April 11, 2005

Legal writing program among the nation's best

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale law school's legal writing program is ranked 16th nationally in a survey of law schools at America's colleges and universities.

U.S. News & World Report released the survey earlier this month. The legal writing program tied for16th in the nation -- with Arizona State University, Ohio State University, and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said the placement in the national rankings is noteworthy and shows the program's strength.

"We are pleased with how we are viewed nationally," he said. "The legal writing program is one of many important aspects within the law school, and is another example of our solid academic programs."

Assistant professor and program director Susan P. Liemer said the program's rank was from among 190 accredited law schools surveyed, and is the first year that U.S. News & World Report included a separate ranking for the legal writing programs in law schools across the country. The ranking was announced April 1.

"I am very pleased to know that the legal writing community holds our Lawyering Skills professors in high regard, just as I do," said Dean Peter C. Alexander. "We are fortunate to have talented, tireless professionals leading our students and helping them to develop strong lawyering skills. The US News recognition is excellent news."

Law school legal writing programs usually include coverage of legal research and other fundamental lawyering skills. The law faculty uses the title "Lawyering Skills" to reflect the extensive coverage of the law school's legal writing program, .she said.

"This ranking is a testament to the excellent work and dedication of everyone who teaches in our Lawyering Skills program," Liemer said. "Our writing professors and our research professors are well-known and well-respected nationally. Of course what's even more important is that our law students, through this program and the entire law school curriculum, are gaining the skills they need to represent their clients well after they graduate."

Individuals surveyed for this new ranking had an unusual amount of detailed information at their fingertips when casting their votes for the strongest programs in the country. Subscribers to the listserve of the Legal Writing Institute had a long discussion on how best to fill in the surveys and what factors to consider when ranking legal writing programs. In addition, each school was able to post a description of its program's key features on a dedicated website, so respondents could easily compare the most important features of different law schools' legal writing program.

Achieving excellence in graduate and professional programs is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.