Pitt, Duquesne Law schools rise in U.S. News rankings

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Both the University of Pittsburgh Law School and Duquesne University School of Law moved up significantly in the annual ranking by U.S. News and World Report, released Tuesday.

Pitt, which dropped in last year's ranking from 69th to 91st, moved up 10 spots in the latest survey to No. 81, tied with nine other law schools.

Duquesne, which made the list last year for the first time in a decade, coming in at No. 144, moved up to No. 121 on this year's list, in a five-way tie.

The dean of Duquesne’s law school said the university’s improved ranking is likely due, at least in part, to its consistency in a time when many law schools are struggling to maintain class sizes.

“We made a conscious decision, with the strong support of the university, that we weren't going to sacrifice our high standards just to fill seats,” said Ken Gormley. “That has financial ramifications, but we stuck to our guns and decided to stay focused on our mission of developing educated, ethical lawyers.”

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The report, which uses criteria including students' acceptance rates, job placement rates and law school admission test scores, examined 194 accredited schools.

U.S. News and World Report doesn't immediately provide all the data behind a school’s ranking, noted Pitt Law School Dean William Carter, so it’s hard to be certain about why any given school fared the way it did.

But, he said, the jump in Pitt's ranking probably can be attributed to its increased job placement success and the fact that the school held its median scores steady on the law school admission test, or LSAT.

Yale University topped the list for the second year in a row, followed by Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and the University of Chicago.

As for how significant the rankings are for students choosing a law school, Mr. Gormley said most prospective students are aware of the U.S. News numbers. “But I think in most cases, they are sophisticated enough to figure out much of this is a PR tool,” he said. “Most professional schools’ reputations, unless you’re Harvard or Yale, are regional. But [the rankings] do contribute to developing an image both regionally and nationally.”

Mr. Carter said while he was “gratified” that Pitt had risen in the standings, it would not have an impact on what the school is already doing. “I remain resolute in my view that U.S. News rankings should never be treated as the single metric by which applicants evaluate a law school,” he said.

Kim Lyons: klyons@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1241. Twitter: @SocialKimly

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