The University of Florida Levin College of Law leapfrogged seven places in a national ranking of law schools after outreach to potential students nearly doubled the school’s applicant pool.
The law school—now ranked 41st in the country—once again scored the highest overall among Florida’s law schools in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of law schools.
In all, five of Florida’s 11 law schools made the ranked list. The six remaining law schools are among those ranked 150 through 197 that the publication lists alphabetically and “can be considered broadly similar in quality.”
UF Law Dean Laura Ann Rosenbury, who took her post in July 2015, had publicly vowed last year to raise the school’s ranking, then 48th, to the mid-30s within three to five years.
“This creates incredible momentum,” Rosenbury said. “I’m very optimistic that next year we will break into the 30s.”
It’s the largest year-over-year increase in more than 20 years and is the second-largest improvement of any law school ranked in the top 50. The Graduate Tax Program held its spots as the No. 1 program among public law schools, and as No. 3 overall.
Other Florida-based universities moved around on the list as well.
Florida State University College of Law moved up two places to 48th, the spot occupied by the University of Florida last year.
“We were working toward it—the way law school rankings go, it’s kind of an arms race,” said Florida State Law School Dean Erin O’Hara O’Connor. “Students can be a little more choosy these days because law school applications are down, so we are all struggling to be the best, highest ranking law school we can be.”
The University of Miami School of Law dropped 17 places to 77th as the number of students employed 10 months after graduation and the school’s bar passage rate dropped by several percentage points each.
Stetson University College of Law climbed several spots up to 96th on the list, two slots ahead of Florida International University College of Law at 100. The two had tied for 103rd place last year. Stetson ranked highest among all law schools in the nation in the trial advocacy specialty.
Other Florida law schools were not given numerical rankings, including Ave Maria University, Barry University, Florida A&M University, Florida Coastal School of Law, Nova Southeastern University and St. Thomas University.
When Rosenbury became dean of UF’s law school, she found that the application pool had dropped even more than the national average. But applications for fall of 2016 increased by 98 percent to 2,703 after aggressive outreach targeted to potential students scoring well on the Law School Admission Test, as well as a social media effort and the drafting of alumni to help recruit potential and admitted applicants.
Emails targeted to LSAT takers that the school thought would be good prospects offered an application fee waiver. Alumni were paired with admitted students to encourage them to attend UF over other law schools.
“We were very aggressive and creative in our outreach to potential students. … I even did Snapchat for the first time,” Rosenbury said. “Because of that we could get a student pool that was coming to us with better credentials and more diverse experiences.”
The effort also helped bring in an entering class with slightly higher scores: The median LSAT was 160, up from a 157, and the median GPA was 3.6, up from 3.5. The class is also the most diverse in the law school’s history, with 36 percent identifying as racially or ethnically diverse.
To continue to raise its rank, Rosenbury said UF plans to continue to improve its entering student LSAT scores. It will also focus on fundraising to improve faculty and scholarship expenditures. Hiring faculty can be more difficult for public law schools, she said, compared with some of the more generously funded private law schools.
Similarly, Florida State is working to raise its rank, using LSAT marketing and social media and holding events for admitted applicants. The dean calls admitted students on her Sunday afternoons to encourage them to commit to Florida State.
Florida State University claimed the highest percentage of 2015 graduates employed 10 months after graduation in full-time, long-term, bar passage-required or J.D.-advantage jobs. The law school’s 2016 entering class had a median LSAT of 159 and a median GPA of 3.52. And its environmental law program ranked 14th in the country.
FIU’s College of Law rose three places in the rankings, to No. 100, with improvements in its student-to-faculty ratio, rates of graduate employment and bar passage.
“One thing that seems to have gone in our favor is the stronger the program has shown to be in the rankings, the more attractive it is to applicants,” said Tawia Ansah, FIU College of Law’s associate dean for academic affairs.
The larger applicant pool allows the school to be more selective, thereby further fueling its rise on the list, he said.
U.S. News & World Report ranks law schools in a variety of areas, including incoming LSAT scores and grade-point averages, student-faculty ratio, percentage of students with jobs 10 months after graduation, bar passage rates and assessments by peers, lawyers and judges.
Yale University once again topped the list, while Stanford Law School elbowed out Harvard Law School to claim the No. 2 spot. The two schools had tied for second the past four years.