By Gregory M. Stein
Form to be used if we moved up in the rankings:
Dear students, alumni, faculty and friends of the law school,
We are very happy to announce that we have moved up one place in this year's
U.S. News & World Report's "Ultimate Guide to Law Schools."
While we all understand that rankings such as these are based on a somewhat
arbitrary formula, the rankings nonetheless recognize that the foundation of
this law school—its faculty, its alumni, its staff, its physical plant, and,
above all, its fine students—keeps getting stronger. Our efforts have been
paying off, and we thank you.
A law school is more than just its rankings, of course. But the U.S. News
formula highlights several areas in which we have particularly improved. The
number of our graduates employed nine months after graduation increased by 0.4
percent, and we owe thanks to our fine office of career services. Our in-state
bar passage rate moved up by 0.2 percent, which reflects well on our
outstanding faculty and our hard-working students. Our acceptance rate for
2007 increased by 0.8 percent, making us even more selective than we have
always been. And our reputation among our peers continues to increase.
It has been a fine year at the law school, and we have much to celebrate. I
owe you my congratulations, and my thanks.
Very truly yours,
Form to be used if we moved down in the rankings:
Dear students, alumni, faculty, and friends of the law school,
We have much to celebrate this year in the law school. Our fine faculty
continues to publish in highly ranked journals and to speak at prestigious
conferences. Our wonderful alumni are leaders of the bar, both within this
state and beyond its borders. We admitted one of the most competitive classes
of first-year students in the history of the institution, a group of new
students to fill the large shoes of the outstanding group that graduated last
spring and entered the legal profession. And our bar passage rate—always
high—has held nearly steady.
As you surely have read, our rankings in the most recent issue of U.S. News
have dipped slightly. I know you understand that the U.S. News formula, though
it focuses on many of the important attributes of a fine law school, combines
and weighs them in a manner that most lawyers and law deans find to be
arbitrary. For example, did you know that the number of our law graduates
employed nine months after their graduation this year was only two less than
the similar number employed at the same time last year, a phenomenal
accomplishment for our career services office during the beginnings of an
economic slump? Did you know that the number of graduates to pass this state's
bar in July fell by only three during a time of tightening standards? And did
you know that this faculty's reputation among its peers decreased by only one
place during a time when higher education funding for travel and public
relations has been harder and harder to come by? We have much to be proud of!
And applicants to the law school recognize this: Even with the economy
slipping into a recession, the number of applicants to the coming year's class
fell by only six.
A law school is more than just an arbitrary number generated by a computer
programmed by a magazine that is in the business of selling copies. A law
school is its people, and you will find no finer group of people than the
citizens of this community. While I recognize the concern that some of you may
feel about this ranking, I assure you that the law school is stronger than it
has ever been. I look forward to continuing to improve in the coming year.
With my gratitude,
Gregory M. Stein is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee,
which moved up one place this year.