California State Bar Wants Diversity Included In Law School Rankings

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Spearheading the issue, is the Bar's Council on Access & Fairness' chairman, Craig Holden.

''The deans care dearly about where they rank,'' said Holden. ''The rankings are a real driver for change - everybody recognizes that - and when you make diversity a sidebar rather than a component of the rankings, you're sidelining the issue.''

Not everyone on the State Bar agrees with Holden's proposal, however. Members Michael Tenenbaum and Clark Gehlback did not support the measure. Holden argues that adding diversity, as a factor into the rankings, would increase the incentive for schools to recruit diverse classes. He claims that law firms and their clients benefit from having a diverse array of lawyers to work with, however, as it stands, universities need to play a larger role in producing a more diverse set of attorneys in the workforce.

Critics have noted the U.S. News ranking system's negative impact on minorities, as median LSAT scores is a large contributing factor to a school's ranking and minorities are known to score lower on the LSAT, and standardized tests in general.

Bob Morse, the director of data and research at U.S. News, expressed concerns about incorporating diversity as a factor in the rankings. ''What benchmark do you use,'' he said. ''To us, that's not a little point. Should it be relative to the population of the state? How do you deal with private schools? Would the benchmark for UCLA and Michigan be the state they are in, or would it be national? It would be a very sophisticated analysis.''

Currently, the system weights 40% for ''quality assessment'' and 25% for selectivity, which includes median LSAT scores, median GPA acceptance rates. Another 20% accounts for placement success after college, and finally, the last 15% accounts for faculty resources.

Should the new proposal go through, faculty resources would boost up to 20%, quality assessment would drop to 20%, and placement success would remain the same at 20%. Selectivity would also take a hit, dropping down to 20%, and in addition to the new 15% category for diversity, another new category regarding academic support would account for 5% of the formula.

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