The 2014 edition of U.S. News and World Report's "Best Graduate Schools" ranked the University of San Francisco School of Law at No. 144. In addition, the school is ranked 5th in the nation for the diversity of its student body.
The new overall ranking represents a decline from last year's list, which placed USF at 106. Changes in the methodology used by U.S. News to calculate employment numbers, which were based on the class of 2011, played a significant role in the drop. While the new formula favors full-time, long-term employment in which bar passage is required or a JD is an advantage, it discounts the innovative and nontraditional career paths that many USF graduates have taken, including work in international public interest organizations, in business, and in government agencies.
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"The change in rankings does not reflect any change in the quality of the law school. While we are extremely disappointed with the new ranking, we believe it fails to reflect the true quality of our school and the accomplishments of our thousands of alumni," Dean Jeffrey S. Brand said. "We are known for our outstanding teachers, our collaborative and vibrant learning environment, and our welcoming and diverse community, all factors that the rankings do not measure and which are critical to the professional success of our graduates. We are confident that USF retains its strong regional reputation and that our alumni will continue to pursue successful, rewarding career paths. Nonetheless, we recognize that the rankings have serious real and perceived effects and we have redoubled efforts to improve all of the indicators that comprise the rankings."
U.S. News is only one benchmark. Other employment indicators tell a different story: Forbes magazine this month ranked USF among the top 25 law schools whose graduates earn the highest incomes, and a study by a Loyola Los Angeles Law School professor deemed USF a top producer of big firm partners in San Francisco. In addition, USF is rated third among law schools that produced the most "Super Lawyers" in Northern California.
In response to a changing legal employment landscape, USF has recently taken steps to ensure that students are well equipped to successfully engage the job market. The Office of Career Planning has been restructured to improve student services and strengthen connections with employers. A school-wide strategic planning process has resulted in proposals that will expand academic support for students and lead to curricular changes that will enhance the school's already-strong skills training program. Like many schools, USF is also responding to a shrinking legal market by accepting fewer students, which in turn will improve employment opportunities for graduates.
"We are proud of the law school and its legacy of diversifying the legal profession by taking a more holistic approach to admissions," Brand said. "Our graduates use their education in innovative ways, diversifying what it means to be a lawyer. USF is a bold and imaginative leader in the effort to adapt to a new legal landscape by providing the best in skills training and creating opportunities for students to gain the experience necessary to thrive in today's employment market."
USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., said "we are proud of the law school's century of training skilled and ethical professionals and are confident that the steps it has been taking to adapt to the rapidly changing market of legal education will improve ranking and advance the university mission to 'change the world from here.'"