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Law school strives to improve national ranking

The+College+of+Law+is+located+on+Peabody+Drive+and+Sixth+St.++The+clinic+will+focus+on+providing+legal+aid+to+veterans+in+the+C-U+area.
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Law school strives to improve national ranking

The College of Law is located on Peabody Drive and Sixth St.  The clinic will focus on providing legal aid to veterans in the C-U area.

The College of Law is located on Peabody Drive and Sixth St. The clinic will focus on providing legal aid to veterans in the C-U area.

The Daily Illini File Photo

The College of Law is located on Peabody Drive and Sixth St. The clinic will focus on providing legal aid to veterans in the C-U area.

The Daily Illini File Photo

The Daily Illini File Photo

The College of Law is located on Peabody Drive and Sixth St. The clinic will focus on providing legal aid to veterans in the C-U area.

By Rebecca Wood, Contributing writer

The University’s College of Law was a top-20 program for years, yet over the past several years, its ranking has gradually dropped. Currently, the law school ranks 44th nationally, according to the U.S. News and World Report. While other reports rank the school higher, the faculty and students continue to work toward improving their ranking. 

Vikram David Amar, dean and professor of law, joined the faculty in 2015 after working at the University of California Davis School of Law, University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles .

Amar presumes the two main reasons for the drop were a data misreporting episode in 2011 and the great recession, which hit the law school harder than other schools in the Midwest.

“We just went down in U.S. News. We have been moving up in Above the Law Rankings and Nation Law Journal Go-To Schools. Regarding faculty influence and faculty productivity, we are top 25,” Amar said. “Next year we will bounce back significantly.”

Justin Beyer graduated in 2001 from the College of Law and is now a partner at the Seyfarth Shaw law firm in Chicago. Beyer considers several possible reasons for the drop.

“The internet and email were sort of in their infancy when I was in college, and people were using that to drive rankings,” Beyer said. “I imagine after 2005, where more information was accessible online, there was a time when what the University was doing to drive things took a hit.”

Beyer also said rankings are primarily driven by employment rates 24 months after students graduate. Because the law school is not in a major metropolis, the numbers could gradually drop.

Beyer added that the drop could have been related to the job market or the economy, especially after losing the state budget — being that programs are currently 100 percent funded by alumni.

Though this rank in U.S. News and World Report appears to have dropped by a significant amount, the faculty and students make it clear the school is not letting it impact the way their school operates and are always seeking ways to improve.

“The class of 2016 had the best job results in recent memory and one of the best in the country,” Amar said. “We haven’t reduced the quality of students, just a smaller class.”

Soffia Kuehner Gray, first-year law student, enjoys her experience at the University and does not feel the rankings have anything to do with how great the school is.

“I am extremely pleased with the law school. I have a wide variety of coursework and have received a great education so far,” Kuehner Gray said. “It fosters a great sense of community, and I have met some really great friends.”

After graduation, Kuehner Gray is unsure of exactly what her plans will be, but is interested in transactional law and wants to practice in Chicago. The University’s College of Law has many connections in Chicago and St. Louis, Kuehner Gray said.

“About half our students end up in Chicago, even for some period of time,” Amar said. “Chicago is the most important legal market anywhere between the two coasts. Third-year students can even take classes in (downtown) Chicago.”

Amar has several plans for improvements at the law school and feels it is his job to make these changes. Part of this, Amar said, can be fixed through connecting the profession to other areas of expertise.

“We need to work to be more integrated with the rest of the campus, such as the business school, engineering school and medical school. There are a lot of departments relevant to law,” Amar said. “Many law schools have drifted away from lawyers and judges, but we have tried to fight that trend.”

Amar, Beyer and Keuhner Gray all commented on the strong sense of community that exists at the law school — something that pulled many of them there in the first place. For Amar, that is what makes him genuinely happy to go to work every morning.

“I think (the most rewarding part of my job) would really be the people who make up the University and community; they are just genuinely nice, caring people,” Amar said. “I’ve been at a lot of schools, but this University doesn’t have a lot of jerks. I love coming to work because people I work with are people I personally like.”

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