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Emory University has broken free of the tie that bound it to rival University of Georgia in the much-watched U.S. News & World Report law school rankings. Emory rose five notches to 22nd place and UGA fell five to 32nd, according to the latest rankings, released April 5. Just weeks ago, when Emory and UGA were sharing last year’s 27th place, Thomas A. Arthur, an Emory law professor and candidate for dean, questioned the validity of the U.S. News rankings during a discussion of why a student would pay thousands more for Emory when UGA was ranked the same. Arthur told a roomful of students and faculty, “Fact. Fact. Quote me: We’re better than Georgia.” The latest U.S. News rankings second that emotion. Emory, meanwhile, has offered the deanship to someone else, who is negotiating with the privately supported school ( Daily Report, April 3, 2002). David E. Shipley, UGA’s law dean, declined to respond to Arthur’s remark. “I’m disappointed,” he said of the rankings. “We’re still a top-tier law school. We’re one of the top public law schools in the United States. We’ve moved around before, and we’ll move around again.” Emory’s interim law dean, Peter Hay, said his school was pleased with the rankings, but added, “I can’t say this is the objective truth and that we should be resting in any way on our laurels.” Unlike Emory and UGA, Georgia’s two other American Bar Association-accredited law schools, Georgia State University and Mercer University, did not change in the rankings since last year. GSU remains in the second tier; Mercer stayed in the third tier. U.S. News divides schools into four tiers, and does not numerically rank those that fall outside the top 50 in the first tier. The rankings — never very popular with law school deans — assign weighted statistical scores based on a school’s reputation among academics, lawyers and judges; its students’ LSAT scores and grade point averages; and its job placement and bar pass rates. BOTTOM LINE: GETTING A JOB Several of these factors helped push Emory past UGA in the rankings. Perhaps the most significant were the schools’ employment rates at graduation. Last year, UGA’s was 68 percent-similar to Emory’s 69 percent. But this year, UGA’s employment rate barely moved to 68.3 percent while Emory’s leaped to 84.4 percent. Other factors affecting Emory’s ranking: The school was more selective, accepting just 34.8 percent of applicants, compared with 40.6 percent a year earlier. Emory’s reputation score among lawyers and judges also rose slightly, from 3.6 to 3.7 on U.S. News‘ 5.0 scale, and its students’ grade point averages in the 25th to 75th percentiles rose from 3.25-3.60 to 3.33-3.71. On the down side, Emory’s student-faculty ratio slipped from 14.1 to 16.1, and its bar pass rate in Georgia declined slightly, from 92.2 percent to 89.1 percent. Emory’s law school was the only one in Georgia to be listed on the U.S. News‘ index measuring the most diverse schools. For example, a school that was 95 percent Asian would not rank highly because it lacks diversity. Emory ranked at .38 on a scale of 0 to 1.0. The most diverse schools were CUNY-Queens College in New York, with an index of .62, whose student body is 17 percent African-American, and St. Thomas University in Florida, at .60, whose population is 31 percent Hispanic. At Emory, African-Americans, the largest minority group, make up 9 percent of the student body. SAME OLD, SAME OLD UGA UGA’s scores didn’t indicate any major failings or declines; the school just didn’t improve as much as other schools in its cohort. UGA’s reputation among lawyers and judges rose from 3.3 to 3.6, and its students’ undergraduate GPAs rose from 3.27-3.76 to 3.30-3.84. Its student-faculty ratio worsened, from 16.9 to 19.3, and its employment rate nine months after graduation declined from 97 percent to 95.9 percent. UGA’s dean, Shipley, points out that his school’s ranking has fluctuated over the last five years, as has Emory’s, and neither school has what could be called a perfectly straight upward trend. “Has the school changed? Do we change that much from year to year? The answer is no,” Shipley said. “It’s frustrating to have that much variation from year to year.” BUILDING A REPUTATION GSU and Mercer have yo-yoed between the second and third tiers over the last five years. Some of third-tier Mercer’s scores are comparable to the lower end of scores in the second tier-for example, its GPA of 2.98-3.56 is similar to or higher than that at eight schools in the second tier. Its percentage of graduates with jobs by graduation, at 59.6 percent, is on the low end but still in the ballpark of second-tier scores. But Mercer’s reputation scores-2.1 among peers, 2.5 among lawyers and judges-are generally below second-tier ranges. Mercer Dean R. Lawrence Dessem and Associate Dean Michael Sabbath were out of town and could not be reached for comment. At second-tier GSU, some scores are close-or at times even higher-than those in the first tier. As Dean Janice C. Griffith noted, however, the school needs to work on its reputation. It scored 2.2 on reputation among peers (the next closest first-tier schools ranked 2.6); and 2.8 on its reputation among lawyers and judges (the next closest first-tier schools ranked 2.9). The school’s LSAT scores (154-158) and GPAs (3.06-3.44) also are slightly below those at the bottom end of the first tier. But GSU’s bar pass rate of 90.9 percent is higher than 29 first-tier schools-including Stanford, Vanderbilt, Emory, UGA and the University of Virginia. “Our students come out prepared,” said Griffith. “They’re ready to practice law.”

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