College of Law ranks 100th in the nation

Adrian Suarez-Avila/Staff Writer

Anthony Halmon was contemplating attending law school at Stetson University before deciding to enroll in FIU’s College of Law.

Halmon, a second year student, admitted FIU Law’s cost of tuition and consistent upward trend in rankings were major factors that led to his decision.

Now he has more reasons to rejoice.

Due to the quality of its resources, and success of its graduates, among various other factors, the College of Law reached the top 100 mark in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the nation’s top law schools.

In addition to its overall ranking, the College was distinguished as 55th in the country (third in the state) for the selectivity of its incoming class, and 56th (second in the state) for the success of its students in securing jobs upon graduating.

“It lets me know that I made the right choice,” said Halmon, referring to the recent news.

Others also expressed their pride.

“This is a great accomplishment for us, particularly in light of us being such a young school,” said Ana Bierman, director of the Law School’s Office of Career Planning and Placement. “It’s a testament to the quality of our students, our instructors, and to how much we’ve grown.”

Dean R. Alexander Acosta voiced his thoughts on the distinction of the graduates’ success in finding jobs.

“Jobs are very important; they’re the main reason to go to law school, so the fact that we are being recognized for being able to match our students with jobs is a source of tremendous joy.”

[pullquote]“Jobs are very important; they’re the main reason to go to law school, so the fact that we are being recognized for being able to match our students with jobs is a source of tremendous joy.” [/pullquote]

 Understanding that finding employment in the legal realm can be an arduous undertaking, the college’s priority to get its students thinking about their goals early on to allow them to build resumes that reveal interest in a particular practice area, according to Bierman.

“This year we had several resume and cover letter workshops, where we met with 1L students in small groups in order to get a sense of where they see themselves going because we want them to start their legal careers early,” Bierman said.

According to Bierman, the school’s small size allows the Office of Career Planning and Placement to reach its goal by meeting with every first-year law student, working with them and other students in the school to find permanent, part-time and summer employment.

 “We can be innovative, entrepreneurial and try out a variety of different strategies to see which best accommodate our students,” said Acosta in terms of the law school’s young, 12-year history.

National rankings include the 194 American Bar Association accredited law schools, and rank each according to a set of 12 measures of quality that were evaluated through data gathered in fall 2013 and early 2014, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Faculty resources, placement success, selectivity and quality assessment — weighing 15, 20, 25 and 40 percent, respectively — are factors that are evaluated in determining the rankings for law schools.

[pullquote]“My hope is that it’s not just ‘South Florida’s law school,’ but a nationally recognized institution,” Acosta said.[/pullquote]

Other factors weighed include an assessment score provided by lawyers and judges, median LSAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages of students entering the JD program in 2013, bar passage rates and student-to-faculty ratios.

“I think it comes off right away that we’re fighters,” Halmon said. “Nothing has been handed to us.”

But Halmon did confess that hard work doesn’t end here.

“National recognition is one of the factors taken into consideration in rankings, and that, by far, is what we do worse in. It’s a very young school, and there’s a lot that could be done to make our name known,” Halmon said.

But the future does look bright.

“I believe the school is positioned to become a leading law school,” Acosta said. “My hope is that it’s not just ‘South Florida’s law school,’ but a nationally recognized institution.”

– news@fiusm.com

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