The grades are in. Students gave their respective Texas law schools high marks for faculty accessibility and creating a collegial atmosphere, but lower marks for the helpfulness of the schools’ placement offices, according to Texas Lawyer‘s 2008 Dear Dean Survey.

More than 1,100 of the students enrolled in Texas’ law schools during the spring 2008 semester or quarter participated in the survey. In addition to the categories mentioned above, the students graded their schools’ library services, technology, teaching quality, preparation for practice and student diversity. The survey participation rate among the students, at each school, ranged from 10 percent to 25 percent of those enrolled. [See "Survey Methodology" below.]

The overall results present a picture of how students judge their educational experience at Texas’ nine American Bar Association-accredited law schools.

SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY DEDMAN SCHOOL OF LAW

Using a scale of one to five, with five the highest or best grade, SMU law students gave their school an overall score of 4.09, the highest among the nine schools. More than 97 percent of SMU’s law graduates are employed within nine months of graduation, says Dean John B. Attanasio. He adds that the high placement rate is likely to lead to satisfaction among students. The law students gave SMU high marks, above 4.0, for preparation for practice, collegiality, technology, teaching quality, library services and faculty accessibility. But the SMU law students gave their placement office the lowest grade, 3.61. Attanasio says it is not unusual for law school students to be disappointed with their placement offices. “The placement office is an area where students experience a certain level of disappointment, because they don’t always get the job they want,” he says.

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law — 85.44%
Attend a different law school — 8.74%
Enroll in an MBA program — 4.85%
Do something else — 4.85%
Average total law school debt — $67,612
Most influential professor — Gregory S. Crespi
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 103 students.

TEXAS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW

Texas Wesleyan law Dean Frederic White

Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth, with an overall score of 4.07, ranks second among the law schools. The law students gave the school high grades — above 4.0 — for library services, collegiality, technology and teaching quality. Students also rated the law school most highly, with a 4.68 grade, for faculty accessibility. It is important that students be able to easily approach faculty members, particularly at a law school that is essentially a commuter school, says Dean Frederic White. “What’s happened here, fostered by my predecessors, is our faculty members really care about the teaching and are accessible,” he says. White began his tenure as dean of the law school on July 21, succeeding law professor and interim Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine. White formerly was dean of Golden Gate School of Law in San Francisco. White is not surprised to learn that Texas Wesleyan’s law students, like students at most of the other law schools, gave their lowest grade of 3.32 for the helpfulness of the school’s placement office. He says he has been in legal education for 30 years, and career services staff are the people who get beat up the most by students. “You’ll find the career services’ reputation has a lot to do with some students having higher aspirations than their grades warrant,” White says. “It’s hard to get a job at Vinson & Elkins if you are at the bottom of the class.”

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend Texas Wesleyan University School of Law — 76.39%
Attend a different law school — 16.70%
Enroll in an MBA program — 0%
Do something else — 8.33%
Average total law school debt — $64,392
Most influential professor — Aric K. Short
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent because some students selected two choices.
Source: 72 students.


TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW

Texas Tech law Dean Walter Huffman

Texas Tech University School of Law in Lubbock earned an overall grade of 4.03 from its students, ranking third overall. The school earned its highest mark, 4.83, for faculty accessibility. “The fact that our students recognize our faculty are both talented in the ability to prepare them and care about preparing them, making themselves available not just as teachers but as mentors, is something that I think this current group of professors feels very strongly about,” says Dean Walter Huffman. He says the school’s placement office “bends over backward to help students” despite the students giving the office a grade of 3.20. “There is this perception that unless you are in the top quarter of the class the career services office is not really there for you,” he says. “I know for a fact that that is not true in the case of our group. Our career services staff works very hard to assist students, wherever they are in the spectrum of accomplishments, to get a job.”

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend Texas Tech University School of Law — 82.93%
Attend a different law school — 14.60%
Enroll in an MBA program — 2.44%
Do something else — 6.71%
Average total law school debt — $50,137
Most influential professor — Gerry W. Beyer
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 164 students.


UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF LAW

Students at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin gave the school grades exceeding 4.0 for library services, teaching quality, technology, faculty accessibility and collegiality for an overall score of 3.95, a fourth place finish among the nine law schools. The students gave their lowest grade, a 3.45, to the school’s placement office. Dean Lawrence Sager did not return two telephone calls seeking comment for this article.

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend University of Texas School of Law — 78.46%
Attend a different law school — 12.20%
Enroll in an MBA program — 2.85%
Do something else — 8.54%
Average total law school debt — $63,287
Most influential professor — Ernest A. Young*
* Now a professor at Duke University School of Law.
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 246 students.


UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON LAW CENTER

UH Law Center Dean Raymond T. Nimmer

Students at the University of Houston Law Center gave their school an overall score of 3.87 placing it fifth on the survey. They awarded the law school its highest grade, a 4.30, for collegiality. Law school Dean Raymond T. Nimmer says that some of that high grade is driven by the school’s improvements in national surveys, such as U.S. News & World Report‘s annual ranking of law schools. “People have a feeling that something good is happening,” he says. “It’s easier to be friendly and collegial.” Unlike the other law schools where students were least satisfied with their placement offices, at UH Law Center students gave their lowest grade, 3.20, for technology. Nimmer says the law school has had intermittent problems with accessibility to its network and that this may be the reason for the low  grade. “We don’t have the money for an absolute state-of-the-art system,” he says. He adds that the school has responded to student complaints about printers overloading, especially during busy final-exam periods, by replacing equipment with more modern, faster machines.

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend University of Houston Law Center — 77.12%
Attend a different law school — 13.10%
Enroll in an MBA program — 1.96%
Do something else — 13.07%
Average total law school debt — $55,081
Most influential professor — John Mixon
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 153 students.


SOUTH TEXAS COLLEGE OF LAW

James T. Alfini, president and dean of South Texas College of Law

James T. Alfini, president and dean of South Texas College of Law in Houston, says he is disappointed at the school’s overall score of 3.84, which puts the school in sixth place. “We certainly have student satisfaction as a high priority at the school,” he says. Students gave the school high marks, above 4.0, for collegiality, teaching quality, library services and faculty accessibility. He says the school conducts its own student satisfaction surveys every year and that teaching quality and faculty accessibility are always top-performing categories. “I’m sure we’ll be looking at the results of our survey to figure out what to do to make our students more satisfied with their experience here,” he says.

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend South Texas College of Law — 75.40%
Attend a different law school — 23.02%
Enroll in an MBA program — 0.79%
Do something else — 2.38%
Average total law school debt — $74,402
Most influential professor — Geoffrey S. Corn
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 126 students.


BAYLOR UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW

Baylor law Dean Bradley J.B. Toben

In seventh place overall with a grade of 3.80, Baylor University School of Law in Waco earned its highest grade, 4.68, for preparing students for practice — the highest grade given to any of the schools in that category. “We aim in our program to get students ready for practice, and their belief that we have fulfilled this mission is extremely gratifying for us,” says Dean Bradley J.B. Toben. The school earned its lowest mark, 1.85, for diversity of its student population. “I fully agree that we need to be more diverse, with regard to our faculty and our students,” Toben says. “We hired two persons of color onto the faculty this spring,” he says. Both of the hires are women who bring the total faculty count up to 23. He says the law school has also been investing more resources in scholarship funding to make the school affordable for a wider range of students. He estimates that the school’s fall entering class will include about 24 percent minority students.

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend Baylor University School of Law — 61.95%
Attend a different law school — 30.97%
Enroll in an MBA program — 0%
Do something else — 9.73%
Average total law school debt — $74,210
Most influential professor — Larry Bates
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 113 students.


