School of Law Ranks Among Top Graduate Schools

Seattle University School of Law’s Legal Writing Program ranked #1, Trial Advocacy ranked #5, Law School in Top 100 Overall

Seattle University School of Law’s Legal Writing Program received some good news recently. In its 2006 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools, U.S. News and World Report ranked Seattle’s Legal Writing Program as the best in the nation. Seattle shares the #1 spot with Mercer School of Law’s legal writing program.

“This was the first time U.S. News ranked legal writing programs,” noted Seattle’s program director, Professor Laurel Oates. “We were delighted to receive the #1 ranking.”

When asked why she thought Seattle had garnered the top spot, Oates had a list of reasons. “First and foremost,” she said, “is our legal writing faculty. They are dedicated, innovative teachers who truly care about their students’ learning. The curriculum they have developed has set the standard for legal writing around the country.”

“Second are our students and alums. They are the ones out in the field showing the expertise they have developed in legal research and writing. We are constantly hearing glowing comments from judges and law firms about how our students and alums are performing.”

“Our success is also directly related to the tremendous support we receive from the Law School administration and non-legal writing faculty. Both have supported us in keeping class sizes small and in investing in the technology we need to teach cutting edge legal research.”

“The Law School also has more than 20 years of supporting legal writing nationally by hosting the Legal Writing Institute and eight of its national conferences,” Oates added. “Legal writing faculty from other law schools come to these conferences and are blown away by the support we have for our teaching and by what we are doing here.”

Dean Kellye Testy agrees. “The U.S. News ranking supports what we have believed about our legal writing program for sometime—it is first rate. Our legal writing professors have written leading books and articles in the field, held many of the key national leadership positions, and are frequent presenters both nationally and now internationally about issues in legal writing.”

“Typically we do not like to place a great deal of stock in U.S. News rankings,” Testy said, “because the overall school rankings emphasize some factors (such as LSAT score and undergraduate GPA) and ignore other factors we believe are vital in legal education such as diversity, ethics, skills training, and student satisfaction with their law school experience.”

“In the case of the specialty rankings, however, programs are ranked on their merits by faculty who teach in the field. Peers determine the top ten. For that reason,” Testy added, “we think U.S. News got it right in ranking us first in legal writing.”

Seattle’s Legal Writing program was not its only specialty program to make the U.S. News top ten list. Seattle’s Trial Advocacy program was ranked fifth in the country. Professor Marilyn Berger, co-author of Pretrial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis & Strategy and Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis & Strategy, believes that the books she wrote with Professor John Mitchell and Seattle’s innovative approach to trial advocacy had an impact on the rankings.

Trial Advocacy at Seattle University is a two-semester program directed by Berger and taught by 14 adjunct professors who are trial lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and mediators. Berger says the program uses one fact pattern for the year that is “a story filled with mystery, imagination, love, and discovery.”

“We introduce organizing information at trial through constructing stories,” Berger explained. “Jurors construct stories built upon their beliefs, experiences, and they use the story framework to weave the evidence together. Our program gives students the tools, theory and ideas of how expert lawyers think, and how they advocate for their clients.”

In addition to the two top ten specialty rankings, the Law School was once again listed among the top 100 law schools in the country. “The factors in the overall rankings,” Dean Testy noted, “tend to favor the older law schools that have had decades, in some cases almost two centuries, to establish their reputations. It is gratifying to see a young and vibrant law school like ours gaining national recognition.”

Sullivan Hall