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November 13, 2008

"Law school dean trying to break into Top 10 rankings"

The title of this post might be the title of a mission statement for just about every law school ranked somewhere in the top 50.  But, in fact, it is the headline of this interesting local article discussing the goals and plans of the University of Texas School of Law's dean, Lawrence Sager. The lengthy article is a great read, and here is how it begins and a few especially notable passage:

Lawrence Sager knows he will be measured by his ability to raise the $200 million he has promised to add to the University of Texas School of Law's endowment.

If he can raise the money by the university's 2014 deadline, he will nearly double the current $202 million endowment and exceed by fivefold the most money ever raised in a single drive for the law school. Despite recent economic woes, Sager, the law school's dean, said only one of his potential major donors has backed away....

At his core, Sager considers himself a teacher and a scholar; he's one of the nation's foremost constitutional scholars. "What a good law school does," Sager said, "is it incubates a habit of mind that says when making judgments about the right course of action, you are driven not by passion but by reason."

It does that, he said, by creating an environment where "discourse and exchange" can thrive. "I think in a specific way this is what drew me to law school," he said, "this sense of seriousness about language and ideas."...

Hitting his $200 million target, Sager says, is crucial to attracting top faculty and the best students, essential ingredients in his drive to elevate the school from 16th in annual U.S. News and World Report rankings to the Top 10, alongside law schools such as Yale, Harvard and Stanford. For the past 20 years, UT School of Law has maintained a ranking in the Top 20 but never cracked the Top 10.

Sager said he would like the law school first to be able to compete for the best students with higher-ranked public law schools at the University of Michigan, with its $250 million endowment, and the University of California-Berkeley and its $215 million endowment.

"You find yourself worrying about the rankings much too much, but you can't not care about these rankings," Sager said. "They affect your ability to attract the best students and faculty. One of the key ways to affect those rankings is to spend more money."

November 13, 2008 in Impact on law school decision-making | Permalink

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