The William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa rose 26 points to be ranked among the top tier law schools in the country, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report 2014 graduate school rankings, released yesterday.
The Richardson Law School ranked 80th among the nation’s 144 best law schools compared with 106th a year ago. The rankings also included a second tier of 50 additional law schools.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway had high praise for the school. “The Law School is a source of wonderful law clerks and excellent attorneys,” she noted. “It has produced some of the very best advocates I have seen, both in student competitions and in cases filed in Federal District Court. With each passing year, its value to the legal community increases. At this point, it is indispensable to the practice of law in Hawai‘i.”
The much-discussed U.S. News consumer guide used a complex array of metrics to make its evaluations, including student/faculty ratios, employment at graduation and nine months afterward, bar passage rate, LSAT scores, and acceptance rates.
Richardson Law School Dean Avi Soifer noted: “Our dramatic rise in the rankings is just one indicator of our many successes, including of our dedication to helping our students find legal employment—a factor that was weighted more heavily this year.”
He added, “What they do not consider, however, are our strengths in other areas that also really matter: Our relatively low tuition, our personalized ‘face to face’ teaching, and our emphasis on practical skills and community service.”
First-year law student Mike Dunford said the new ranking carries significant weight for students. Dunford’s wife is an Army physician at Schofield Barracks and he entered Richardson last summer when the couple was transferred from Alabama.
“It’s really validation of what most of the students already know – that the legal education we get here is truly outstanding, particularly given how small this school really is,” said Dunford.
Soifer noted that this latest ranking by U.S. News reinforces the excellence and commitment of the Richardson faculty, and the extraordinary students drawn to study law in a diverse Law School that is heavily engaged with its community.
“We rank high for our success in enrolling those we admit and for our exceptionally good faculty/student ratio. We continue to be incredibly proud of the first-class legal education we offer that honors the vision of the late Chief Justice Richardson: to keep talent and leadership grown in Hawai‘i in Hawai‘i,” he added. “Remarkably enough, our students look out for one another and actually like their law school experience.”
In the past year alone, the Richardson Law School has been cited numerous times for its excellence in multiple areas, including:
- In November 2012, the Law School ranked 7th in the “Diversity Honor Roll” among America’s top 27 law schools, by National Jurist magazine, placing among the top 20 U.S. schools for overall diversity and among the top seven with the highest diversity of faculty.
- In October 2012, Princeton Review listed Richardson as one of the “Best 168 Law Schools” in the country and ranked Richardson No. 1 as the “Best Environment for Minority Students.”
- In August 2012, Richardson was on the “A” list as a “Best Value Law School,” ranking 29th out of 47 schools, according to National Jurist.
- In July 20 12, Richardson was named one of the 20 most innovative law schools in the country by preLaw magazine and The National Jurist. Richardson also placed 52nd in the nation on the strength of law journal citations for publications by the law school’s faculty, according to the Scholarly Impact Report study.
- Richardson ranked third on a list of the Top 20 law schools in helping students find state and local clerkships, according to National Jurist’s January 2012 issue of preLaw magazine.
In presenting its latest rankings, U.S. News noted that students weighing options about choosing a law school should look not only at the rankings, but also at many other key characteristics, both tangible and intangible, including “location, price, course offerings, and faculty expertise.” Richardson Law School is among the lowest priced of the nation’s best schools, and its graduate! s carry substantially lower levels of debt when they graduate.