By Pat Higgins | The Duquesne Duke
In a recent release from the U.S. News & World Report, Duquesne’s School of Law ranked among the top graduate schools in the country.
The report, ranking America’s best graduate schools, placed Duquesne in the top tier of law schools, while the legal writing program was ranked 11th nationally.
The ranking marks the “first time in a long time,” according to Dean Ken Gormley, that the program has been ranked in the annual report at No. 144, indicative of significant improvement in curriculum and quality and a continued commitment to excellence among the school’s administration, faculty and students.
In addition to general recognition among the best law programs in the United States, the school ranked No. 22 in the nation for bar exam preparation and No. 49 for its part-time program.
Gormley attributed the national ranking to the University’s aid in improving the program in the face of economic troubles.
“The key to how we handled the downturn in enrollment is that we did not falter and worked with the University all the way up to President Dougherty to maintain our standards rather than compromising them just to fill seats,” Gormley said. “We were able to work with the University to reconfigure things to become leaner and stronger and that resulted in this broader recognition, that things are obviously moving forward in a positive thing.”
President Charles J. Dougherty said he was especially delighted with the release because it is tangible evidence of the steps the school has taken to strengthen curriculum both in the classroom and in the field. He also pointed to the increasing value of the law degree for alumni.
“The law school has taken great strides in improved scholarship, in developing outreach to the community through its legal clinics,” he said. “We’ve really made a name for ourselves nationally. This is very, very good news for the University as a whole, but particularly for our law alums.”
Duquesne has placed an increasing focus on the importance of legal writing to the profession, Gormley said. He said the ability to write well is “what distinguishes excellent lawyers from the vast array of mediocre talent out there.”
“This is very, very good news for the University as a whole.”
Charles J. Dougherty
Jan Levine, director of the Legal Research and Writing Program, echoed Gormley’s position and noted the administration’s cooperation in emphasizing the importance legal writing holds in the profession, and that the factors that produced such a high ranking include a low student-faculty ratio, as well as increasing expenditures per student and selectivity in the admissions process.
“The most important thing is that we’re on the list and we’re near top of the list. That’s based primarily on the institutional commitment that the University and the law school has made to the writing program,” Levine said. “Students pay more attention now to rankings. There are no other rankings in the legal education area other than U.S. News, so those have assumed increasing importance in students’ decisions about which law school to go to.”
Gormley said he is optimistic about the future of the law program based on what the school has done in recent years and the adjustments it continues to make to build a stronger and leaner education.
“I believe the support of the University at every level is primarily responsible for that upward movement. The president, the provost and the board of trustees have all stood behind us,” he said. “[Dougherty] understands how law schools work and he understands the significance of this for the whole University. It’s really because of that support that we have been able to keep moving forward.”