ST. MARY’S UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW

Victoria M. Mather, associate dean for academic and student affairs at St. Mary’s law school

Students attending St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio gave the school an overall grade of 3.62, which places it eighth overall on the survey. The students gave the school high marks, above 4.0, for collegiality, library services and faculty accessibility. “Most of the faculty have an open-door policy and a flexible schedule policy,” says Victoria M. Mather, associate dean for academic and student affairs at St. Mary’s law school. “It’s part of the culture of the institution,” she says. The school is improving the service provided by its placement office, the category the students rated the lowest with a grade of 2.59, by hiring a second full-time professional with a J.D., she says. Ryan M. Walker joined the staff in August as assistant career services director. Mather says the school knew that students thought the placement office was understaffed. “We knew that the students perceived this as a problem, and the school is addressing it,” she says.

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend St. Mary’s University School of Law — 64.47%
Attend a different law school — 27.63%
Enroll in an MBA program — 2.63%
Do something else — 9.21%
Average total law school debt — $84,464
Most influential professor — John W. Teeter Jr.
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 76 students.


TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY THURGOOD MARSHALL SCHOOL OF LAW

Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law takes ninth place among the Texas schools with an overall score of 3.30. The Houston law school takes first place among the schools for diversity, with its students giving a grade of 4.74 — the only category receiving a grade above 4.0. Dean McKen V. Carrington did not return two telephone calls seeking comment.

If I could go back in time, I would:
Attend Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law — 40.51%
Attend a different law school — 57.00%
Enroll in an MBA program — 2.53%
Do something else — 3.80%
Average total law school debt — $60,307
Most influential professors* — Fernando Colon-Navarro and April Walker
* Two professors received the same number of votes.
Note: Total responses exceed 100 percent, because some students selected two choices.
Source: 79 students.

 


 

Survey Methodology

Texas Lawyer invited the students at Texas’ nine American Bar Association-accredited law schools to participate in the 2008 Dear Dean Survey. Each law school sent e-mail notices to all of its students during the spring 2008 semester/quarter inviting them to participate in the survey.

A total of 1,132 students accepted the invitation and graded their schools in several areas: teaching quality; faculty accessibility; preparation for practice; placement office helpfulness; collegiality; student diversity; technology; and library services.

The students graded each category on a scale of one to five; the higher the score, the better the grade. For each school, the grades in each category were totaled and then divided by the number of responses to obtain an average grade. The average grades for each category were totaled and again divided to obtain an overall score for each school.

The survey response rates ranged from 10 percent to 25 percent of each particular school’s enrollment. From Baylor University School of Law, 113 of 442 students participated in the survey for a response rate of 25.6 percent; 76 of St. Mary’s University School of Law’s 762 students participated for a response rate of 10 percent; 126 of South Texas College of Law’s 1,252 students participated for a response rate of 10.1 percent; 103 of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law’s 958 students participated for a response rate of 10.8 percent; 79 of Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law’s 580 students participated for a response rate of 14 percent; 164 of Texas Tech University School of Law’s 665 students participated for a response rate of 25 percent; 72 of Texas Wesleyan University School of Law’s 708 students participated for a response rate of 10.2 percent; 153 of the University of Houston Law Center’s 909 students participated for a response rate of 17 percent; and 246 of the University of Texas School of Law’s 1,326 students participated for a response rate of 19 percent.

