20 nation-wide.  We don't have access yet to all of the backroom data, including some of the financial information that factored into the formula, but I want to invite you to look closely at the published report and also look at some of the data that has been published online because in some important categories in the published data, Hamline has improved from last year and has scored better than our competitor schools.  Let me give you a couple of examples: in the Peer Assessment Scores (these are the judgments of deans around the country and judgments of selected faculty) Hamline scored a 2.0 compared to William Mitchell's 1.9 and St. Thomas's 1.9.  Similarly, in the judgment of selected judges and lawyers from around the country, Hamline's score was 2.4 compared to Mitchell's 2.3.  In the criteria of Selectivity of Admissions, Hamline scored 48% compared to Mitchell's 57% acceptance rate.  And in the all-important Student:Teacher Ratio category (number of students per single faculty member) Hamline was at 15.4 compared to Mitchell's 21.9 and St. Thomas's 17.6, again confirming our student-centered learning environment here at Hamline.

Now the very good news- we continue to congratulate the Dispute Resolution Institute for its excellent number for ranking nation-wide.  And the other good news is that the Health Law Institute is now nationally ranked within the top 20 Health Law Programs.  This is a fantastic achievement after only 3 years of existence- to be just a couple of notches below Harvard and ahead of even Stanford.

Where do we lag behind?  Well in the Admissions indicators, Mitchell had stronger GPAs and LSAT scores for its entering class.  In the Job Placement area, Mitchell boasted a 96.5% employment after 9 months after graduation versus our very strong 91.6% for Hamline.  Mitchell also ranked significantly higher in US News first ranking of part-time programs.  Now there may be other criteria influencing rankings that weren't published today, one example might be Expenditures Per Student.  That's data that will become available to us later.

Now we often quarrel with the US News rankings and question their methodology.  For today, let's acknowledge that we were pleased last year when we were up in the Third Tier and that we were disappointed today to find ourselves in the Fourth Tier.  And acknowledge that, after all, the rankings provide a useful, although incomplete and imperfect yard stick for some, and it might influence applicants unduly.  But the usefulness is very limited; I practiced law for 30 years, 20 in private practice in large law firms in Minneapolis.  I didn't even know about the US News rankings until I became involved with the law school community 2 or 3 years ago.  Of course I had always had my own judgments about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Twin Cities law schools, but I never judged a job applicant simply by what US News told me.

So tomorrow let's get over it and move forward.  The rankings are nowhere close to a measure of our success and progress as a law school.  Our published scholarship continues to raise Hamline's national and international profile.  We still excel in providing a practice-focused legal training in a student-centered culture within a well-respected university.  Our faculty continue to remain passionate about their teaching, about their writing, about their service.  Perhaps we should market and brag about it a little bit more, but if we continue to focus on the good work that we were doing, improved rankings will follow.  And that's the key message I want to leave with you today.


Posted by Zoe Miron at 08/25/2010 11:34:45 AM