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February 20, 2007

Law School Is Not A Beauty Contest ... Or Is It?

No Other Warranties, Expressed or Implied:

By Nate Kurtis

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into when I applied to the University of Michigan Law School. Honestly, two years in, I’m still not 100% sure what I’m doing, but a few recent survey results have certainly helped make me feel quite good about my choice of law schools (the weather of recent weeks notwithstanding). I’m not talking about the US News & World Report rankings –though we do rather well there, too. No, it is two other, highly scientific, polls which have filled me with such pride.
The first is last semester’s Abovethelaw.com poll, which ranked our own Dean Evan Caminker as the ‘Hottest Male Law School Dean’ (See “Caminker ‘Hottest’ Dean in the Nation” in the October 24, 2006 issue of Res Gestae). The second, more recent result was from a survey by Harris Interactive for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – published in the Wall Street Journal – which ranked the University of Michigan Law Library 94th on a list of best loved American architecture. This places our Law Library on a list that includes such treasures as the National Cathedral and the Lincoln Memorial, and ranks us above Radio City Music Hall, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Camden Yards, the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Astrodome, to name a few.

There is some confusion as to just which building the AIA meant to honor, since the architect and photograph are of the Reading Room, but the survey listing is of the Law Library, a name that has been associated with the Smith Addition for over twenty years. Margaret Leary, director of the University of Michigan Law Library, was quick to point out that “it doesn’t matter, because both are worthy of being high on a list of favorite buildings. Legal Research was designed by York & Sawyer, who designed the entire Law Quad, as well as the Martha Cook building. They were considered at the time (1920s and early 1930s) to be a preeminent firm. They were strongly influenced, and pushed to even better design work, by William W. Cook, who paid for it all. The Smith Addition, designed by equally renowned ‘international style’ architect Gunnar Birkerts, has won awards from the AIA and the ALA, and is probably one of the very best underground buildings (buildings, not just libraries) in the world.” Leary added that “the fact that we ranked above buildings that I would have guessed would be better known (how many people come to Ann Arbor, compared to those much larger sites?) is quite amazing, and a tremendous tribute to the architects, and to the wisdom of the Law School over the years in investing in such fine buildings.”
Though unexpected, our ranking among the most beloved building in America should come as no surprise to those who’ve spent time on our Quad. “Everyone who has ever visited the University knows about this absolute gem of a building and space, both stunning for its appearance and inspirational for its statement about the majesty of the law,” beamed Dean Evan “Hotness” Caminker. He added, “[i]t’s wonderful that the WSJ survey will bring greater awareness of this gem to the entire country.”
Sarah Zearfoss, dean of Admissions, echoed Dean Caminker, noting that while “Michigan Law doesn’t generally put much stock in rankings -- except, of course, when Evan Caminker was named “hottest law school dean” via a rigorously scientific and methodologically sound survey -- we’re nonetheless pleased that the world has recognized what all of us and our 19,800 alumni already know: that our Law Library is an extraordinary edifice and its Reading Room is, by any measure, an exquisitely beautiful and inspiring setting for the study of law.”
Yet, while pleased, Dean Zearfoss does quibble with the fact that the Chrysler Building, Washington Monument, and the Golden Gate Bridge managed to squeak out higher positions. She believes the result is because “most of the 2000 survey respondents have never been to the Quad and are correspondingly clueless about the true beauty of this architectural gem in which we live and work. They’ve also completely ignored the element of function. Where, we might ask, would you rather study black letter law -- in the Reading Room, the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, or Grand Central Station? The latter two are ranked higher than us, by the way, which proves the point.”
Even with all this recent fame, Dean Zearfoss urges us not to let it all go to our heads: “It’s good to know that we’ve earned some bragging rights, but we urge you to be magnanimous with your peers at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, as we’re confident the students and faculty of the Golden Gate Bridge and Grand Central Station Schools of Law will be magnanimous to us.”

Nate Kurtis is a 2L and the Editor-in-Chief of Res Gestae. Even though his apartment didn’t make the rankings, he includes this link to the complete survey result for anyone whose house might have. http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-poparch07-sort2.html.


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