Tuesday, October 22, 2019

CLEA's Updated Statement on U.S. News and World Report Rankings for Clinical Programs

CLEA co-Presidents, Lisa Martin and Danny Schaffzin, shared this note today with CLEA's updated statement on the U.S. New Rankings for Clinical Programs and its suggested guidance for voters: 

In the coming days, we expect that U.S. News and World Report will circulate the ballots on which it will base its 2020 "specialty" rankings of law school clinical programs.  Last year, U.S. News changed its process so that voters now may rate every ABA-accredited law school instead of choosing just a select few.  With this change in mind, and upon the recommendation of CLEA's Advocacy Committee, we convened an ad hoc committee to consider whether, and if so how, CLEA’s prior statement on the USNWR Rankings (issued in October 2011) should be updated or replaced.  We are grateful to CLEA's Immediate Past President, Jeff Baker, who volunteered to serve as chair, along with fellow CLEA and clinical community leaders Caitlin Barry, Bob Kuehn, and Donna Lee, for their service on the ad hoc committee.
We have . . . copied below CLEA’s updated statement on USNWR Rankings, which was recommended by the ad hoc committee and adopted by CLEA’s Board this month.  The statement retains the values and guidance of CLEA’s prior statement, while incorporating additional principles for navigating the new U.S. News ballots.
While we are aware that the rankings remain concerning and controversial, we hope that CLEA's updated statement will provide helpful direction to those law schools that choose to participate in the forthcoming balloting process. Please know that CLEA will continue its ongoing, critical examination of the problematic U.S. News rankings and the process used to determine those rankings.


CLEA Statement on U.S. News and World Report Rankings for Clinical Programs


The Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) recognizes that many who receive U.S. News & World Report ballots in their capacity as clinical program directors find this ranking process uncomfortable. There are a number of problems with the ranking of clinical programs. First, it places us in competition with each other, when we as a group see ourselves in a shared struggle for social justice, equality, and improved legal education. Second, there are no articulated factors for ranking clinical programs, so the voting can be arbitrary to a degree. Third, some schools may unfairly suffer because they do not have the budget or the support of their administration to market their program or send their clinical faculty to annual conferences.


While we might wish the rankings did not exist or hope to solve the collective action problem that bedevils creative responses, the USNWR rankings have remained a feature of our collective landscape. So, since rankings presently exist, what can we do now as faculty who teach clinics? 


CLEA, through its Board of Directors, urges those ranking clinical programs to focus on factors that promote the principles for which CLEA advocates, namely the increased presence of clinical education (law clinics and externships) in law school curricula, security of position for clinical faculty, and diversity and equity. In evaluating clinical programs, CLEA urges voters to consider: 1) the number of law clinic and externship slots available relative to the student population at a school; 2) the breadth and quality of clinical curricular offerings available to students; 3) the school's security of position, academic freedom, and governance rights for faculty who teach clinics or externships; and 4) the extent to which the school has committed to diversity and equity in hiring for clinical positions with long-term security and retaining and promoting diverse clinical faculty.


CLEA urges voters to score only those programs for which they have sufficient information to make informed decisions. It urges voters to choose the “No Answer” option when they have insufficient information to assess a particular clinical program.  


Last, CLEA also urges those who receive ballots to consult their clinical colleagues for their views to increase the range of informed opinions reflected in the balloting.




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