When people think of the top law schools, they immediately come up with household names like Columbia, Yale, UC Berkeley.
Perhaps those who are a little more “in the know” will recall names like the Pritzker School at Northwestern or Gould College at USC.
That being said, there are over 225 law schools in the US alone, many of which are placing students into both top 100 law firms as well as smaller companies that provide exceptional salary and benefits even for starting associates.
How can you know which ones are good?
For starters, a law school should be ABA accredited – that means the Bar says it’s curriculum is good. There should also be a high percentage of students who pass the bar their 1st time.
Of course, having close, personalized interaction with professors is absolutely key
Finally, one great reason to go to a fine Non-Ivy law school is the financial opportunity; while some of the very best big-name schools sure are prestigious, they may not always be as generous with their scholarship funds as the less well-known schools.
Keep in mind that this is not by any means the definitive list of the 10 best schools for law outside the Ivy League; rather, this list can be used as a starting point when looking into top law schools.
Here are 10 interesting choices outside of the Ivy League.
S.J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
With an astounding bar pass rate of 86%, the SJ Quinney College of Law is, more and more, becoming widely recognized as one of the premiere schools of law in the country.
For starters, the quality of the faculty is on par with any Ivy League program. Professor Jeff Schwartz, one of the notable names on the faculty at the school, is a leading scholar in the topic of venture exchanges.
Another important faculty member, Dean Robert Adler, is one of the foremost pedagogues in the field of environmental law.
His leadership and presence in the school is likely a major reason US News and World Report ranked the school as the 9th best environmental law program in all of the US in 2018.
Having been an instrumental part of expanding the school’s facilities with a $62.5 million LEED certified building in 2015, Dean Adler is well known as one of the leading administrators in any college of law.
Alumni of the program have been placed into many of the top firms throughout the country. Very notably, the school has had an unusually high impact US politics, with alumni holding positions as federal judges, members of Congress, and even a few attorneys generals of Utah.
The school is very selective, however – in 2012 alone, only 10% of all applicants were admitted into the program. What we often find is with excellent law schools comes tremendous competition.
South Texas College of Law – Houston (Houston, TX)
Perhaps the very best law school in the country for trial advocacy, the South Texas College of Law has 130 national and international advocacy championships, which is far more than any other school of law in the United States.
The school is incredibly lauded – besides the international advocacy championships, the school also won its 21st National Scribes award, which goes to excellent student-written articles published in law reviews.
So what makes this school so uniquely awarded with hundreds of dozens of accolades?
First of all, the training in “moot court” is considered to be the best in the country by PreLaw Magazine. Moot court is the simulation of real-world court proceedings, but in a staged environment.
Another unique offerings of the South Texas College of Law is its partnership with other law schools, being California Western, New England Law, and William Mitchell Law School. The result of this partnership is increased resources for all of the students at each of these law schools.
The employment rate within 12 months of graduation from the school is considered very good, as reported here.
One unique advantage of the South Texas College of Law is its “3 and 3” program with Texas A&M University – essentially, students can graduate with a Bachelor’s as well as a JD (Juris Doctor) in 6 years– 3 years at A&M, 3 years at South Texas College of Law. This has proven invaluable for students seeking law school training at a premiere law school immediately after graduating from a top 4-year college.
The school is competitive for admission, but for students who find themselves accepted into this fine school, they find themselves well prepared for the real world of law.
Temple University Beasley School of Law (Philadelphia, PA)
Like the South Texas College of Law – Houston, Temple University is also a top contender in mock trial competitions. It is currently ranked a top-50 law school by US News and World Report.
The school is noted for its outstanding faculty. One of the world’s most influential legal scholars, JoAnne A. Epps, is a longtime faculty member at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
Her influence is particularly noted internationally, as she has trained students who became important lawyers in China, Japan, Bosnia, and even Sudanese lawyers who represented victims maligned by the Darfur Crisis.
