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Dean Martin Comments on Fordham Law’s Nine-Place Rankings Drop

Submitted by on May 14 – 2013No Comment

In March the US News and World graduate school rankings listed Fordham Law at 38 out of 194 law schools, a nine-place drop from the law school’s place at 29 in 2012. This year, Fordham tied with University of Arizona (Rogers) and University of California-Davis.

Several specialty programs received consistently favorable US News rankings, including the dispute resolution program (12), clinical education program (16), and intellectual property (24). The evening program continued to be ranked third nationally.

Though the US News rankings are comprised of a number of criteria, in an email to Fordham Law students and alumni on March 12 Dean Michael Martin identified the law school’s employment statistics as one of the factors contributing to the sharp drop.

“Key factors in the School’s overall ranking were the employment outcomes of our Class of 2011—whose members faced a challenging job market—and changes in the U.S. News methodology that discounted certain kinds of employment. On all of the other ranking factors, Fordham maintained its strength,” Martin wrote.

Comments released by Martin further elaborated that the change in employment methodology “helped schools with more resources to fund full-time, long term employment for their own graduates.”

The “employed at graduation” figure listed by US News for Fordham is 43.9 percent, a number that, according to the US News website, accounts for “the percentage of all 2011 graduates who had a full-time job lasting at least a year for which bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage. These employment rates are part of the data on placement success used to determine a school’s ranking.”

According to the ABA Placement Questionnaire posted on Fordham’s Career Planning website for this same cohort of students (2011), nine months after graduation 336 of 428 respondents, approximately 78.5 percent, were employed in a job that either mandated bar passage or in which having a JD was an advantage. The questionnaire also identified fifty-seven 2011 graduates as holding short-term employment with the university.

Other factors included the size of the incoming class. “Fordham has been slower to reduce the size of our class size than other schools. That has effects on so-called student selectivity, LSATs, GPAs, and the percentage of admitted students who come to Fordham. Because we have a larger class, it has been harder to maintain these numbers,” Martin said in a meeting with student leaders on April 24. Reducing the incoming fall 2013 class size to four hundred students has been identified by Martin as one of the steps in the law school’s action plan. The entering class of 2012 included 433 students, while the entering class of 2011 numbered 479.

Martin described several steps the law school is taking to address the issue of diminished strength in the US News rankings, emphasizing the administration’s stated commitment to supporting graduates’ career prospects.

“We will continue to expand our outreach to the bench and bar and to deans and faculty at peer law schools to positively influence our reputation scores,” he said. “Our Career Planning Center has taken many proactive steps with employers and in helping students navigate the complex job market. In addition, our faculty and alumni are highly supportive of students’ job search efforts, providing guidance, recommendations, networking opportunities, and job leads.”

Though the dip in rankings has left some disheartened, Martin urged students to focus on the positive: “The most important point is that Fordham Law School has no identity crisis. We know who we are and what our mission is. The adherence to our mission has served us quite well over the past 108 years, and we expect that it will continue to serve us well in the years to come. While we seek to learn and improve from the bump in the road resulting from these rankings, it will not deter us from fulfilling our mission as we continue our efforts to maintain Fordham Law’s standing as one of the nation’s preeminent law schools.”

Superlawyers, a service that ranks lawyers based on peer recognition and personal achievement, identified Fordham as the law school providing the fourth most number of graduates on their New York List in 2012, behind NYU, Harvard, and Columbia. In 2010, the most recent year for which Superlawyers ranked schools based on their nation wide list, Fordham ranked twenty seventh.

The National Law Journal ranked Fordham Law at 19 among the most popular school with hiring firms. This ranking considered the number of 2012 grads at NLJ 250 firms (113) as compared to the class size (486), or 23.25 percent.

–Grace Aviles, News Editor

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