W&L Soars in National Law School Rankings

By: Haley Goode, 1L

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W&L rose 12 places in the US News and World Report rankings to number 28. | Source: https://www.usnews.com

Washington and Lee law students returned from Spring Break this year to find that W&L has jumped a whopping twelve spots in U.S News and World Report’s “Best Law Schools” rankings from 40th to 28th in the nation. Nash Bowen, 1L, was thrilled with the leap, stating that when he heard the news, “[he] knew [his] investment was sound.” The jump in rank is even more exciting because, according to Dean Cliff Jarrett from the Office of Career Strategy (OCS), “It’s rare, especially in the top fifty schools, to see an increase like this.”

The upward movement could not have come at a better time. Just three years ago, W&L’s ranking fell 17 spots to number 43 in the country after the Class of 2012 struggled to find employment in a legal market riddled with recession. However, career information accounts for only 12% of the factors U.S. News uses when formulating its law school rankings. Rather, 40% of the U.S. News report’s ranking system, which is so heavily relied upon by prospective students, is comprised of surveys of law school faculty members, lawyers, and judges across the country. Thus, fluctuations in those surveys could cause a law school’s ranking to drop despite consistency from a career standpoint. Nevertheless, Dean Jarrett posits that increases in the percent of graduates employed at graduation, graduates employed ten months after graduation, and bar passage can certainly cause a school’s rank to increase. To that end, Dean Jarrett and the Office of Career Strategy have directed their attention to 3Ls throughout their final year at W&L to “help them identify opportunities, connect them with alumni, and focus on their individual needs” as they prepare to enter the job market. This includes exit interviews, summer follow-ups, and close contact with graduates during bar preparation.
It is important to note that law school rankings have never been the focus at Washington and Lee. Rather, Dean Paul Rollins states, the attention has always been placed on providing the best education possible for W&L students.

George Washington dropping a microphone

12 spots in 12 months? Psh, wait until next year. GW out. | Image by Colt Justice

Because of this, “the ranking this year is much more consistent with the historical rankings at W&L, making the last couple of years look like the anomaly that they are in terms of the school’s performance, students, faculty, and prestige within the legal community. [The current ranking] is much more of a return to the norm rather than a dramatic change within the law school.” Dean Rollins, along with current and former students of W&L Law, can attest that the quality of education at the law school is no worse or better now than it was three years ago. On the contrary, W&L has consistently provided well-rounded and highly regarded legal education since its founding.
When thinking of the future, Dean Rollins emphasizes the sentiments of William Toles, ‘95L, who, in a recent address to prospective students during an Open House weekend, stated that “no one should come to W&L for the rank. They should come because of the things that exist at W&L separate and apart from the rank. Those things are more static than the ranking, include the faculty we have here, the great environment we have here in Lexington, the job opportunities, and the alumni network. Those things are not subject to annual fluctuation the way the rankings are, and they are the things we ought to be proudest of.”
While an increase in the rankings is always a welcomed change, it should only serve to reaffirm, not necessarily increase, the pride felt by all of those privileged enough to be a part of the W&L Law community.

Categories: News