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Law School News: Rankings For Third Tier Schools; UC Irvine's Star

The Careerist

January 18, 2011

Here's the latest law school news from The National Law Journal:

U.S. News & World Report is considering providing individual rankings for law schools that it categorizes as third-tier, Karen Sloan reports. U.S. News research director Robert Morse told legal educators during the the recent Association of American Law Schools annual meeting that he is considering extending the numerical rankings in the new edition, which is due on March 15. U.S. News now provides numerical rankings for the top 100 law schools, but combines the remaining schools into third and fourth tiers.Diploma_graduate_book300

Several deans at third-tier law schools told Sloan that expanding the numerical rankings either would not make a huge difference or would be a benefit. "It's not a big event," says Bryant Garth, dean of Southwestern Law School, which is in the third tier. "Everybody suffers from the fact that there can be huge swings in the rankings year to year, which are meaningless. It will magnify the importance of your particular number, which the top 100 schools already have to deal with."

It may be too young  for approval by the American Bar Association, yet alone a U.S. News & World Report ranking, but the two-year-old University of California, Irvine School of Law has made a couple of high-profile hires, bringing on Robert Solomon, director of clinical studies at Yale Law School, and Katherine Porter, an expert in bankruptcy and consumer credit, who is a faculty member at the University of Iowa College of Law and who is teaching at Harvard Law School.

Sloan reports that it's a particular coup to get Solomon, who has taught at Yale since 1985 and oversees its large and successful network of legal clinics. Solomon became excited about the prospect of starting a community and economic development clinic at Irvine after meeting with the school's faculty and administration. "I was totally overwhelmed by the notion that all these talented people have banded together to take a leap of faith to try to change the future of legal education," he said.

Porter said a big influence on her decision to join Irvine is the diversity of the faculty. "I'm a young woman, and on the faculty at Irvine I won't be one of only a few young women. The diversity of that faculty is remarkable, and I find that appealing."

Another article by Sloan also highlights some of the current issues surrounding tenure at law schools.

A recent study gets at the question of whether law school professors feel the tenure process is fair. Sloan reports (article free with registration) that according to a study underwritten by the American Bar Foundation and the Law School Admission Council, titled "Is It Fair? Law Professors' Perceptions of Tenure," just about three-quarters of the tenured law professors who were surveyed--76 percent--said the process is fair.

However, the numbers drop when they are broken down by gender and race. Of women, 63 percent reported that the tenure process is fair. Of minorities, 65 percent said that it it fair, as did 54 percent of minority women. The figure for whites was 77 percent.

And among the unsurprising results, much lower percentages of all of the law school professors surveyed said they found the tenure process rewarding. Among men, 27 percent said it was rewarding, while 21 percent of women did.

 Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com, or deputy blogger Audree Wong at awong@alm.com.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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