College of Law Gets an A in New National Jurist Rankings of Best Schools for Practical Training

In new rankings just released by the National Jurist magazine, the University of Utah S. J Quinney College of Law was given an A rating as one of the Best Schools for Practical Training.

In its tally, the National Jurist ranked the top 21 schools to earn an A or A+ grade, as well as the 15 schools that earned an A-, the 24 that received a B+ and the 24 that received a B. Overall, the College of Law was ranked 12th on the extensive list of honorees.

Professor Linda F. Smith, Clinical Program Director at the College of Law, quoted with approval an analysis of the magazine’s methodology provided by one of her colleagues:  “As Kate Kruse, Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Curriculum at Hamline University School of Law in Minnesota, wrote, ‘The magazine’s methodology based its rankings on primarily objective factors, measuring the clinic, externship and simulation slots available per student and weighting those experiences according to the value that recent graduates place on them based on [National Association for Law Placement] surveys of recent graduates. In these NALP surveys, clinics and externships come out significantly ahead of simulations.’”

The College of Law has an extensive externship program with many excellent field placements so that any student who wants a live lawyering experience can have one most any semester, according to Smith. In recent years the College of Law has added faculty-supervised clinics in environmental law, innocence and public policy work; however those experiences are still coded as “externships” because the students often work with both faculty and supervisors from partnering non-profits. Had those clinics been coded as in-house clinics, Smith believes the grade would have been even higher.

The College of Law also has many simulation classes, some related to the externships and some independent of the externships. Similarly, it is rare that a student is closed out of a simulation class. As Smith noted, “the study didn’t rank Pro Bono lawyering experiences, which also provide practical training and in which the U of Utah is strong.”

“It is important to us to graduate students who are practice-ready,” Smith said. “With 40,000 clinical hours per year and 8,000 pro bono hours per year, our students are performing important public service while learning how to serve the legal needs of actual clients.”