Law School enters top 10 in rankings

Amy Hamblin

Northwestern’s Law School cracked the top 10 for the first time in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of the nation’s best graduate schools, released today.

The Feinberg School of Medicine also moved up one spot to 20th, while the three other NU graduate schools ranked by the magazine slipped one or two slots.

“The movement of one or two spots in the rankings,” does not indicate a huge change in the institution, said Alan Cubbage, NU’s vice president of university relations, of the rankings, to be published in the April 12 edition of U.S. News. “(The report) might not be entirely analytical and objective. It’s an opinion poll.”

Despite several of the school’s individual programs ranking in the top 10 in past years, Dean David Van Zandt said the Law School often doesn’t get its due recognition because of its weaker reputation among lawyers and academia.

“I’m very pleased with (the ranking),” Van Zandt said. “It’s a reflection of the underlying reputation and quality of the education.”

Van Zandt noted that roughly 40 percent of the magazine’s criteria is subjective, such as lawyer rankings of the schools. The other 60 percent is composed of more objective factors, including LSAT scores and student-faculty ratio.

“We have a top-quality school. You’ve got to convince others of that,” said Van Zandt, who added that he believes the school deserves better than 10th because it placed 5th for selectivity and two individual programs within the Law School — the clinical and trial advocacy tracks — ranked in the top five nationally.

The Law School has spent years hovering slightly above the top 10, but Van Zandt that administrators “don’t do anything specifically for the ranking.”

Movement within the rankings is often slight and requires years to make substantial improvement, said Richard Morimoto, outgoing dean of NU’s Graduate School.

“Improving graduate education doesn’t happen overnight,” Morimoto said. “The financial aid that supports graduate education is paying off.”

During his six-year tenure, Morimoto created uniform financial aid for all doctoral students. This has attracted a better pool of applicants, he said.

Morimoto said he believes NU is improving its educational quality overall. Looking only at the ranking of NU’s five graduate schools isn’t truly representative of their quality and oversimplifies the evaluation of individual programs within the schools, Morimoto said.

Feinberg Dean Lewis Landsberg said he also has issues with the “arbitrary methodology” of the U.S. News rankings but does recognize the importance of his school moving up to No. 20.

“We’re pleased. We continued to move up,” said Landsberg, who also serves as NU’s vice president for medical affairs. “We’re not complacent; we would like to do better.”

Landsberg attributes the school’s better status to increased attention to research. Achievements in research make up 30 percent of the criteria.

He also emphasized that Feinberg is now the top medical school in Chicago, outranking the University of Chicago, which finished 22nd this year. Because so many people read the U.S. News graduate school rankings, Landsberg said the school cannot discount the rankings.

“Although I and others deplore the methodology, everyone looks at them,” Landsberg said.

Loren Ghiglione, dean of the Medill School of Journalism, said he doesn’t think the school suffers from not being ranked in the report, which doesn’t evaluate journalism programs.

“I don’t think it affects us,” Ghiglione said. “Medill’s reputation is outstanding. Word of mouth and advisers provide our reputation.”

He added that being attached to the equally prestigious undergraduate school and NU as a whole also attracts students to apply.

“I think these things are really artificial,” Ghiglione said. “I’m glad that there are none out there for journalism programs.”