A career in law is becoming more and more lucrative, with the demand for lawyers increasing across the nation. The positions available for attorneys are projected to grow 4% over the next decade, with a median salary of $127,000 in 2020. Lawyers are responsible for advising clients and fairly representing them and their legal rights. They can specialize in a variety of types of law including criminal, defense, prosecution, tax, and environmental.
Before attorneys are eligible to practice law, they need to earn a degree from a law school approved by the American Bar Association and pass the bar exam. Classes in law school cover subjects such as civil procedure, contracts, torts, criminal law, constitutional law, and legal research. The right law school will prepare you to ace the bar exam and provide crucial practical experience through clinical placements.
Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States which provides many clients for prospective lawyers. It is also a diverse and affordable city, perfect for law students to gain hands-on experience at the many courts, firms, corporations, and non-profit organizations. Law students are uniquely able to contribute to and learn from their surrounding community.
Choosing the right law school can be difficult with many great options within the Chicago metropolitan area. There are many factors to consider, including future job placement, faculty, academic achievements, and public opinion.
What are the best law schools in Chicago? Here are the best law schools in Chicago based on their ranking in the US News Best Law Schools list.
6. University of Illinois Chicago John Marshall Law School
The John Marshall Law School at UIC is Chicago’s only public law school, providing a comprehensive and affordable legal education to many students. The department was named for US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall.
The affiliation with the University of Illinois Chicago allows for many dual degree programs that align with the school’s strengths in disciplines such as health sciences, engineering, and business.
The university is committed to public education and community service, encouraging students to practice their legal skills while helping people in need. Law students are required to work in a clinic or externship during their time at UIC. The Community Legal clinics are widely respected for the millions of dollars in pro bono services it provides to the community in Chicago. Specific focuses include the Community Enterprise & Solidarity Economy Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic, and the USPTO-certified IP Trademark Clinic.
Inside the classroom, students have the opportunity to learn from professors at the top of their fields. Approximately 50% of the full-time faculty hold law degrees from the top 15 law schools and include 45% women and 35% professors of color. The impressive faculty include civil rights activists, United States District and Circuit judges, and notable lawyers.
5. DePaul University College of Law
DePaul University has been an integral part of the Chicago legal community for more than a century, with an alumni network of over 10,000 throughout the surrounding area.
These connections allow students to leverage their degree to find new opportunities and connect with alumni. Graduates from the DePaul College of Law go on to be state senators, United States District Judges, and prominent attorneys nationwide.
DePaul’s College of Law offers a wide variety of challenging courses designed to prepare students for their future legal practice in any specialty. The Third Year in Practice Program (3YP) combines engaging coursework with field placements that align with the student’s interests. This unique experience prepares students to practice law in the real world.
Based on the ABA Employment Summary for the class of 2019, 90.5% of graduates obtain employment within 10 months of their graduation. They work at top law firms, government organizations, non-profit organizations, and many other businesses.
Due to the impressive employment options, academic offerings, and strict admission requirements, DePaul was ranked as a Top Law School in 2019, 2020, and 2021 by the Princeton Review. This ranking is based on surveys of over 14,000 students and administrators and recognizes DePaul as an excellent option for aspiring attorneys.
4. Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law
The Chicago-Kent College of Law is the second oldest law school in Illinois and has been making an impact ever since. It is the only law school in the United States to earn the top rating of A+ from preLaw magazine in labor and employment law. Their revered program combines theoretical education with experiential learning opportunities and cutting-edge skills training. It houses nearly 20 courses in the practice area and the Institute for Law and the Workplace, which is recognized nationally for its research into employment and labor law issues.
Chicago-Kent was also ranked #1 in the nation for Intellectual Property Law by Law Street Media. As a leading school for engineering and Chicago’s only technical university, IIT is uniquely qualified in the field. The IP program provides an unparalleled education to prepare law students for challenges that come with rapid advances in technology. The school offers a wide array of networking and educational events through its Patent Hub, including national conferences and student moot court teams.
Outside of coursework, students are able to flex their legal abilities through student organizations and societies. The Chicago-Kent Trial Advocacy Team is nationally recognized for its demonstrated advocacy skills in mock trial competitions. The team from Chicago-Kent won the National Trial Competition in 1988, 2007, 2008, and 2015, beating out teams from more than 140 law schools across the country.
3. Loyola University School of Law
Loyola’s School of Law is committed to embracing human differences and is united by a common goal of serving their community and contributing to society. The university attracts students from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds, with 51% from out of state and 32% students of color.
Loyola University is at the forefront of legal developments in the Chicago area. The diverse legal market provides a rich array of clerkship, employment, and clinical opportunities. The clinical programs are at the heart of Loyola’s commitment to social justice, allowing students to gain real-world experience representing children, families, and other members of their community. In addition, students gain first-hand knowledge useful in their career goals and a solid advantage for future employment.
Law students also gain experience in legal research and journalistic skills through the many journals and publications that reach a broad audience. The topics covered range from cybersecurity in digital health to school discipline reform to the dangers of genetic engineering, ensuring there is something for everyone.
Through the many opportunities to practically apply legal knowledge and world-class education, graduates from Loyola earn a first-time state bar passage rate of 88%. The Loyola University School of Law prepares students to practice law as a professional and experienced attorney.
2. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
Founded in 1859, the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law was the first law school established in Chicago. Today, admission to the program is extremely competitive, with applicants earning a median LSAT score of 169. The university also has a strong preference for those who have at least two years of work experience.
The Bluhm Legal clinic allows students to gain direct experience representing clients and fine-tune their skills to advocate for their community. The center houses more than 20 clinics and is recognized as one of the most comprehensive in the country. Along with gaining hands-on experience, students are encouraged to challenge the fairness of legal institutions and propose solutions for reform.
Another innovative hub at Northwestern is the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center which serves as a model for similar programs. The nonprofit student-focused program assists lawyers in representing entrepreneurs and approaching legal problems in an inventive manner. The center is home to many clinical programs, simulation-based courses, conferences, and speakers.
Northwestern’s unique programs and prestigious education have caused graduates to succeed in BigLaw companies or firms with over 150 attorneys. In Vault’s 2016 survey of over associates, Northwestern Law ranked as the #2 “feeder school” to BigLaw firms. Pritzker is second only to Columbia University, beating out other big names such as the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.
1. University of Chicago Law School
UChicago’s Law School has the reputation as one of the most prestigious law schools in the world. The top-notch education and learning opportunities have earned it the title of the fourth top law school in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Law students at UChicago are taught using the Socratic Method, a unique method among many other top law schools. As opposed to lectures, professors interact with students directly, challenging them to articulate and defend their positions on complex legal concepts and principles. These questions do not have easy or even correct answers, but they do prepare students to think on their feet. This grace under pressure and critical thinking in high-stakes situations are essential in their future career as an attorney.
The chief publication in the department is the University of Chicago Law Review, which students can contribute to through editing and compilation. The publication is seen as a forum for expressing ideas from leading professors, judges, and other practitioners. It is among the top five most cited law reviews in the world and has been used in Supreme Court cases.
Law students at the University of Chicago are well-prepared for their futures, with the highest first-time bar pass rate of all schools in the United States of 98.6%. UChicago is regarded worldwide, especially by employers, earning a median salary of $190,000. Due to its high success, the National Law Journal ranked the school as #1 in the nation for overall employment outcomes.