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March 13, 2012

U.S.News Rankings

by dan rodriguez

Here is the memo I sent to the Northwestern Law community this morning:

To:       Northwestern Law Community

From:   Dean Dan Rodriguez

Re:       U.S. News Rankings

U.S. News and World Report has released its “Best Graduate Schools 2013 rankings.”  Among law schools, Northwestern Law School is ranked No.12, the same position we held in last year’s rankings.  Our Tax Program’s rank remained unchanged as well at No. 4.  We also hold top 20 spots in four specialty areas and our ranking improved in each.  We ranked No. 8 in trial advocacy (10th last year); No. 12 in clinical training (17th last year); No. 12 in dispute resolution (14th last year); and No. 17 in international law (unranked last year).

Rankings movement reflects very minor changes from past years.  I would note that our overall score did improve and, happily, our reputation score improved by one tick on both dimensions – peer assessment and lawyer/judge assessment.  This is obviously the right direction in which to move!

That said, I believe that this ranking under-represents considerably the quality of our Law School.  Our ambition, and my relentless ambition as I begin my deanship, is to work with faculty, staff, students, and alumni to improve the quality of our program and to see to it that this improvement is reflected in the external measures of stature, including rankings.  Thanks to the accomplishments and hard work of our Northwestern Law family, we have many reasons to be very optimistic about our future.

As I have mentioned in various settings, our students, faculty, alumni, and staff are outstanding, and we are commonly and rightly recognized as the innovative leader within legal education.  Furthermore, other rankings this year, such as those by The Princeton Review and The National Law Journal, have rated us 1st and 2nd respectively, based on surveys and measures of our graduates’ success in the marketplace.  Nevertheless, we cannot and will not rest on any of these accomplishments; indeed, I can assure you that we already are well along in developing concrete plans to ensure our future progress.

I will provide you with more details in other settings and in future communications.  For now, I can tell you broadly that new initiatives are under way.  We strategically are devoting resources to support our plans – plans that will significantly enhance our efforts in the areas of placement, employer relations, faculty recruitment, alumni engagement, and globalization, to name just a few.  Equally important, we must effectively communicate our successes and make sure that our accomplishments are known.  Toward that end, we are augmenting substantially the content and frequency of our marketing endeavors in order to heighten awareness of and strengthen the Northwestern Law School brand among our key constituents.  With much anticipation, I look forward to providing you with further details as these plans come to fruition and sharing with you in our future successes that surely will result from their implementation.

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Although now a cliche, I do think it responsible to always point out the limits of any effort to rank law schools from top to bottom.  We are, of course, proud to be regarded, as always, in the very top echelon of law schools.  But law students should, in making the momentous decision about where to go to law school (or, indeed, whether law school is right for them), look at law schools from many dimensions and perspectives.

And, as always, I welcome input about how best to improve our law school and how to communicate our achievements to a wide world.

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