The Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) issues this statement because the US News & World Report rankings are upon us. Many of those who receive ballots in their capacity as clinical directors or faculty members find this ranking process very uncomfortable. There are a number of problems with the ranking of clinical programs, not the least of which is that it pits us in competition with each other, when we as a group see ourselves on the same team in a shared struggle for social justice, equality, and improved legal education. Second, there are no articulated factors for ranking clinical programs, so to a degree the voting is a bit of a popularity contest. Third, some schools unfairly suffer because they do not have the budget or the support of their administration to produce and mail clinic brochures or to send their clinic faculty to annual conferences.
While we might wish the rankings would disappear or hope for collective action, the USN&WR rankings are likely here to stay and this year's clinical program ballots are now arriving. So, what can we as faculty who teach clinics do? CLEA, acting on the recommendation of its Rankings Committee (Carolyn Grose, Margaret Johnson, Bob Kuehn, Michael Pinard & Karen Tokarz), urges those ranking clinical programs to focus on key factors such as: 1) the range and quality of clinical curricular offerings available to students; 2) the law school's security of position, academic freedom, and governance rights for faculty who teach clinics; and 3) the extent to which the school has fulfilled the goal of diversity in hiring for clinical positions with long-term security.
Beyond the issue of how to handle this year's ballots, CLEA believes that the issue of clinical program rankings and of infusing clinical education more into the equation (and balloting) for overall school rankings are topics worthy of continued conversation and strategizing and welcomes further ideas and input on these issues.