National Jurist Gives COL High Marks for its Public Interest Programs

The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law earned an A- for its public interest programming in an article published in the January issue of National Jurist magazine, ranking the College among the top 35 out of 200 law schools in the nation for its commitment to public service.

The College of Law was ranked at the A- level with 16 other schools, including the Columbia University School of Law and the University of Washington School of Law. The City University of New York School of Law and Yale Law School topped the magazine’s list, each with an A+ grade.  The first 20 schools on the list were ranked; others were listed alphabetically.

According to information provided by the National Jurist, schools made the ranking if they have one or more public interest clinics; have one or more faculty committees or administrators that oversee public interests; and have a loan repayment assistance program. Six main drivers account for 80% of the score:

1) Average debt payment minus average loan forgiveness (20%)

2) Percentage of graduates placed in public service (32%)

3) Public interest courses offered (15%)

4) Pro bono opportunities (3%)

5) Public interest clinics (5%)

6) Number of clinic positions to enrollment (5%)

The College of Law performs very well across the above weighted criteria. The average law school debt of U graduates is the 31st lowest in the nation, and the school has doubled scholarship funding over the past four years. Some 28% of the law school graduates in 2009 began their professional careers in either government, clerkships, or public interest jobs, all of which were categorized as public service by the ranking.

Dean of the College Hiram Chodosh further noted that the College of Law does extraordinarily well in areas not explicitly included in the above metrics. “Our clinics provide 275 placements each year and our Pro Bono Initiative provides over 300 placements. For a student body of only 400 students to contribute 41,500 hours of public service in just one year far exceeds the range of national comparison.”

Describing the National Jurist’s ranking as “a welcome, albeit imperfect, reflection of our commitment to building justice in society,” Chodosh continued: “It demonstrates Linda Smith’s extraordinary work in developing one of the most expansive clinical programs in the country—offering students opportunities in topical areas ranging from health law to technology, and the environment to global justice, as well as many others.”

Chodosh also credited the “exceptional” work of JoLynn Spruance and the Pro Bono Initiative to emphasize the importance of public service in the legal profession. “By instilling in students the educational and substantive value of service, we believe they will continue to value and commit to pro bono work in their professional lives, helping to assure that quality legal services are available to all citizens,” he concluded.

According to its website, the National Jurist reaches an estimated 100,000 law students throughout the country.