Program rises 11 spots to No. 98 in US News’ annual list
The USC School of Law improved 11 spots in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of the country’s best law schools, ranking No. 98 in the 2014 list released last week.
Dean Robert Wilcox said the school’s improvement is largely thanks to financial resources the university has committed to the law program that have allowed five tenure-track faculty members to be hired in the past year. The school’s student-to-faculty ratio has improved as a result to 15.1-to-1 compared to 16.4-to-1 last year.
Smaller class sizes in the past couple of years have allowed the school to make other improvements to its courses, Wilcox said. Capstone courses for third-year students, for instance, have been added to creatively train future lawyers for the actualities of practice through simulations of situations they may encounter at a firm.
The school is also working to build some “key programs” like children’s law, small business law and environmental law, Wilcox said.
He said he hopes those kinds of changes will be reflected in future rankings.
“We think it’s big news that the improvement has come and we’re in the top 100 again, but we feel like this is only in the beginning of what will be a lot of improvement,” Wilcox said.
Though U.S. News no longer makes a distinction between the top-100 schools and those that fall below, Wilcox said that a top-100 ranking is a traditionally strong factor when considering the overall quality of a law school.
“For students, it is the only seemingly objective measure they have of the quality of a school,” Wilcox said. “I think it has a huge impact on prospective students to see that the school is one that’s moving up in the rankings (and to know that) their degree is going to improve in value.”
Other improvements the school plans to see in the near future include the construction of an $80 million facility, which is expected to open in 2016.
“What the building will do is provide the flexibility of classrooms that we need to continue to modify our curriculum as legal education changes. That flexibility to constantly update and modernize is going to be important to our reputation,” Wilcox said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to catch the attention of the legal community and the academic community.”
Yale University topped the 2014 law school rankings, followed by Harvard University and Stanford University. Regional schools ranked above USC’s law school include University of Alabama (No. 21), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (No. 31), University of Georgia (No. 33) and University of Florida (No. 46).