US News & World Report magazine has released its annual rankings of institutions of higher education. UC Hastings remains among the top law schools in the nation, with a reputation score on par with the top 25 from lawyers, judges, and peers. In “Law Specialties,” UC Hastings ranked #12 in Dispute Resolution and #25 in Clinical Training. Nevertheless, our overall rank has moved from #48 to #54.
Make no mistake: UC Hastings is a better school today than ever. Our programs are lauded as among the most innovative in the nation. Our faculty members are producing engaged scholarship that informs and drives the conversation from Washington D.C. to Silicon Valley and around the world. Our alumni are trailblazers, finding success in every field. UC Hastings was recently recognized as the #11 "Top Superlawyer Producing School" in the country, and #1 for California, testament to the long-term value of our graduates in the marketplace. And student feedback on the quality of classroom education tells us things are good there.
So, why has our USN&WR ranking moved? The standout factor for UC Hastings was employment. 443 students graduated with the Class of 2012 (upon which this set of rankings is based), our largest class in over a decade. Nine months after graduation, 329 were gainfully employed, 222 in JD required fulltime and 28 in JD preferred fulltime jobs. This is a lot of jobs, more than the total class size of many California law schools, and our Career Office is to be commended for their heroic efforts given the waning state of the job market in 2012-13. In fact, UC Hastings ranked #36 on National Law Journal's list of "Go-To" Law Schools for the number of our 2013 graduates who took jobs at the nation’s largest law firms. Percentage-wise, however, it’s clear: far more lawyers graduated from UC Hastings in May of 2012 than the marketplace could bear in a nine-month period.
We’re smaller now by a class section, in keeping with the college’s strategic plan to “right size” and more closely align our output of graduates to the legal marketplace. While the impact of that class size reduction was realized almost immediately in terms of the student experience, the influence it may have on rankings will be at least another two years in the making.
It is fruitless to decry, as many have, the shortcomings of rankings as a proxy for quality assessment. The reality is that rankings matter, and I remain personally dedicated to doing everything possible to raise ours. We have studied the scoring model used by this magazine, and continue to be as aggressive as possible about influencing the results.
Our efforts to improve rankings are based on measures that benefit UC Hastings students and meet ethical norms. Reducing the class size is one example. Introducing new initiatives specifically to prepare students for the bar is another. Programs such as Lawyers for America that help place students in public interest jobs their first year out of school is yet another. Our new 3+3 program with UC Santa Cruz provides a lower cost pipeline for the brightest students to access legal education. We’re devoting more effort than ever to actively promote faculty scholarship. We’ve also greatly intensified activities around fundraising, and launched internal projects such as Kaleidoscope to enhance the cross-departmental functionality we need to foster innovation and introduce new efficiencies to our business model. We are working harder and smarter than ever, but these things will take time to manifest in the ranking system.
I leave you with one last thought: Despite the influence of rankings, law schools are not in competition with each other. We are in competition with ourselves, to provide relevant legal education to students who will find it useful in their endeavors. UC Hastings has always been and continues to be a law school of the highest caliber in this regard, and it is thanks to the engaged scholarship of our faculty paired with their commitment to student learning, the exceptional achievements and ongoing support of our alumni, and our great staff.
Our success as an institution is also due in large part to our students, who are smart, hard-working, and dedicated to using their legal education to make a difference in the world. When I talk with employers, judges, policymakers, and leaders from fields far and wide, they are without fail impressed by the readiness of our graduates to contribute. We are not simply keeping pace with the times, we are redefining legal education. You are a part of it. Stay proud.
-Frank H. Wu
Frank H. Wu
Chancellor & Dean