Published on: Friday, April 16, 2010
The annual U.S. News rankings of law schools were released this week, and St. Thomas again ranked in the third tier – a rare feat for a new law school. Dean Thomas Mengler indicated that no one at St. Thomas is satisfied with the third tier, however, and that the school needs to work harder to spread the word about the top-flight scholarship being done by the St. Thomas faculty. “Most of our scores under the US News criteria are consistent with top 100 schools,” Dean Mengler explained, “but one of the major components – reputation among law school faculty nationwide – is a lagging indicator because it is notoriously difficult for a new school to achieve a national reputation quickly.” Rather than rely solely on the US News survey data, the school intends to be proactive, using the widely cited methodology developed by University of Chicago professor Brian Leiter to measure a faculty’s scholarly impact. Under that methodology, St. Thomas expects to place within the top 50 schools nationwide. The results of this study will be released in early fall. Under a separate measure -- prominent publications in the top 25 law journals in the country -- the University of St. Thomas faculty ranks much higher than any law school in the region other than the University of Minnesota. The profile of the St. Thomas faculty continues to grow with the announcement that Mark Osler, a nationally prominent criminal law scholar from Baylor Law School, will join the St. Thomas faculty in the fall. Osler is a frequent media commentator on criminal sentencing issues, and his scholarship has been cited by the United States Supreme Court.
Likewise, the quality of the St. Thomas student body is remarkable. The school has the highest figure at the 75th percentile for Law School Admissions Test scores for any law school ranked in the third tier. “Together with our ability to attract students with a heart for public service and integration of faith and professional identity,” Admissions Director Cari Haaland noted, “the profile of our student body continues to increase in quality each year.” As Dean Mengler commented, “It’s hard for a new law school to get the word out, so our reputation is slow to build, but the pieces already are in place.”