Another well-known professor at the school, Gregory Mandel, is one of the foremost scholars in intellectual property law, having given presentations in the subject to the United Nations, Environmental Protection Agency, and even the USPTO (patent & trademark office).
One notable offering of the school is its study abroad program; students can take a semester and go study in either Rome or Tokyo.
The employment rate is excellent for alumni of the program. For graduating class of 2017, 86% found employed work within 10 months of graduation. Keep in mind this statistic does not apply to students who decide to start their own firms as solo entrepreneur practitioners.
Additionally, over 84% of students who take the bar their first attempt passed in July 2017.
Washburn University School of Law (Topeka, Kansas)
If I told you about a law school where a high percentage of the students passed the bar, would you think I am talking about one of the Ivy-League programs such as Dartmouth, Yale, or Harvard?
Sure, those schools have high bar pass rates.
But so does Washburn University’s School of Law, truly one of the great hidden gem law schools throughout the US.
In both 2016 and 2017, National Jurist named students Jake Bielenberg and Joe Pilgrim, students of Washburn University’s School of Law, in their top 25 “Law School Students of the Year.” The distinction is given to students who have shown exemplary contribution and leadership outside the classroom.
The school’s accolades go further – prelaw Magazine named Washburn University the 3rd best school in the country for Government law in 2018, as well as the 14th best school for Business, Banking, and Corporate Law in 2017.
Within 10 months of graduation, notably 70% of students achieved long-term, JD-requiring employment, which is well above the national average of 62%.
Notable graduates of the Washburn University School of Law include Delano Lewis, former CEO of NPR (National Public Radio).
California Western School of Law (San Diego, CA)
Standing behind its proud motto of “What law school ought to be,” California Western in San Diego is a fine law school in the country.
One of the programs at California Western that is highly acclaimed is the STEPPS program, a client-attorney simulation course where students experience what it really takes to establish an ethical and successful practice in various fields of law.
Alumni of the program have noted the value of this opportunity, with one notable alumni writing “The STEPPS program at California Western prepared me for my internship because it taught me the fundamental mechanics of a law firm.”
Another highly sought-after program is the Clinical Externship Program; in this unique program, students are afforded the opportunity to work for law firms, public offices, or other arenas where lawyers are often needed. This provides exceptionally valuable real-world experience prior to actually joining the ranks of professional law.
Year after year, outcomes for students at this school are on par with those of graduates at any other top law school, including partner status at law firms,
First-time bar pass rate is commensurate with the average of all law schools in California, the state being home to some of the most prestigious law schools in the country.
University of Miami School of Law (Coral Gables, FL)
In February of 2017, the University of Miami had a bar pass rate of over 80%, making it the most successful school in Florida that season to pass the bar.
Miami has consistently demonstrated excellent student employment outlook; in 2012, over 70% of students found employment within 9 months of graduation, according to information disclosed by the ABA (American Bar Association).
University of Miami has one of the largest active alumni bases of any law school working today. Indeed, over 20,000 alumni of the University of Miami School of Law are now working professionally.
The school is particularly known for being a leader in international law – indeed, International Jurist named the University of Miami as a “Hot Spot for International Law” in 2018.
Faculty at Miami are some of the most recognized names in law. Jan Paulsson, a current faculty member at Miami, is one of the most distinguished names in international arbitration. Another faculty member, Marilyn Milian, is longtime host of the famous television show “The People’s Court.”
Vermont Law School (South Royalton, VT)
Although you may have never heard of a small town called South Royalton, don’t be fooled – it has a law school that is among the very best hidden gem law schools in the world.
Ranked number 1 in environmental law by US News, the school’s Environmental Law Center (ELC) is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading institutions for studying energy, sustainable agriculture, and land use.
The school is led by nationally recognized lawyer and Vermont Law School president Thomas McHenry, a former partner in a major Los Angeles law firm whose work on environmental law has assisted major corporations and nonprofits throughout the country.
