Northwestern Law school drops one spot in rankings, to 12th

Sean Lavery

U.S. News & World Report has ranked Northwestern Law School twelfth in the nation, a one-spot dropoff from last year’s ranking of a tie for eleventh.

Interim Dean Kim Yuracko said the rankings are given to “noise and fluctuation.”

“We’re always concerned about the rankings,” Yuracko said. “We’re disappointed when it goes down, but we view them in a larger context of direct feedback from our core constituencies.”

This year, NU ranked just behind the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Virginia and Duke University.

Yuracko said response from students, alumni and employers about the school’s reputation has been overwhelmingly positive.

U.S. News & World Report releases rankings annually and judges schools based on the average GPA of accepted students, the acceptance rate, an assessment score by lawyers and judges and the rate of employment of graduates nine months after graduation.

2009 Carleton College graduate David Hirsch said he was undecided about a specific law program after completing his undergraduate degree, so he relied on the rankings to guide his law school search. Hirsch applied to 18 law schools, including NU, and nearly all were in the top twenty of the U.S. News rankings.

“It definitely had an effect on where I decided to apply,” Hirsch said. “But it does not have much of an effect on what I will eventually decide.”

Hirsch has heard back from several schools and said he has been accepted to NU. He suggested that prospective students should rely on accurate employment statistics to determine their final school choice.

Yuracko credited a diverse group of students for consistently high rankings.

“I think our No. 1 asset is our student body,” Yuracko said. “And the high rankings definitely display that.”

Yuracko said the school’s other strengths are a talented interdisciplinary faculty, programs initiated under former Dean David Van Zandt and the desire for students to acquire several years of work experience before matriculating.

Marly Tristano, Weinberg ’11, said rankings played a small role in her school choices. She noted that many top-ranked schools, in addition to NU, are now looking for students with work experience. Tristano said since she’s applying just after her graduation, the requirement caused her to look at schools “all over the top 100.”

“Rankings are relevant when you look at the job market,” Tristano said. “But there are really no standard criteria to make sure they are accurate. The law school pool has become much more diverse.”

Tristano said she was lucky to have a strong standardized test score, but she met obstacles when applying to the top schools due to the work experience issue.

“Coming straight out of college, I needed to be super competitive,” she said. “I did apply to Northwestern Law, but I was basically told in my interview that it wasn’t going to happen because I was coming straight from college.”

Yuracko said work experience benefits students and allows them to “become more focused and directed” in academic study.

Rankings are only one criteria the law school uses to gauge improvement and reputation, Yuracko said.

“We have been incredibly pleased by our faculty and students,” she said.

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