UCI Law Ranks No. 30 on US News and World Report

Patrick Herrin | New University

Patrick Herrin | New University

 

By: Mariah Castaneda

UCI Law School clocked in at No. 30 among 198 accredited law schools across the nation by US News and World Report during it’s debut in the spring of 2015.

The 6-year-old law school’s accomplishment of such a high ranking is largely unheard of by other young law schools.

Despite this success, however, the ranking fell short of Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s publicly announced goal of having the school break into the US News ranking as a top-20 school.

When the school was founded in 2006, faculty from other top-20 law schools were hired as part of the first professorial cohort. Even newer faculty members have been recruited from other prestigious, high-ranking programs.

The current holders of the coveted No. 20 spot are both USC and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Both law schools are over a hundred years old. As a result, both have comparatively high employment rates for recent graduates of 56.1% and 70.8% respectively

Meanwhile, UCI Law has only had a mere six years to create credibility. The young age of UCI Law’s program and alumni network has hindered its 42.9% employment rate from reaching top-20 status.

In 2012, the school boasted a 90 percent pass rate for the bar exam with only Stanford as the only other California law school with a higher rate.

However, the pass rates did not hold up as the young school grew. Last July, UCI Law only yielded a pass rate of  77 percent when 83 students took the bar for the first time. Even though it fared better than most California law schools, UCI dropped below every other UC law school in this regard, except for UC Hastings.

Along with pass rates, the size of scholarships offered to the law cohorts fell with each passing class as well. The inaugural class received full scholarships to attend UCI Law School. Now, the scholarship only covers one-third of tuition. With an in-state tuition of $44,717, the disappearing aid may prove to be a factor that’s mitigating the recruitment of higher caliber of students.

Student enrollment has been kept exclusive with only 89 students accepted in the last class compared to 126 last year. Some say that class sizes have intentionally been kept small in order to boost the quality of students and increase odds of the graduating class becoming employed directly after graduating.

Although the No. 30 ranking is considered by some to be a lofty accomplishment, others were disappointed, especially because a large number of donations were made to UCI Law. Now, concerns have arisen surrounding the ability of the school to recruit high-achieving students.

Despite these setbacks, Chemerinsky believes the young law school is on its way to becoming a top-20 school. He said that no other school as young as UCI Law has been in the top 50 or top 75.

“We will be constantly working on moving up,” he said.