The annual U.S. News & World Report law school rankings are out, and LSU Law has jumped dramatically, climbing from 88th to 75th in the closely watched list.
The #75 ranking is the highest in LSU Law history and the 13 place move is one of the largest positive moves of any law school. Although some 184 law schools in the nation are reviewed by the magazine, only law schools that place in the top 100 receive a specific numerical ranking.
Chancellor Jack Weiss said: “This is exciting news for our students, our faculty, our alumni and our friends. The new ranking will spread the word of our progress to a national audience that includes prospective students, law teachers, and law firms.”
Weiss said the new ranking confirms that, “we are on the right path. It reinforces our commitment to building a nationally competitive faculty of the future, growing a model clinical legal education program, and shaping our curriculum, educational policies, and student services to fully meet the needs of 21st century law students.”
Weiss said he particularly hoped that the new ranking would help to reinforce a “growing can do attitude” on the part of the Center’s students and faculty.
Weiss did, however, strike a cautionary tone in considering the future impact of the ranking.
First, he noted that the Law Center is facing nearly a 15% cut in its state funding for 2009-10. With additional costs that it cannot avoid, the Law Center will have to cut some $2 million out of its total budget of about $20.5 million if the Legislature does not provide additional funding for higher education.
The proposed budget cuts would require the Law Center to curtail a wide range of student services and other educational activities that, in Weiss’ words, “link the Law Center to the broader law school and legal community, support a dynamic faculty and student body, and help to spread the word about what we’re accomplishing here.” The cuts would also require the Law Center to lay off nearly a quarter of its unclassified staff–”good people doing valuable work that we will sorely miss,” said Weiss.
In testimony Tuesday before the House Appropriations Committee, Weiss urged the Committee to restore as much of the proposed budget cuts to higher education as it could, given the State’s overall revenue shortfall.
Anticipating the Law Center’s jump in the U.S. News rankings, Weiss told the Committee that cutting the Law Center’s budget at this juncture would be like cutting the LSU Tigers’ football budget after they won the 2007 national championship.
“We haven’t won a national championship,” Weiss said, “but what we have accomplished for us is almost as important. These cuts for us will be like telling the football team to stop reviewing films, cut your recruiting visits in half, and fire some of your assistant coaches.”
Weiss also cautioned that, despite the present elation over the new ranking, “what goes up can come down. The U.S. News rankings are notoriously unpredictable and are, in part, very subjective. Every law school dean holds his breath in April until the rankings are announced.”
“It’s very much a question of ‘live by the sword, die by the sword,”" Weiss said. “We’re thrilled to advance so much this year, but we can’t run our law school to satisfy the rankings gods or lose faith in what we’re doing if we don’t.”
“We have to make decisions that are good for our students and good for Louisiana and let the chips fall where they may,” concluded Weiss.
Weiss noted that the Law Center may have benefitted from several changes in the way U.S. News computes its scores. According to U.S. News, ranking methodology used admissions data for both full-time and part-time entering students for the first time this year, “producing the most complete comparisons of entire student bodies” of law schools.