Things are looking up for the state’s law schools — at least when it comes to their rankings.
Last year at this time, two of the four schools got bad news from U.S. News and World Report, author of the controversial but influential list of “Best Law Schools.”
The publication stripped the University of St. Thomas of its ranking because of an error in its data. Hamline University learned that it had failed to make it to the list’s top tier, earning only a “rank not published.”
This year, all four schools made that top tier.
The University of Minnesota held onto 19th, by far the highest of the bunch. The University of St. Thomas got 124th. William Mitchell College of Law came in at 134th, down from 127th.
Hamline made the biggest gain — leaping 25 spots to land at 126. Why?
“I’d like to think that they finally got around to valuing what’s important — law schools’ ability to place graduates in meaningful, professional employments,” said Donald Lewis, dean of Hamline School of Law.
This year, the rankings gave more weight to the percentage of graduates with full-time, permanent jobs that require a law degree, according to U.S. News’ website.
Before, it simply asked whether a graduate was employed, Lewis said. “If you were a barista at Starbucks you were weighed identically to someone who was employed in the law department at Starbucks.”
About 69 percent of Hamline’s 2011 graduates had, nine months after graduation, “a full-time job ... for which bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage.”
That’s higher than reported by the state’s three other law schools.
The good news comes at a tough time for law schools, which are struggling with falling applications and, as a result, enrollments. Lewis suspects that Hamline, which recently had to pull back on enrollment, will see “further downsizing of our class” next fall.