The U.S. News and World Report rankings came out today. It was not a good day for the University of Baltimore School of Law: ranked #135 among U.S. law schools.
Of course, this post is going to assume that U.S. News & World Report is relevant to anything. When was the last time you paid a moments attention to this magazine that did not involve looking a school rankings. The answer is probably 10 years ago. But, it certainly is because people care about it. But whether it is a reflection of quality is anyone’s guess.
I don’t know. You have to appreciate that the University of Baltimore School of Law has been on a crazy roll in recent years. After falling and falling, its ranking with U.S News had been soaring higher each year. But the real kicker is the new building they opened last year. The old UB was a rat hole. We can say that now. It really was. The new building is just stunning. It has anything you could ever want to teach or to receive an education in, and do it in style. Even Above the Law, which has snarky commentary on the color of the sky, had good things to say about the design of the building.
So what happened? Well one thing that happened is Dean Philip J. Closius left. Why? I never fully understood or bothered to get my mind around all of the details. But I think I can distill it down: money and ego. It seems that most everyone involved had way too much of the latter, including Deal Closius himself. But I’ll tell you what the guy could do: raise money and push our rankings with U.S. News north. Now, was our ranking all that high? No. But the key was we were moving in the right direction and people were getting excited. We peaked at #113 two years ago which was after Closius left but probably reflecting his work. Now we have back-to-back falls in the wrong direction: #134 last year and #135 this year.
I was depressed when he left, so much so that I offered to donate $10,000 to UB if they brought him back. But the bridge had been burned on both sides and that was that.
Now we have a new dean at U.B. Ronald Weich, a former Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs at the Department of Justice. While I’m hardly an inside player as someone on the adjunct facility who had never even met the new dean, I do talk to students and other professors. By all accounts that I have heard, Dean Weich is up to the task. He smart, he cares about what he is doing, and he is determined for the school to succeed. He also wisely is playing to UB’s strength: teaching practical skills that get students ready for the bar exam and for the real world.
But I have to think that the transition alone – having to have an interim dean and getting the new guy up to speed – had a cost that we are paying for now.
Certainly, we can get back on the right path and we can use this building to market the school in a way that never could have been done before, that will bring in out-of-state students and just generally increase the quality of students coming into the school. But we really have to hustle at this point and overcome this hit and get the momentum point back in our direction.