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Survey: UB Law down 21 spots

Both Maryland law schools fell in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings this year, though the University of Baltimore School of Law took the hardest hit with a 21-spot drop.

While University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law lost only a few positions, UB Law dove from its No. 113 spot last year to No. 134 this year. The dip comes in the wake of a change of leadership at UB Law.

“I’m not obsessed with arbitrary rankings,” said Dean Ronald Weich, who took the helm at UB Law in July. “We are working to improve the quality of education here every day. Our faculty is hard at work at making the curriculum even more practical and relative to today’s law practice. The rankings will follow.”

UB Law’s drop was the sixth biggest in the country, tying with Quinnipiac University of School of Law of Hamden, Conn.

The law school had been expecting a ranking decline this year after admitting the same class size with a smaller applicant pool, Weich said. That caused a drop in the school’s median LSAT and GPA scores, both key factors in U.S. News’ ranking formula.

“U.S. News rankings don’t capture the essence of this place,” Weich said. “We have an incredible reputation for practical education in this region.”

It wasn’t all bad news, either: The school’s part-time evening program rose from its No. 44 spot to No. 26. The part-time program at UM Carey ranked No. 6, up two spots from 2012, according to the school’s website.

Last year, UM Carey was tied at the No. 39 spot, overall, with Brigham Young University Law School, George Mason University School of Law and the Ohio State University College of Law. This year, it shared the No. 41 spot with George Mason University School of Law and the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.

Teresa LaMaster, associate dean for planning and external affairs at UM Carey, did not return calls for comment

The U.S. News rankings are the weighted average of data collected in fall 2012 and early 2013, according to its website.

UB Law’s rankings dip comes in the middle of Weich’s first year on the job. The law school’s former dean, Phillip J. Closius, stepped down in July 2011 after he accused the university of keeping too much of the law school’s revenue for itself. Professor F. Michael Higginbotham served as interim dean during the 2011-2012 school year.

Smaller class planned

The law school plans to reduce its incoming class size in the upcoming school year, which it expects will improve its median test scores in the future, said Hope Keller, director of communications at UB Law. The school’s LSAT scores fell from 156 to 152 this year.

“We knew it was coming,” Keller said. “We didn’t know how many, of course. Those things change all the time and we expect it to go right back up.”

The law school’s U.S. News rankings had been rising in recent years. It had jumped from a spot at No. 170 in 2007 to No. 117 in 2011. UB Law shared the No. 134 spot this year with five other law schools.

Weich has emphasized all along that he is not too worried about the numbers, starting with his first address to students in September.

“Success for us is measured in the effectiveness of our graduates, not in arbitrary number rankings,” Weich said.

The school is navigating a period of change as it prepares to open its new $112 million glass building, the John and Frances Angelos Law Center, April 30. It is also performing a full review of its curriculum to make it more relevant to the current practice of law, Keller said.

“The rankings are important because everyone looks at them, but they only measure a small slice,” Keller said.

At No. 41, UM Carey slid back closer to its 2011 rank, No. 42, but was still higher than its 2010 ranking at No. 48. The law school ranked No. 6 in environmental law, and No. 4 in health care law (a drop from its No. 3 spot last year). No similar breakout was provided for UB Law.

UM Carey maintained its No. 5 spot for its clinical training program, while UB Law’s clinical training program ranked No. 28.

In the upper echelons, Yale Law School maintained its hold on the first place ranking and Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School tied for second after the California school pushed Harvard down to the third position last year.