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For the third straight year, the University of Pennsylvania Law School has moved up the charts on U.S. News & World Report‘s annual law school survey, while Temple University’s Beasley School of Law retained the top spot for trial advocacy. Penn tied with three other schools for seventh place. Last year the magazine had Penn tied with another school for 10th place, and ranked the university 12th the year before that. Temple’s trial advocacy program was also involved in a tie — with Stetson University’s program. “I’m gratified that we went up,” Penn law dean Michael Fitts said. “I think that it’s a sign of the quality of improvement of the school.” With numerous factors contributing to the legal education at Penn, Fitts said, it was difficult to attribute the rise in rankings to one particular factor. Not only has new faculty been added within the past two years, but curriculum offerings are being expanded and links are being drawn with the rest of the university as well as the Philadelphia community. Fitts cited these characteristics as “educational advantages” that differentiate Penn from the three other law schools Penn tied with — the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, the University of Michigan Law School, and the University of Virginia School of Law. The four tied schools differed in size as well, with the three others being “much bigger institutions [than Penn],” according to Fitts. Besides the numerically-ranked top tier, the report also provides a second, third and fourth tier of law schools and a ranking of schools in terms of specific programs. Regional schools including Rutgers-Camden, Temple and Villanova law schools placed in the second tier, which includes schools ranked between No. 52 to 90. On a state level, the University of Pittsburgh entered the rankings in the second tier, with the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University in the third and Widener University in the fourth tier. “Obviously we feel that we should be in the top 50, and the only reason we’re not in the top 50 is because of the flawed methodology [of the magazine],” Villanova law dean Mark Sargent said. The methodology by which the magazine determines the rankings of the schools of law involves a weighted average of quality assessments by law school deans and faculty, in addition to lawyers and judges, selectivity, placement success of graduates and faculty resources. Legal educators in each particular focus of law determine the specialty rankings by nominating the top schools in their fields. Similarly to last year, law school deans have expressed the concern that schools should not be ranked and questioned the methodology employed by the magazine. “The U.S. News & World Report is essentially a nonsensical and useless attempt to compare law schools,” Sargent said. “It provides no real basis for institutional planning or making changes, so we never make decisions on the basis of how it might affect our rankings.” Fitts added that “everyone has to take the rankings with a grain of salt [because] they’re very subjective and we have to recognize that.” Though Temple’s trial advocacy program finished first again, Temple law dean Robert J. Reinstein emphasized that applicants should not rely too much on the ranking information provided by the magazine. “We have an excellent program, so it’s great to get that kind of recognition,” Reinstein said. “It’s consistent with other national awards we’ve gotten.” However, he added, “even with our trial advocacy ranking, I hope that applicants will not just take the rankings’ word for it and will look at what we’re really doing.”

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