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Programs ranked in local law school study

September 25, 2000

MSU-Detroit College of Law ranks below Lansing’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School in a recent study ranking law schools.

Using statistics from the American Bar Association, Cooley Dean Don LeDuc released the school’s third annual Program Achievement Rating study ranking U.S. law schools this month.

LeDuc said many law school ranking programs only use subjective data, such as the incoming students’ undergraduate grade-point averages and law school admissions test scores.

Schools with more selective acceptance rates whose students have high LSAT scores and high GPAs are said to have a high profile and schools that accept students with lower LSAT scores and lower GPAs have a low profile.

LeDuc’s program uses this data as well, but also includes the percentage of the law schools’ students who pass the bar examination.

“(Other) ranking systems tend to focus just on the high-profile students,” LeDuc said. “We thought maybe there ought to be a different way of looking at who’s doing what with the classroom end of the process.”

Sharon Matchette, deputy director of communications for Cooley, said the schools ranked highest on the Program Achievement Rating table showed they had a good academic program that was successful in terms of how much the students learned, not how well the students did before they were in the law school.

“What (LeDuc) discovered was that schools that have more liberal admissions, that take students from a wider variety of undergraduate grade-point averages and LSAT scores, when they come out the other end they’re passing the bar,” Matchette said.

For the 2000 rankings, Cooley ranked 41. The school was ranked third for 1999 and fifth for 1998. The school was ranked 13 for the cumulative ranking of the three years.

LeDuc said the slip in the rankings for the school this year was due to slightly lower bar examination results.

“Obviously, we’d like to be a little better,” he said. “Overall for the last three years, we’re pretty happy about it.”

DCL has a cumulative three-year ranking of 94. It was ranked 115 for 2000, 57 for 1999 and 104 for 1998.

But Terence Blackburn, the dean of DCL, said students cannot only look at ranking systems when considering which law school to attend.

“The American Association of Law Schools and the American Bar Association have specifically said that they do not sanction any particular rating system at all,” he said. “What pro-active students ought to be doing is carefully evaluating each school on its own merits.”

Blackburn said DCL is continuing to improve in many ways, including adding two clinical programs that allow students to get experience before practicing law themselves.

But LeDuc said many students consider the rankings helpful in deciding where to attend law school.

“A lot of people look at those factors and they do say they come (to Cooley) because we have good bar results,” he said.


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