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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pick Your Poison, Fellow Patrons

The U.S. News & World Reports Law School Rankings are out! So who's buying???

Everyone is drinking something, though it is definitely more apparent with some than others . . .

Here at Texas Tech, our rankings regarding Trial Advocacy and Legal Writing -- which place us 14th and 23rd in the nation, respectively -- are being touted as a victory for the recognition of our school.

And yet, sadly, we have actually fallen a couple rungs down the Tier 3 ladder.

Being unsure of what exactly this all symbolizes, I've chosen to defer to you . . .

Either that or I just am far too indecisive to decide myself, but here are four possible thoughts:

1. Remember -- Law Schools are run by Egos, stocked with Egos, and supported by Egos. (Present company included, of course). And, though most deny it, Egos actually read the U.S. News & World Reports.

2. It is a sad commentary on the legal profession that a school which ranks so high in trial ad and legal writing -- two areas absolutely essential to the successful advocacy of your client -- can yet still be ranked so low . . . based on what? The publications of the faculty? Or the quality of the journal(s)?

3. Or, perhaps, it is a sad commentary on this school that, though it ranks 14th and 23rd in trial ad and legal writing, other aspects of the school are so poor that it can't be ranked any higher.

4. Or, finally, the Dean might be right. Maybe it is just a demonstration that regionally we're being recognized for our strengths . . . but on a national scale we are yet an "unknown" still "making our way in the world today" and, by God, its going to take everything we got!

All of the above could be correct. Though I do have a qualm with #4 . . . if regional recognition is enough to push those particular two programs to the top of the rankings, how come these same regional actors aren't also pushing the school as a whole up to at least the cusp of Tier 2?

Allow me to point out -- I don't intend to demean my school. On the contrary, I was accepted to and offered partial scholarships to schools ranked much much higher.

I came to Texas Tech because nothing offered elsewhere could beat free.

And I do not regret my decision. I do think this is a great school.

But there is a problem, of which the faculty and administration are aware. Isn't that the point of drafting a Strategic Planning Committee? Isn't that the point of desiring growth, development, and change?

But obviously strength in Trial Ad and Legal Writing is not going to make Texas Tech School of Law a formidable school. It will make good lawyers, but it won't make a nationally-recognized school.

There are areas screaming for improvement, areas in which we apparently are completely unwilling to budge from the traditional "maintain the status quo" mantra.

There is so much more I could possibly say on this topic, but this blawg is likely not the proper forum for such criticism.

Let me just end with this:

I watched A Bug's Life again over the weekend and I can't help but think of a line spoken by the Queen Ant in the movie . . .

"That is just the way it is. The ants pick the food; the grasshoppers eat the food. That is just our lot in life. It isn't a lot, but its our life . . ."
Visionaries can recognize the good, and yet still view the possibility of there being something better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there Mr. Misery,

One of us does not understand the US News & World Report Rankings. If it is me, feel free to correct. If it is you, you might want to revise the post.

As I understand it, the top 100 law schools are ranked through the first two tiers. After that, the remaining law schools are placed in either the third or fourth tier (essentially ranked, of course), but they are listed alphabetically. I've been told that this is an effort not to further beat down the already downtrodden by providing an actual "worst ABA accredited law school in America." So, if I'm correct, what you believe to be a slip in Tech's ranking is really just a function of more Tier 3 schools starting with the letters A through S this year than did last year.

I hope I am correct for two reasons. First, it provides optimism as Tech might actually be on the "cusp of Tier 2." And second, because it means that you've failed to grasp the rankings system, which might lead you to use only two "much"'s in your next description of the degree in which the quality of the other law schools that you were accepted to exceed the quality of the one that you actually attend--for someone that likes to rip on egos, you appear to have a little one yourself. Sorry, I just had to call you out on that one.

And just so your readers know, I'm a Tech Law 3L that is visiting at UT Law this academic year and I can honestly say that I received a better legal education in my first two years at Tech than I have this year at UT--I could go on about the pros/cons of each school for pages. It is unfortunate that the rankings are of such great importance to so many people.

Kevin Flahive

4/11/2006 6:22 PM  
Blogger Moonlighting in Misery said...


Thank you for the comment and the correction. I think you are basically correct about the fact that Tier 3 and Tier 4 schools are not numerically ranked.

However, each school does still receive the peer/professional ratings that can be compared.

I don't feel like shelling out any money on a US News to do the comparing . . .

If I remember correctly, however, a couple of years ago Tech Law was ranked at about 114.

But I don't believe this negates the overall point I was attempting to make --

Obviously there is SOME problem if we can be ranked that high on Trial Ad and Legal Writing and yet still having such trouble breaking into Tier Two.

I believe it is both a combination of the rankings system and attitude.

I don't fault either the administration or the faculty . . .

From my perception, they've both done great jobs. As I said before, i don't believe this is the forum for fully expressing what I view the problems to be . . .

But if you'd like to e-mail me, I'd be more than happy to share.

4/11/2006 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right—this blog is not the place to air one’s grievances about the way the law school is operated. But I think your statement that the law school’s current rank, whatever it is exactly, is a combination of the ranking system and attitude is correct. Of course, that begs the question: Should the administration’s focus be on improving the educational experience of its students; or should it be on improving the institution’s ranking? In my opinion, these two goals often lead to divergent policy decisions (i.e., grading scale and curve; disclosure of class rank or class quartile to employers; faculty recruitment; etc.).

4/11/2006 8:15 PM  
Blogger Moonlighting in Misery said...

Allow me to reiterate . . .


In fact, when talking to faculty members of the Strategic Planning Committee I get the impression the Administration is truly dedicated to expanding the school.

But I am of the opinion that if you improve the rank and recognition of the school, you improve the educational experience of the students.

An important aspect of the "educational experience" is what job opportunities are available for a student graduating from that institution. Rank and recognition affect that.

Furthermore, rank and recognition will also attract a greater variety of students to the campus, which also tends to enrich the experience.

Texas Tech has done an EXCELLENT JOB these last two years in the area of faculty recruitment, with SEVERAL new professors coming aboard.

We've an excellent Wills/Trusts instructor -- who authors the E&E on the subject. We've about the world's leading expert on Water Law. Next year we're getting a prof. being billed as the most respected name teaching in Criminal Law. We've an excellent new prof teaching tax and marital property that EVERYONE loves; as well as a new prof with a wealth of knowledge in the area of ConLaw completely dedicated to the students.

And there are about 3-4 other new profs coming on board next year. Add these to the great faculty we already have and there really is no room for complaint.

I could go on and on about why this is a great school . . .

But the reader's of U.S. News & World Reports, the vast vast majority of potential employers, and nearly all searching pre-Ls will likely not be reading this blawg.

Of course the administration's efforts will take time to bear fruit. What i'm suggesting is an institutional attitude adjustment needs to take place first and some priorites must be rearranged.

4/12/2006 4:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how an institutional attitude adjustment and rearranged priorities would affect Tech's standing in the USNWR rankings. The main factor in USNWR rank is LSAT median -- something like 90 percent of the schools are ranked according to that statistic. The only way the administration could directly effect change in the rankings would be to up the LSAT median.

However, Tech's GPA median is one of the highest in the Third Tier. Their LSAT median is rising every year. Reputation scores are based on surveys sent mostly to large firms, of which most are based in large markets outside of Texas, but as the school grows, so does its reputation. They'll also gain respect on the faculty side as they grab more well-known names. And spending per student will rise as the school renovates its building and more graduates reach points in their careers where they can give substantial amounts back. For those who care about a crappy magazine's arbitrary rankings, things are looking up.

4/13/2006 12:15 PM  

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