Counting Clinical Opportunities

I just finished writing a letter to the editor of National Jurist about the magazine’s ranking of the “Best Law Schools for Practical Training” in the September issue.  They don’t have a letter to the editor section, so I don’t expect it to get it published, but I did want to educate the magazine about Best Practices and Carnegie.  The methodology of the ranking was apparently to count the total number of students enrolled in the school and divide that by the number of clinical spots available and then rank the law schools based on that quotient. 


At a law school like New Mexico which has a mandatory clinic, they apparently only counted the mandatory clinic slots (about a third of the student body since clinic is normally taken in the third year of law school).  We ended up ranking 14th.  I realize that is pretty good, but then the article states that the top school, Yale, offers clinical opportunities to 90% of its student body.   Of course, schools such as UNM, CUNY, UDC and others that require clinic for graduation offer clinical opportunities to 100% of the student body.  So, I am unsure how a school that offers clinic to 90% of its students is ranked higher than those schools that offer it to 100% of its students.  In addition, the raw numbers fail to take into account the rest of the law school curriculum and its commitment to training that is consistent with Best Practices and Carnegie. Of course, the schools that were ranked at the top of the survey are excellent schools and likely to do well, in large part, because of their commitment to clinical legal education


Roy Stuckey has asked whether someone should evaluate law schools based on the ideas in Best Practices.  While it is great that magazines such as National Jurist are interested in writing pieces about practical education, given these quantitative types of rankings, the idea of some qualitative evaluation would be a service to future law students. 

2 Responses

  1. Thanks, Antoinette! I was perplexed by that article. At my school almost 60% of our students graduate having taken a clinic. They are required to take a clinic or an externship and many do both.

    So I was surprised that we didn’t even show up in the top 50. I pulled the ABA-LSAC Official Guide that was the basis for the article thinking that we must be misreporting our numbers. But no apparent problem there. So I’m perplexed! And would love to understand how folks are reporting!

    What does it mean to say Yale has 520 clinical opportunities?

  2. Count me in as equally perplexed!! Although we offer every student who wants one some clinical opportuntiy through field placement or inhouse, we were not in top either.

    My Academic Dean told me that the Jurist used the ABA reporting numbers. I think the idea of alerting the Jurist to our questions about the use and interpretation of numbers is valid.

    Under this analysis, clinics which have 25 or 50 students to one clinical professor would rock! Those with appropriate 1:8 or 1:6 numbers would lose.
    I heard that they use ABA reporting numbers. .

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