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Deans downplay law school rankings in light of pandemic

One of Maryland’s two law schools saw a rise in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report rankings, while the other stayed level with last year’s ranking. The numbers were released Tuesday.

The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law rose to 47th overall out of 194 schools on the list, up from 52 last year.

The University of Baltimore School of Law was at No. 126, the same as last year.

In interviews, both Ronald Weich, dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, and Donald Tobin, dean of UM Carey, downplayed the rankings and their significance in light of the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced both schools to switch to online-only courses for the foreseeable future.

“We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, so what we’re most focused on at the law school is the health and safety of our students, staff and faculty and our ability to provide a quality education,” Tobin said.

In looking at the rankings, Tobin said he was pleased that the rankings put the school in the top 50, which he said demonstrates the school’s commitment to developing lawyers who can help guide the country through challenging times.

“That’s our goal, to create great future legal professionals to lead us through crises like this one,” Tobin said. “I’m pleased that U.S. News has recognized the qualities that make our J.D. program one of the top 50 in the country.”

Weich said he was particularly pleased with the ranking of UB Law’s clinical program, which rose from 15 to 14 this year out of 179 clinical programs nationwide.

“Where we are in the rankings, there’s no serious science to it,” Weich said. “What’s more important is our students should be receiving a high-quality education and getting the opportunities they need as they launch careers. By those metrics we’re doing very well.”

UM Carey’s clinical program rose to sixth-best nationwide, up from seventh last year.

The part-time law program for UM Carey dropped to fifth-best out of 69 programs nationwide after being ranked fourth last year.

The University of Baltimore’s part-time program dropped to 40th overall, down from 25th the year before.

U.S. News looks at a range of factors in its closely followed rankings. Forty percent of the methodology involves a “quality assessment score” provided by law school deans and tenured law faculty across the country, along with an assessment score from lawyers and judges. The law school’s selectivity – based on its median LSAT scores, median undergraduate GPA and acceptance rate – accounts for 25% of the total ranking.

The rankings also factor in post-graduation employment rates both at graduation and 10 months after graduation, as well as the school’s bar passage rate, which accounts for 20% of the ranking methodology. Other factors include schools’ expenditure per student, student/faculty ratio and library resources.