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San Francisco Bay Area law schools are increasingly among the nation’s best. That, at least, is according to U.S. News & World Report magazine, which released its top law school rankings last month. University of San Francisco School of Law moved up to the list’s second tier. The move comes a year after Santa Clara University School of Law made a similar migration to the second tier. The pair’s advancements mean the Bay Area now has five law schools ranked in the list’s top two tiers. “The directions the school’s been moving in are ones we’ve been moving in for a long time. So it’s gratifying that people are taking notice,” said USF Dean Jeffrey Brand. Once again, Yale Law School captured the No. 1 spot in the annual survey, while Stanford Law School came in second. Boalt Hall School of Law dropped to 10th place, after landing in seventh place last year. Boalt Interim Dean Robert Berring Jr. ascribed the school’s slight drop in the rankings to its student-faculty ratio, which resulted from a number of professors being on leave. “That actually was kind of a historic anomaly. So I think we’ll bounce back next year,” said Berring. “We still rank at the top in peer assessment.” Hastings College of the Law advanced to the 36th spot after coming in 40th the year before. Also on the list was Golden Gate University School of Law, which placed in the fourth tier. The schools are evaluated on factors such as test scores, post-graduation employment rates and peer ratings and given an overall score. Schools with the 50 highest scores are deemed first-tier schools. The next 50 are second tier, and the remainder of the 177 schools on the list are third and fourth tier. The report was greeted with the usual mixed emotions from law school faculty members. Many were happy that they placed well in the rankings while at the same time expressing their misgivings about the list’s methodology. “There are real problems with the rankings,” said USF’s Brand. “They’ve gotten a hold, or a perception, on legal education that is disproportionate to their value.” This year, the Law School Admission Council sent a letter to every student taking the LSAT, which called law school rankings “inherently flawed.” The letter was signed by the deans of almost every accredited law school in the country. “The only problem with that is that every college senior looks at those rankings,” said Berring, who also believes the rankings have problems. Many of the top-ranked law schools said their applications have soared in the past year as a result of the nation’s economic slump. Santa Clara saw a 40 percent jump in applications this year, said Julia Yaffee, the school’s senior assistant dean for student services. And Boalt received a record 7,500 applications for its approximately 275 slots, according to Berring. California law schools also did well in some of the magazine’s specialized rankings. Boalt took the top spot for intellectual property law for the second year in a row, while Stanford and Santa Clara came in eighth and ninth respectively on that list. And Pepperdine University’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution propelled it to the No. 1 slot for dispute resolution. Stanford was ranked eighth in the field. Bay Area schools also made a strong showing on the U.S. News report list of the most diverse law schools.

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