If I were to bet on it, I say they fall short, but will they will be near the top of tier 3 schools, which will put them in a very good position next year. Here is why:Factors in Chapman's favor:
1) Their median LSAT (87th) and GPA (79th) rank them between 85-86th overall in those categories, in addition to their acceptance rate. This accounts for 25% of the USNEWS score. Decent tier 2 numbers.
2) Their bar exam results will up their ranking slightly as 81% passed the bar on the first try in July 2009. Better than half of the CA schools and most other schools in their states when you consider the difficulty of the CA bar exam. This only accounts for .02 of the score, but it will help. Upper tier 2 numbers.
3) Faculty resources are upper tier 2 or lower tier one numbers for Chapman. Their faculty ratio is top 5 in the country (amounts to 3% of score), and their library expentitures are pretty good along with student aid. They likely post a high tier 2 numbers, perhaps tier 1 numbers overall in this category. This is a big deal because this category accounts for 15% of the score. What drags Chapman down
Reputation scores are what really hurt Chapman’s overall ranking. Last year, they placed 152nd of all ABA schools in overall reputation when you average both the peer assessment and judges score (1.98) http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog ... -news.html
These numbers place Chapman’s reputation in the 4th tier of law schools. They should see a slight bump this year. I would expect their average this year to be around 2.10 because their peer assessment scores should be 2.0. USNEWS averages peer assessment scores over 2 years. In 2009, Chapman received a 1.8, and in 2010 a 1.9. So if all things are equal this year and they don’t lose or gain, expect them to have a 2.0 reputation ranking in peer assessment and a 2.1/2.2 judges score. This marginal increase will only allow them to jump a few spots. Any improvement is good, but it may not be enough for them to get into the 2nd tier.
2) Their placement rate is unknown for 2009 grads but probably won't fluctuate too much from 2008, which was a pretty bad year for most laws schools. 2009 figures to be pretty bleak across the board, so Chapman will probably have poorer numbers, but most law schools will fare the same so this won't be much of a drag on their overall ranking. This accounts for 20% of the score.
Chapman will edge closer to the top of the third tier, but will not make tier 2 this year unless there has been a higher than .1 jump in peer assessment. Also, it is unclear how the job market will affect Chapman and other schools. The rest of Chapman’s numbers are clearly tier 2, their admissions, bar results, and faculty resources are that of a good tier 2 school. But they need to make a jump in reputation in order to make the jump to tier 2 this year.
Example: If Chapman ranks 140th in overall reputation, and 75th in the rest of the USNEWS, they will rank 101st. 140 * .4 = 56, and 75 * .6 = 45. 56 + 45 = 101. This would be a good jump in assessment scores (2.13 was 140th in 2010). If this happens, and everything else is equal, then Chapman will be at the tier 2/3 borderline.
I am assuming Chapman is close to 75th spot on all rankings put together besides peer assessment. But the school of law is really banking on its reputation increasing. It will probably happen, but you must also consider the big variable of how other schools reputation ratings change. Now, these ratings don’t fluctuate very much every year, but a small increase in some schools peer assessment scores that are ranked around Chapman will prove detrimental. Thus, I would consider a tremendous surprise if Chapman is ranked in tier two for the 2011 rankings. However, even if they fail to do so, they are edging closer, and it appears inevitable that they will be a tier 2 school in the next few years, if not in 2012.