The UNC School of Law was ranked 45 in 2019’s Best Law Schools by the U.S. News and World Reports annual rankings of graduate schools, dropping six spots from last year’s rank of 39.
Out of the six graduate schools ranked, including business, education, engineering, law, medicine and nursing, the UNC School of Law is ranked the lowest.
The legal writing program at the School rose six spots to number 12.
U.S. News and World Report uses a strict methodology to rank the 194 accredited law schools every year, ranging from median LSAT scores and bar passage rates to more holistic characteristics, like assessment scores from lawyers and judges.
Ted Shaw, the director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, said UNC School of Law ranked highly among peer assessments, which evaluates the reputation the School has among different schools, lawyers and judges across the country.
“Rankings are important because people pay attention to them,” Shaw said. “What they really signify is a little bit less certain than what people think they may signify. I believe that UNC Law School ... is available to working class North Carolinians and others. I believe it continues to be a great Law School.”
The UNC Center for Civil Rights was banned from entering litigation from the UNC Board of Governors in September, which hindered the center from defending marginalized clients. Shaw said that although the Center was a valuable addition to the Law School, it wasn’t clear that it had a direct effect on the drop in rankings.
“The Center for Civil Rights litigation program was a plus for UNC Law School, but I don’t wanna go too far-field with any concrete evidence that the Law School slipped in ratings because of it,” Shaw said.
Out of the 83 public law schools in the country, UNC is ranked 22. Yet, compared to other prominent public law schools like the University of Michigan, Shaw said UNC has a smaller endowment and has less resources.
“Carolina is a truly ‘public,’ public law school, which is something I admire in many respects,” Shaw said. “It’s not as well resourced, and that is a challenge to the law school.”
When Dean Martin Brinkley took charge of the School in July 2015, the School had a ranking of 34. The rankings released the following year placed UNC at 38, and then 45 for this year.
However, Brinkley said factors outside of the faculty’s control affected the rankings.
“Most of those factors relate in one way or another to financial resources, which play a substantial role in how U.S. News & World Report calculates our ranking,” Brinkley said in an e-mail. “We have already been working hard to address this problem, and there is more work to do.”
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