Texas Law School Report Card

Rank Law School Placement Office Helpfulness Preparation for Practice Collegiality Technology Teaching Quality Library Services Faculty Accessibility Student Diversity Overall Score
1 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 3.61 4.04 4.29 4.35 4.29 4.52 4.45 3.2 4.09
2 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 3.32 3.93 4.17 4.25 4.18 4.54 4.68 3.51 4.07
3 Texas Tech University School of Law 3.2 4.24 4.12 4.21 4.17 4.41 4.83 3.04 4.03
4 University of Texas School of Law 3.45 3.67 4.19 4.02 4.22 4.49 4.1 3.46 3.95
5 University of Houston Law Center 3.41 3.96 4.3 3.2 4.15 3.97 4.25 3.68 3.87
6 South Texas College of Law 2.59 3.94 4.04 3.67 4.23 4.43 4.37 3.47 3.84
7 Baylor University School of Law 3.03 4.68 4.15 3.74 4.14 4.53 4.3 1.85 3.8
8 St. Mary’s University School of Law 2.59 3.47 4.07 3.29 3.4 4.16 4.32 3.67 3.62
9 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 2.56 2.91 3.23 3.47 2.77 3.27 3.46 4.74 3.3
Note: 1,132 Texas law school students graded their schools in Texas Lawyer‘s Dear Dean Survey conducted during the 2008 spring semester/quarter. Point values ranged from one to five; the higher the score, the better the grade.
Texas Lawyer, August 2008




Placement Office Helpfulness

Rank Law School Score
1 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 3.61
2 University of Texas School of Law 3.45
3 University of Houston Law Center 3.41
4 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 3.32
5 Texas Tech University School of Law 3.2
6 Baylor University School of Law 3.03
7 (tie) St. Mary’s University School of Law 2.59
7 (tie) South Texas College of Law 2.59
9 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 2.56
Texas Lawyer, August 2008
Teaching Quality

Rank Law School Score
1 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 4.29
2 South Texas College of Law 4.23
3 University of Texas School of Law 4.22
4 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 4.18
5 Texas Tech University School of Law 4.17
6 University of Houston Law Center 4.15
7 Baylor University School of Law 4.14
8 St. Mary’s University School of Law 3.4
9 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 2.77
Texas Lawyer, August 2008
Preparation for Practice

Rank Law School Score
1 Baylor University School of Law 4.68
2 Texas Tech University School of Law 4.24
3 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 4.04
4 University of Houston Law Center 3.96
5 South Texas College of Law 3.94
6 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 3.93
7 University of Texas School of Law 3.67
8 St. Mary’s University School of Law 3.47
9 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 2.91
Texas Lawyer, August 2008
Faculty Accessibility

Rank Law School Score
1 Texas Tech University School of Law 4.83
2 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 4.68
3 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 4.45
4 South Texas College of Law 4.37
5 St. Mary’s University School of Law 4.32
6 Baylor University School of Law 4.3
7 University of Houston Law Center 4.25
8 University of Texas School of Law 4.1
9 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 3.46
Texas Lawyer, August 2008
Collegiality

Rank Law School Score
1 University of Houston Law Center 4.3
2 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 4.29
3 University of Texas School of Law 4.19
4 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 4.17
5 Baylor University School of Law 4.15
6 Texas Tech University School of Law 4.12
7 St. Mary’s University School of Law 4.07
8 South Texas College of Law 4.04
9 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 3.23
Texas Lawyer, August 2008
Student Diversity

Rank Law School Score
1 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 4.74
2 University of Houston Law Center 3.68
3 St. Mary’s University School of Law 3.67
4 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 3.51
5 South Texas College of Law 3.47
6 University of Texas School of Law 3.46
7 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 3.2
8 Texas Tech University School of Law 3.04
9 Baylor University School of Law 1.85
Texas Lawyer, August 2008
Library Services

Rank Law School Score
1 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 4.54
2 Baylor University School of Law 4.53
3 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 4.52
4 University of Texas School of Law 4.49
5 South Texas College of Law 4.43
6 Texas Tech University School of Law 4.41
7 St. Mary’s University School of Law 4.16
8 University of Houston Law Center 3.97
9 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 3.27
Texas Lawyer, August 2008
Technology

Rank Law School Score
1 Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law 4.35
2 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law 4.25
3 Texas Tech University School of Law 4.21
4 University of Texas School of Law 4.02
5 Baylor University School of Law 3.74
6 South Texas College of Law 3.67
7 Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law 3.47
8 St. Mary’s University School of Law 3.29
9 University of Houston Law Center 3.2
Texas Lawyer, August 2008