The St. Thomas School of Law is ranked No. 135 among U.S. law schools in rankings published Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report.

This is the first time the St. Thomas School of Law has been numerically ranked, reflecting a change in the publication’s ranking policy. The previous four-tier system has been replaced by a two-tier system, with schools in the top 145 ranked numerically in the top tier and other schools placed in the second tier and listed alphabetically. There are many ties in what traditionally had been the top 100, including an 11-way tie at 89 and a five-way tie at 135.

The University of Minnesota tied for No. 20, and St. Thomas tied with William Mitchell College of Law and three other schools at No. 135. Hamline University is listed in the second tier, which includes 45 schools.

In a time of unprecedented change and upheaval in the legal marketplace, the St. Thomas School of Law has shown evidence of quality over the past year in several ways, according to Dean and Ryan Chair Thomas Mengler. The school was featured as one of the nation’s top law schools for externships in National Jurist’s October 2010 issue, ranked No. 1 for having the most externship placements per full-time student. Last summer, the School of Law ranked No. 38 in law review citations to tenured faculty, per-capita, 2005-2009, in a study that extended professor Brian Leiter’s “Scholarly Impact Score” methodology to law schools accredited by the American Bar Association.

The quality of the St. Thomas student body continues to be remarkable, Mengler said. The LSAT scores and GPAs of students place them on par with their peers in those schools listed in the top 100, and the law school’s peer reputation score in the U.S. News survey rose as well.

One other St. Thomas program – the School of Social Work – traditionally has been ranked highly by U.S. News. Last year, the School of Social Work, a joint program with St. Catherine University, ranked No. 53 among 177 programs that offer master’s degrees and are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The magazine does not conduct new surveys and publish new rankings of social work programs every year.