10 Prominent Law Schools On the Rise

We all know the T14 (top 14) law schools and their enormous reputations – schools like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and more.

That said, these schools are not only incredibly difficult to get accepted into, they are also very expensive and don’t always offer scholarships, though they sometimes do.

But here’s another interesting fact:

While the employment outcome at a T14 law school is remarkably excellent, evidence suggests that you don’t need to attend a top 14 law school to be successful in the field of law. 

In fact, many excellent schools outside the T14 have employment outcomes that are equally good to those in the T14.

One other thing to consider when choosing a school is the “fit” of a particular program; some schools simply fit some students better than others.

A number of excellent law schools consistently graduating classes with high bar passage rates as well as significant employment outcomes exist outside the T14.

Today, we profile 10 amazing law schools on the rise.

What qualifies as a law school on the rise? 

One, the school has to have demonstrated significant achievement as well as excellent student outcomes over the past decade.

Secondly, the school cannot yet be ranked in the top 50 of the US News best law schools list. 

Finally, we recently made a list about 10 excellent law schools outside the Ivy League, and the schools here are unique from that list. 

This particular article is part of an ongoing series of articles in which we profile schools as “on the rise.”

Here are 10 spectacular law schools on the rise.

New York Law School (New York, NY)

New York Law School is an independent law school with exceptionally high employment outcomes. According to ABA-required disclosures, nearly 90% of the class of 2015 found work within 10 months of graduation. 

Admission to NYLS is competitive; for the entering class of 2019, nearly 3,000 candidates applied. Just 390 of these enrolled.

The school is among the best in the country for a number of law specialties, including finance, international, and public policy & interest.

Faculty at New York Law are among the top scholars in the country. They include Nadine Strossen, who for 17 years was president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a prominent non-profit organization currently with over 1 million members.

Perhaps the most famous alum of New York Law is Judge Judy, a household name & American television personality whose work has defined reality legal television. Her work on television has earned her a Guinness World Record for longest-serving judge in an American reality legal show. 

Another well-known alum is Zygmunt Wilf, owner of the Minnesota Vikings.

UIC John Marshall Law School (Chicago, IL)

Located in Chicago’s financial and legal district, UIC John Marshall is widely known as the experiential law school. Central to every student’s curriculum are three experience-based credits. 

To satisfy these curricular requirements, students can participate in an externship, clinic, or both. Students never have trouble getting placed into one of these programs as John Marshall is affiliated with over 100 externships.

With its focus on practical skill-building, UIC John Marshall instituted the Global Legal Skills Conference in 2005, a forum for professors as well as legal writing professionals to exchange scholarly ideas. 

John Marshall is a perennial contender in top legal competitions. In 2007, John Marshall placed 2nd – out of 220 – in the ABA National Negotiation Competition. They have also placed in the Frederick Douglass Competition Finals, the Illinois Appellate Lawyers Competition, and more.

Part of the University of Illinois system, this hidden gem is a public law school, providing in-state students with a lower cost than out-of-state students attending the school.

Graduates are regularly employed in top law firms and other legal jobs worldwide.

University of Houston Law Center (Houston, TX)

MC Lewis, Front of UH Law Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

With a bar pass rate of over 85% in 2019, the University of Houston Law Center is one of the best performing law schools in the south. In most years, their bar pass rate is between 85% – 90%.

Notably, University of Houston is renowned for its health care law as well as its intellectual property law program. Both have been ranked in the top 10 of all schools in their respective specialties by US News in recent years.

One published survey available online is from the class of 2013. Of all the students who graduated that year, 62% work in law firms, 23% in business, 8% in government, 3% in public interest. That 96% found meaningful work is an amazing outcome for this gem of an institution.

UHLC is particularly known as a leading publisher in academia. Five journals are published by the school. The Houston Law Review, a notable law journal, has been actively publishing for over 65 years.

Alumni include prominent judges of the Texas Supreme Court, senators, representatives, and more.

University of Denver Sturm College of Law (Denver, CO)

DenverLawGuy, Ricketson Law Building, CC BY-SA 3.0

One of only two law schools in all of Colorado, the Sturm College of Law is a rising institution.

Exceptional employment outcome is a hallmark of the Denver program; the overwhelming majority – 93.4%, to be exact – of the class of 2017 found significant employment within a year of graduation. This number is comparable to any T14 school in the country.

US News has recognized Denver for various specialties, including a top-20 ranking for its environmental law program. Additionally, an equally prestigious publication for law schools, The National Jurist, ranks Denver Sturm in the top 40 for public interest law.

With a bar passage rate of over 83% – as well as an acceptance rate of less than 50% – Denver is a competitive, hidden gem law school on the rise.

Albany Law School (Albany, NY)

The oldest law school in the state of New York, this legendary institution was established nearly 170 years ago in 1851. It is a school within Union University.

It is the only law school located within 90 miles of New York’s Capital District, strategically positioning itself close to federal courts, state legislature, and other important legal entities.

What makes Albany a rising law school? A staggering 52,000 hours of pro bono work from the class of 2019 makes Albany Law School among the most socially responsible institutions in the country. 

Additionally, Albany Law has recently been named a top-20 school for innovation, public interest, and a top-10 school for preparing students for government work.

Through their We Rise initiative, Albany Law School has raised an amazing $25 million dollars to support their Justice Center. The Justice Center, Albany Law’s in-house public interest law firm, is responsible for helping students find pro bono work, apprenticeships, legal clinic placement, and more.

