Two local law schools are among the best part-time programs in the country according to the U.S. News and World Report's new rankings. Beasley School of Law at Temple University placed seventh, and Rutgers University School of Law - Camden placed ninth on the national list.
Part-time programs offer evening and weekend classes for people who are working full-time. A part-time program usually takes four years to complete, compared to three years for a traditional program.
"We're very proud of both our full-time and our part-time programs," explains Rayman Solomon, dean and professor at Rutgers-Camden. "But the whole [ranking] system is rather silly and arbitrary."
Only half of the ranking is based on objective criteria, including LSAT scores, undergrad GPAs and the proportion of part-time students involved in prestigious activities, like interschool competitions and law review. The other half of the ranking is based on the impressions of law school deans and faculty members. This heavy reliance on opinions makes the scores unreliable, Solomon thinks.
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"I've been in law school administration for 25 years," he says, "and I could rank maybe 35 of the 200 law schools in the country."
Solomon recognizes that some schools are better than others, but thinks that the hair-splitting distinctions implied in such precise rankings are not helpful. "There are probably 25 or 30 schools that are really excellent," he says, "but to distinguish among them beyond that is just silly."
Today's law students
Kaplan Test Prep, which helps future lawyers get ready to take the LSAT, has found that fewer future lawyers are planning to go into politics. In a recent survey, 38 percent of pre-law students said they would consider running for political office, down sharply from 54 percent in 2009. That 38 percent reflects a substantial gender gap: 51 percent of male pre-law students would consider running, but only 29 percent of female pre-law students are open to the idea.
Temple's Beasley School of Law doesn't usually comment on rankings, but a spokesperson said: "Temple Law was founded as an evening school and has maintained a strong commitment to our evening students. It's not easy to balance law school with a full-time job, and we work hard to make sure it's worth it for them to take on that challenge."
On the merger
Like many at Rutgers-Camden -- including William Brown, the Rutgers-Camden law student whom Governor Christie called an "idiot" in a town hall meeting -- Solomon is concerned about the proposal to merge Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University.
"I'm opposed to losing the Rutgers name and tradition, the connection with the rest of the university," he said. "I'm in favor of figuring out an arrangement that will allow us to keep more resources in South Jersey." Solomon sees many possibilities in partnerships and collaborations with Rowan, which has resources that could benefit the offerings at Rutgers-Camden, but worries about an outright merger. "Our pro bono program is not only innovative, but important in providing legal services to the city of Camden and the entire South Jersey region," he says. "We're very proud of that, and we'd hate to see that get lost in a merger."