4519 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
March 12, 2013
William M. Carter, Jr.
c/o University of Pittsburgh School of Law
3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Dear Dean Carter:
There's a character in a Scott Turow book who realizes that he went to law school for the wrong reasons. He went to law school to please his family and get over a failed marriage; he didn't want to be a lawyer. My only thought upon reading this was, "S***". Nonetheless I went to Pitt Law, my family is pleased, I am on good terms with failed-marriage girl, and I'm not a lawyer. That's four for four. Pitt Law was the right choice for me and this letter is about the right choice for Pitt Law.
Jokes can be made about the U.S. News rankings. I have a couple of friends from Chicago-Kent and we would joke about who is better educated. It was always along the lines that one of us went to a top 67 school and one of us only went to a top 71 school. When the new rankings came out, I thought I'd look through them and come up with a good joke. In fact I was shocked and appalled. It is not a good joke that Chicago-Kent is tied with my undergraduate alma mater Case at #68 while Pitt is tied with West Virginia University at #91.
I found this out at 2 a.m. Tuesday and immediately tweeted:
Pitt's inevitable response will be to blame the messenger.I blame those in power who are content to be the best law school in Pittsburgh.Today I watched Pitt lose a baseball game to West Virginia on a cold, windy day in March because I love this university. I came home and read your inevitable response. You point out that "there were no significant negative changes during the time period in question that could possibly justify such a dramatic shift in our ranking." No, it was a positive change in the ranking methodology that dropped Pitt in the rankings. U.S. News now considers accurate employment data instead of whatever is reported by the schools.
— Brian (@pirateswfc) March 12, 2013
You point out four positive changes at Pitt. First, that the law school was recently ranked #39 in the production of partners at the top 100 law firms. Those newly minted partners in the 2000s would have graduated in the 1980s and early 1990s when Pitt was roughly the #39 law school in the U.S. I posit that while this study shows what Pitt Law was and should be, the U.S. News study dated yesterday shows what Pitt is. And to whatever little extent that study does show recent positive changes at Pitt Law, it is dated 2011 which was during Dean Crossley's tenure.
Second, that the law school's faculty was recently ranked #47 in scholarly impact. I do think that Pitt has some professors who are both outstanding scholars and outstanding teachers. Witness Peter Oh, Lawrence Frolik, David Herring, Anthony Infanti, and others. Far too many Pitt Law professors are not outstanding teachers. Far too many Pitt Law classes are taught by people who are not Pitt Law professors. And no one attends a school because its faculty is #47 in scholarly impact.
Third, that the class entering in 2012 included 23% minority students. I value diversity and felt that the class entering in 2008 was diverse as well. It's still diverse. There's the guy from China who lives in China because he couldn't get a job in the United States with a Pitt Law degree. There's the guy from Saudi Arabia who lives in New York City because his Saudi Arabian connections and his Pitt Law degree couldn't get him a job in Pittsburgh. There's the guy from Montana who graduated from Georgetown because Pitt would rather lose its best 1L student to Georgetown than raise his scholarship by $5,000 a year for the final two years. There are the guys who started out as non-diverse white guys from Pennsylvania who are now so diverse that they live in Pittsburgh and work in Marietta, Ohio, because they wanted to be lawyers and now work in southern Ohio as non-lawyers. These guys I have mentioned are all doing quite well in their careers but that is not my point.
And finally fourth, that Pitt Law students continue to excel. Quite a few of the most amazing individuals I have met were or are students at Pitt Law. Their continuing excellence is in more cases in spite of Pitt Law than because of it.
You then tie things up with your main point: that the rankings do not reveal any diminishment in the quality or impact of the school. The basic argument of your letter is that Pitt Law hasn't gotten worse in the past year, its ranking has, thus the ranking is flawed. The basic argument of my letter is that Pitt Law hasn't changed in the past year, its ranking has gotten worse, and the ranking system is now (and was not then) accurate. Thus, Pitt Law's ranking reflects how good Pitt Law actually has been, at least since my association with the school.
Pitt Law reminds me of Pitt football. Truly great in the 1970s and today, much better than Duquesne. The last time I saw Steve Pederson I wished him success in the upcoming football season and he laughed. I should hope that you do not take it as a joke when I give you my sincerest and best wishes for success in the upcoming academic year.
Brian Schwartz '11
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