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After six years of languishing in the third tier of a magazine’s annual law-school ranking, Santa Clara University School of Law, in Santa Clara, Calif., has broken through to a higher level. U.S. News & World Report‘s 2003 law school issue, released online April 4 and in bookstores April 5, puts Santa Clara in the second tier. The first 50 schools — the first tier — are numbered; after that, schools are ranked by tier only. For the fifth year in a row, Stanford Law School is in second place overall, behind Yale Law School. The University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law moved up two places this year, from ninth to seventh place. It tied for that spot with University of Michigan Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School and the University of Virginia School of Law. The magazine contains annual rankings of what it sees as the top law schools in the country. The report is both highly anticipated and dreaded by law schools around the country, and some San Francisco Bay Area law school deans say the rankings carry a lot of weight. “I think that there is obsessive weight on these things, but they are valuable,” said Boalt Dean John Dwyer. Dwyer said the rankings don’t tell the whole story when it comes to each school and its students. “What it doesn’t capture is the job experience that many of these people have, the fact that many hold advanced degrees, the challenges that they’ve had to overcome in life,” Dwyer said. The dean said Boalt has made some improvements — making particularly good hires recently and ramping up its clinical program, focusing on human rights, the death penalty and law and technology. Students are “savvy shoppers,” Dwyer said, and while they won’t use the magazine’s rankings as their sole criteria for choosing a school, “it definitely plays a factor in their decision.” The University of San Francisco School of Law stayed in the third tier for the fourth year in a row. Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School came in third and fourth overall, respectively, with New York University School of Law rounding out the top five. Law schools are considered for the rankings by “measures of quality,” which consists of reputation, selectivity, placement success and faculty resources. San Francisco’s Hastings College of the Law was the only Bay Area law school to slip in the rankings — falling four spots, from 36th last year to 40th place this year. Hastings officials would not comment on the rankings. Officials from Santa Clara University School of the Law were ecstatic over the poll results. Barry Holtzclaw, media relations director for Santa Clara, acknowledged the pressure that accompanies a college’s ranking on the list. “We recognize that people looking at law schools pay a lot of attention to these rankings. But our faculty doesn’t assess the worth of our law school on these rankings. “We’ve got the reputation in the area and some of the numbers in the area we are proud of; we have a fairly high assessment by lawyers and judges. Those are the numbers that really speak to the quality of the program.” In addition to ranking the law schools overall, the magazine takes a look at what it calls “specialties” — areas of law that are ranked by other faculty members in the same field. In the intellectual property division, Boalt came in first. Stanford and Santa Clara came in eighth and ninth in the IP specialty field. Stanford ranked fourth in environmental law and ninth in tax law. Boalt took sixth in environmental law and 10th in international law. Employees at a few bookstores in San Francisco said they had received several calls from anxious readers wanting to know when the issue was scheduled to arrive. The Internet was abuzz with speculation, and a few Web sites posted the rankings by scanning the pages of U.S. News & World Report. Related chart: The Top Law Schools in the U.S.

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