I am not too concerned with the drop in the rankings.
I think that the abysmal employment numbers are to blame for the drop. The numbers are indefensible, but obviously a little unrepresentative. First, the rankings (as most of you probably already know) are using the statistics from the class of 2012. The only employment numbers I care about are those from the class of 2017 which are 5 years from the ones they are using in the rankings. Second, the class of 2012 had 327 graduates. This was at a time when law schools (all law schools) were matriculating more students than the legal job market could handle. The legal market has shown slight signs of recovery, and I think that class of 2013 employment numbers will be slightly better than that for the class of 2012 (even though c/o 2013 has 330 students -- an all time high for USD if I am not mistaken). I talked to a higher up at USD and they are planning on matriculating about 210-220 students for the c/o 2017 which I think is a great thing.
There are two schools of thought about reducing a class size. Some think that the percent of students employed in full-time JD required jobs will remain the same (i.e. c/o 2012 had 154/327 = 47% in JD required jobs, therefore c/o 2017 will have 103/220 = 47% in JD required jobs). I completely disagree with this school of thought. It makes sense for big law who have class-rank cutoffs, but this is only a small minority of the jobs that USD grads get. So, while I think big law employment at USD will remain at a stagnant 5-10% of the class, I think that JD required non-big law jobs will remain at the same number, if not even increase. Most USD grads get jobs from networking with San Diego lawyers and I don’t think that San Diego firms will be reducing their hiring too much by 2017. (Of course, there will be an influx of unemployed grads from previous years competing for these jobs, but there will also be a lot of baby boomers retiring too. Although I think the unemployed grads will outweigh the retirees, I don’t think it will be overwhelming). So even if there are, say 140 grads employed in JD required jobs for the c/o 2017 (which would be a decrease in the number of grads for c/o 2012 which many think to be the bottom of the recession) that would mean 140/220 = 64% employment score which is better than that of Davis right now who went up in the rankings. I know that this is optimistic, but it really doesn’t seem improbable at all to me.
Third (to continue the my thoughts in the first paragraph), I think that measuring employment at 9 months after graduation for schools in the second-tier and beyond is a bit unrepresentative of their potential. USD, unfortunately, does not have a stellar bar-passage rate and this greatly limits their employment numbers. For the c/o 2012, only 78% of students passed the July California bar. This means that assuming all grads took the California bar (which for obvious reasons is not true. Some don’t feel ready and postpone till February and others take bar exams for other states) only 255 grads were even eligible for JD required jobs 9 months after graduation (.78*327). When using this figure, that would mean that 60% (154/255) of grads from the c/o 2012 who were eligible for JD required full-time jobs got one. I know that 60% is still pretty shitty, but it is much better than 47%. It is also true that a 78% bar passage rate is inexcusable, but I know that many schools are taking huge steps towards providing bar prep courses and increasing their bar passage rate.
Anyways, I am sorry for such a long post, but it is for these reasons that I am not too concerned about the drop in the rankings. I know that I make a lot of “leaps” in my logic to come to the conclusions I do, and I would welcome any criticism and debate on the issue.