American University Washington College of Law (Washington, DC)

Rockhead126, Washington College of Law Capital Building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Times Higher Education recently ranked American University’s Washington College of Law (WCL) as a top-75 school worldwide, and with good reason.

Specialty law programs are at the heart of the WCL experience. WCL’s programs in clinical training, international law, and intellectual property all rank in the top 10 by US News.

WCL is one of the most popular law schools in the country – over 5200 applications were submitted in 2019. Less than 400 of these applicants were enrolled into WCL.

Opportunity is at the heart of the WCL experience. One unique initiative offered here includes the Lawyering Peace Program, a program where students participate in post-conflict negotiations. Another is the Academy on Human Rights, an initiative designed to both teach and impact the world of humanitarian law.

New England Law (Boston, MA)

New England Law
Jessicatomer, New-England-Law-Boston-Stuart-Street-building, CC BY-SA 4.0

Based in Boston, New England Law is the only independent law school in Boston. 

Historically, this prominent institution has had some of the most important faculty of any law school in the country; in fact, eight US Supreme Court Justices have lectured or taught at New England Law.

One unique aspect of New England Law is the Center for Law and Social Responsibility, abbreviated as CLSR. 

This experiential division of New England Law helps clients through pro bono and public service activities, giving students hands-on experience helping people in need of free legal services.

For students interested in business law, New England Law has one of the best programs in the Northeast in terms of available externships. 

Students participating in New England Law’s externship program are often placed in major companies, including Liberty Mutual, RNK Telecommunication, the Boston Stock Exchange, and more.

Impressively, their class of 2018 featured 83% of their graduates finding gainful employment within 9 months of graduation, with another 4% pursuing an additional degree. This is among the highest employment rate of any independent law school in the country.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law (Saint Paul, MN)

McGhiever, Hamline University School of Law, CC BY-SA 3.0

Currently recognized as a top 5 program by US News for Dispute Resolution and a top 15 program for Health Care Law, Mitchell Hamline is an incredible law school on the rise.

It is perhaps the best independent law school in the country when it comes to employment; in its class of 2018, approximately 90% of students found employment within 9 months of graduation in bar passage required, JD Advantage, and Professional positions.

Mitchell Hamline has over 20,000 alumni practicing throughout the country, which is part of what makes this school so special; the alumni network contribute to the school in the form of donations as well as offering jobs to graduating students.

However, what makes Mitchell Hamline truly remarkable is what goes on in their legal clinic program.

In this unique program, students help clients who cannot afford the services of a lawyer. Students from Mitchell Hamline have helped clients through immigration issues, tenant-landlord disputes, establishment of non-profits, and more.

This pro bono work provides students an experiential foundation for work in the real world. It is perhaps no wonder then that many graduates of Mitchell Hamline have gone into the highest sectors of public service; numerous senators, congressmen, judges, and more call themselves graduates of this prestigious, rising law school.

Cardozo School of Law @ Yeshiva University (New York, NY)

Cardozo is frequently referred to as the “rising star” law school, and it is easy to see why.

The median LSAT for admission is an impressive 161; this means that all accepted students were among the most competitive students in the country in terms of LSAT score. To put that score in perspective, a score above 160 is normally required for admission into an Ivy-League law school.

Cardozo’s biggest strength lies in its specialties; it is widely considered a top-15 law school nationwide in a number of categories, including dispute resolution & intellectual property.

One interesting fact about the school is its prominence as an entertainment law school. A recent ranking placed Cardozo #1 as the most cited “Arts & Entertainment” law journal in the country. 

It’s no wonder then that Cardozo has perhaps the very best entertainment law program in the country. The full name of this major program is FAME, a clever acronym for fashion, arts, media, and entertainment. 

We note Cardozo as being one of the most unique law schools in the country in terms of its offerings. In addition to its strong entertainment industry program, the school founded the Innocence Project, which has successfully absolved 189 wrongfully accused people based on DNA evidence.

The legal world is taking note of the amazing activity going on at Cardozo, making this a top law school on the rise.

Rutgers Law School (Newark & Camden, NJ)

Csupa, RULawYard, CC BY 3.0

The largest public law school in the northeast, over 20,000 alumni of Rutgers Law are practicing in all 50 US states.

For such a large school, Rutgers has one of the best employment outcomes of all law schools in the country. In 2018, 93.9% of all students obtained employment in a JD-required position within 9 months of graduation.

For comparison, the University of Virginia, a T14 law school, had a 92.6% employment outcome in its class of 2018. 

Talk about a rising star in law schools – Rutgers 2018 class, by percentage, had a higher employment outcome than a program with a Top 14 law school designation!

Amazingly, this law school gets over 2,000 applications a year. They accept less than half of all applicants, making it a competitive school for admission.

One distinction of the Rutgers Law School program is its strong embracing of individuality when it comes to admissions. Whereas most schools place significant emphasis on GPA and LSATs, Rutgers Law Schools admissions equally focus on background, employment history, accomplishments, and more when deciding which applicants will be accepted into their school.

Rutgers is home to one of the largest law libraries in the country. Between its Camden and Newark campuses, the total number of volumes held is approximately 1.2 million!

Rutgers is notably home to the world’s oldest law & technology journal, aptly titled the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal. Publishing two issues a year, this student-run journal has been functional since 1969.