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Dean Lewis Responds to Recent U.S. News & World Report Rankings

dean

 Dear Alumni

The U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate schools were released last Thursday, leaving us with cause for both celebration and disappointment.

First, the good news. Our Dispute Resolution Institute continued its excellent No. 4 ranking for alternative dispute resolution programs nation-wide. Moreover, our Health Law Institute is now nationally ranked within the top 20 health care law programs. It is a fantastic achievement for HLI to be ranked just a couple of notches below Harvard and ahead of even Stanford after only three years in place. We congratulate and thank Jim Coben and Cindy Jesson, the respective institute directors, and their teams for their impressive showings in the rankings.

Now the tough news: Hamline is once again in the fourth tier overall. (William Mitchell has move up to the third tier, where St. Thomas also resides, and the University of Minnesota has moved up a couple of notches to No. 20 nation-wide.)

We don't have access yet to all of the backroom data, including per student expenditure data, that factored into the formula, but I want to invite you to look closely at the published report and also to look at some of the data that has been published online. You'll see that in some important categories in the published data, Hamline has improved from last year and has scored better than our competitor schools.

Here are a couple of examples. In the peer assessment scores--the judgments of deans and selected faculty from around the country--Hamline scored a 2.0 compared to William Mitchell's 1.9 and St. Thomas' 1.9. Similarly, in the judgment of a sample of judges and lawyers nation-wide, Hamline's score was 2.4 compared to Mitchell's 2.3. In the criteria of selectivity of admissions, Hamline scored 48 percent compared to Mitchell's 57 percent acceptance rate. And in the all-important student-to-teacher ratio category, Hamline was at 15.4 compared to 21.9 at Mitchell and 17.6 at St. Thomas, comfirming the foundation of our law school's student-centered learning environment.

Where do we lag behind? In the admissions indicators, Mitchell had stronger GPAs and LSAT scores for its entering class. This may be due, in large part, to the inclusion for the first time of part-time students in the computations for this category. With respect to job placement, Mitchell boasted 96.5 percent employment nine months after graduation versus a strong 91.6 percent for Hamline. Mitchell also ranked significantly higher in U.S. News' first ranking of part-time programs.

We often quarrel with the U.S. News rankings and question their methodology. For today, we acknowledge that we were pleased last year when we were up in the third tier and that we are now disappointed to find ourselves in the fourth tier. Despite their many faults and questionable validity, the rankings provide a useful yardstick for some and often influence applicants, albeit unduly.

However, the U.S. News rankings are no where 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 are doing, improved rankings will follow.

For your part as alumni, please continue to support your law school alma mater: by spreading the word about our accomplishments locally and nationally: by finding employment opportunities for our students and graduates; by actively participating in law school events; and by investing financially in our future with an annual gift. Our best work is ahead of us.

Weekly video blog posts from Dean Donald Lewis about all things Hamline can be found on the Law School's website homepage.