The University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law’s traditional strengths as a top-tier law school are reflected in newly released rankings of top U.S. law schools. According to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 edition of Best Graduate Schools, the College of Law is ranked 45th among 196 ABA-approved U.S. law schools. For the second year in a row, the law school retained its position as a top 10 program for environmental law.
“We excel in the areas most important to our students, such as bar exam passage rate, employment after graduation, and the qualifications of our admitted students. Although we are pleased by this recognition, our main focus is the education and success of our students, not a particular number in any given set of rankings,” said Robert Adler, dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
The school has continually scored among the top 50 law schools in the country over the past decade. Besides a strong overall showing, the College of Law’s historically strong program in environmental and natural resources law, with its flagship Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment, was named as the 7th best environmental law program in the country.
Adler noted that the U.S. News & World Report rankings are only one of many measures of a law school’s quality —and the S.J. Quinney College of Law is thriving at a time when many exciting changes at the school are underway to enhance innovation in legal education, bolster community service, set an example for sustainable practices and provide students with new opportunities for skills training.
The S.J. Quinney College of Law celebrated a historic milestone earlier this year, with the grand opening of its new building on the University of Utah campus. The building is designed to be LEED platinum, an acronym that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and has won awards for both sustainability and accessibility.
The law school has also garnered national attention with the launch of the 100/100 initiative, a goal to reach 100 percent bar passage and 100 percent employment rates for all law school graduates. The initiative builds on the law school’s already high bar passage rate of over 91 percent and professional employment rate of 92 percent— that are significantly higher than national averages across the country among law students.
Part of the 100/100 initiative includes a plan by the law school to find every law student a practicing lawyer mentor through its mentor U program. Students will also have access to new incubator programs and rural lawyer placement to help graduates connect with employment opportunities in underserved communities. The school also promises to provide an intensive student-faculty learning opportunity for every student through one-on-one or small group work. Affordability is also part of the 100/100 goal, so students can focus on studying and graduate with less debt. The law school recently received a gift to fund a $1.4 million endowment to fund scholarships for environmental law students and new scholarship funds to honor law school alumni, Adler said.
In addition to new initiatives, several hallmarks of excellence at the College of Law continue. Students at the College of Law have won six national competition awards in the past five years for legal writing and oral advocacy. This year, student teams from the College have continued to excel in external competitions, reaching the “elite 8” in the National Moot Court Competition and the final rounds of several other competitions in negotiation, transactional law, and various forms of written and oral advocacy. The school focuses on community engaged learning, and students devote more than 40,000 hours of legal service each year to under-represented communities while gaining valuable practical skills. Research by faculty and students continue to result in influential public policy changes, including reports on sentencing guidelines; the effectiveness of the Dodd-Frank Act; dismantling the school-to-prison-pipeline and recommendations for improving protections for migrant women.
“The U.S. News rankings show that we remain among the ranks of the nation’s top law schools, but much more important, the opportunities we provide our students, and the success they have demonstrated, continue to grow from year to year,” said Adler.