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UB Law advances in annual rankings; School ties for 84th; was '3rd tier' in 2010

The University at Buffalo Law School has bounced back in the latest rankings by U.S. News & World Report.

UB Law School tied for No. 84 among 190 accredited law schools in the nation, after falling out of the top 100 programs altogether last year.

While colleges and universities often complain about the magazine's rankings and methodology, the annual ratings are widely read. Last year's drop by the Law School, in particular, caused some angst among students, faculty and alumni, putting added pressure on Dean Makau W. Mutua.

UB Law ranked No. 77 in 2007; No. 100 in 2008; No. 85 in 2009; and last year was listed as a "third-tier" school without a ranking.

"I cannot put too much stock in [the rankings] because of the wild swings," Mutua said, "but clearly I'm appreciative that we moved up."

"I think there's no question that prospective students, alumni and employers pay attention to the rankings, and that's why law schools also pay attention to them," he said.

The U.S. News ratings come after UB Law School landed on two other national lists in recent months.

Thomson Reuters, the largest legal publisher in the United States, ranked UB Law School 48th nationwide. A ranking developed in the New Yorker magazine placed UB Law School 40th in the nation based on value for the dollar, LSAT scores and faculty publishing.

Mutua believes the Law School -- which enrolls nearly 700 students and costs about $17,500 a year for in-state residents -- has made strides in recent years, particularly when it comes to adding quality faculty and growing its alumni base.

Donors to the Law School's annual giving have doubled in the past 10 years, while gifts to the school have reached $1 million-plus during each of the last three years, officials from the Law School said.

That's money that goes back into the school, Mutua said.

"The good thing is that alumni have recognized how critical our support is to the school given the state budgetary problems," said Francis M. Letro, a Buffalo attorney and UB alumnus.

"Whether you agree with the methodology of the rankings or not, it's out there," Letro said. "If they're talking about us, I think alumni want to be heard."

The magazine tweaked its methodology a bit for law schools this year, after concerns were raised that institutions weren't fairly reporting how many recent law graduates got jobs, one of the several measures used for scoring.

It also extended its list of numerically ranked institutions from the top 100 to the top three-quarters.

The latest rankings -- released earlier this week -- show UB Law School tied for No. 84 with DePaul, Hofstra, Louisiana State, Rutgers, Santa Clara, Seattle and Villanova universities, as well as the universities of Arkansas and Nebraska.

The magazine also ranked other graduate school programs.

UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences ranked No. 55 out of nearly 150 medical schools; the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences ranked No. 52 out of 200 schools; and the School of Management's full-time program ranked No. 75 out of 437 schools.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com