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There are a lot of law students happily lounging under trees out there — if law school websites are to be believed. A recent empirical study and ranking of the home pages for all 200 American Bar Association-accredited law schools found that 65 included photos of students in or around trees, a phenomenon the authors dubbed “Girls Under Trees.” According to the study, titled “Top 10 Law School Home Pages of 2010,” photos of students under trees and pictures of Supreme Court justices, moot court competitions and students sitting in class aren’t necessarily useful or informative. “While thought to give potential students a taste of law school life, these photos usually do not add any content, context, nor important information for visitors to a site,” reads the study, authored by Georgetown University Law Center Associate Law Librarian Roger Skalbeck and Yale Law School Librarian for Emerging Technologies Jason Eiseman. The study was published in the Green Bag Almanac and Reader 2011. Skalbeck first became interested in the content and design of law school home pages in 2009, when Georgetown was pondering a redesign of its website. “We were considering a redesign, which makes you wonder what other people are doing,” Skalbeck said. “I wanted to do evaluate sites based on numbers, and not just a gut feeling. We wanted objective criteria.” The researchers evaluated each law school’s home page for 20 criteria falling into three broad categories: design, accessibility, and marketing and communication. More than 20 people weighed in on the 4,000 data evaluations during the study period, in October and November 2010. The result of that process is a top-10 list that includes only a handful of those schools considered to be among the elite. The University of Chicago Law School and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law made the list, but the University of Illinois College of Law grabbed the top spot. Illinois was followed closely by Wayne State University Law School, Michigan State University College of Law and the University of Nebraska College of Law. Skalbeck noted that many smaller law schools scored high on the list, which could indicate that they have fewer “moving pieces” and people involved in their sites. Having looked at so many law school home pages, it’s clear that their primary function is recruiting, Eiseman said. “Looking through all those pictures, the message you get is, ‘Come to this school,’ ” he said. “ From my perspective, the home page is very important. It’s as important as what your physical space looks like.” So what should be on a law school home page? News headlines that update frequently give visitors a reason to come back, and law schools should not underestimate the importance of including basic contact information. The researchers found that 34 home pages failed to include an address and 55 lacked a telephone number. Those two elements earned points for law school home pages in the study. They detracted points for “Girls Under Trees” photos.

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