One appealing aspect of the school is its scholarship generosity; in 2017, 88% of all incoming students received a scholarship worth an average of $24,000. This makes the school among the most generous of any law school in terms of merit-based financial aid.
The school has a number of specialized institutes in the field of environmental law. These include not only the aforementioned Environmental Law Center, but also the Environmental Tax Policy Institute, Land Use Institute, and Center for Agriculture Food Systems.
More than half of the class of 2013 found long-term, gainful JD-required employment within a year of graduating. Many alumni of the program have held prominent positions in Vermont’s government infrastructure.
Suffolk University Law School (Boston, MA)
Despite the fact the school is the fourth-largest law program in the country, its educational and employment outcome place it among the top schools in the country, making it stand out as a top law school.
One of the most impressive feats of Suffolk is in its alumni. Suffolk University can call itself one of the influential schools throughout the entire USA for having students of the school hold positions in politics, including the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Senates & House of Representatives.
One particularly notable alumnus, Oz Griebel, was the CEO of BankBoston in the 90s, which eventually merged with Bank of America in the next decade.
In July of 2017, just about 2/3rds of enrolled students passed the bar on their first try. This is comparable to many other top law programs in the country, and is an impressive statistic considering that over 1,600 students are enrolled in the school at any given time.
One noted aspect of the school is its partnership with other Boston area law schools (including Harvard Law and BC Law) called the Rappaport Fellows Program, an opportunity for law students to gain fellowships in public policy related disciplines.
The school, among the most selective in the country, accepts less than 10% of all applicants into its program.
Brooklyn Law School (New York, NY)
Established in 1901, the Brooklyn Law School is one of the premiere law schools in the US.
Long noted for alumni gaining gainful employment within a year of college, the school also has an excellent track record for placing students into “top 100” law firms, with over 9% of its graduates finding employment in these lucrative companies.
The faculty at the school are among the most visible in all of law schools. Susan Herman, one of the top constitutional law scholars in the country, is the president of the ACLU, the famous nonprofit dedicated to preserving the rights of US citizens.
Students at the school are consistently gaining excellent career outcomes. In 2016, Approximately 88% of graduates found gainful employment within a year of graduation. In 2013, 94% passed the bar on their first try, making it 3rd best among the 15 law schools in the state of New York.
The student body’s interests are well-reflected in over 40 student-run organizations, with focuses ranging from IP Law to International Law to amateur basketball.
In conjunction with Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, Brooklyn Law has two study abroad courses for enrolled students, one in Beijing, the other in Bologna. These courses represent amazing cultural opportunities for future lawyers studying international business law.
The school is frequently ranked as a top 100 law school in the country. However, given the school’s phenomenal track record as well as internationally renowned faculty, we feel this law school should be ranked among the very best in the country.
Seton Hall University School of Law
Seton Hall is among the most impressive institutions of law in the United States.
The school is noted for having excellent employment outcomes in the field of law. In 2015, an astonishing 90% passed the bar on the first attempt. To put that into perspective, Cornell’s law school has a 93% bar pass rate on the right attempt in 2016, and Yale had 96% pass in a recent year.
As anyone can see, Seton Hall is right up there with the big-name Ivy League schools in the bar pass rate category.
But even more impressive is job outcome – in 2015, an astonishing 95% were gainfully employed within 10 months of graduation. That 19 of every 20 students found meaningful employment within a year of graduating speaks volumes to the undisputed excellence of this institution.
The “inside community” of law praises Seton Hall; the famous blog Above the Law ranked Seton Hall in the top 25 of all law schools for 2017. National Jurist recently ranked it in its Top 15 for job placement.
Student life at Seton Hall is tremendous. The school, having a prominent connection to UN organizations as well as NGOs and international law firms, is one of the few in the country that offers study abroad opportunities to countries such as Egypt, Zanzibar, and even Tanzania.
Alumni of the school have held prominent positions throughout the government; state senators, governors, federal judges, mayors, and others have graduated from Seton Hall.