The state of Georgia is home to more than peaches, grits, and southern hospitality. The state is also home to some of the country’s most highly ranked law schools.
When people think of law school, Georgia probably isn’t the first state to come to mind. Our minds tend to go to Ivies such as Harvard and Yale. But although Georgia’s top law schools are not ranked as highly as, say, Stanford or Columbia, they are still well respected regionally and nationally and offer a top-notch education in law, particularly for future attorneys who want to practice in the Peach State. After all, lawyers need to pass a separate bar exam in the state (or states) where they intend to practice, so going to law school in Georgia provides extensive opportunities to not only prepare for the bar, but also network with law firms and other legal enterprises in the area.
What makes a law school “good”? What does a publication like US News and World Report look for when assigning national rankings to law schools?
Some of the key metrics to consider when assessing the strength of a law school are ABA accreditation, percentage of students who pass the bar the first time, school resources, job placement success, and quality of student-faculty interactions. All of these elements are part of US News’ ranking process.
There are at least 8 accredited law schools in Georgia. This article will focus on Georgia’s top 5 law schools as ranked by US News. We’ll discuss Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (#147-193 nationally), Mercer University (#124 nationally), Georgia State University (#78 nationally), Emory University (#29 nationally), and finally University of Georgia (#27 nationally).
5. Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (Atlanta, GA)
Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (AJMLS) is a for-profit law school located in the heart of Atlanta, fittingly on a road called Peachtree Street. The school was founded in 1933 and received American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation in 2005.
AJMLS accepts approximately 35% of applicants, with a median LSAT score of 150 and a median undergraduate GPA of 2.94. As of July 2019, the first-time bar passage rate was 66%, compared to an average 84% first-time bar passage rate among all Georgia ABA accredited law schools.
One distinguishing feature of AJMLS’s curriculum is its Experiential Learning Program, which includes for-credit externships in legal practices and other field positions. This ensures that students aren’t just learning how to memorize case briefings, but are also prepared to enter the real world of law after graduating from AJMLS.
Several of AJMLS’s alumni have gone on to hold influential positions in government, including Jon G. Burns, Doug Collins, and Ronald Ramsey, Sr. Moreover, former conservative radio show host Neal Boortz and even Nigerian politician Femi Gbajabiamila are graduates of AJMLS. The school also has on faculty a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient, the criminal defense attorney Jonathan Rapping.
4. Mercer University School of Law (Macon, GA)
Mercer University School of Law was founded in 1893 and is one of the oldest law schools in the United States. Based in Macon, Georgia, the law school is memorable for its main building, which is a partial replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Mercer has been a member of the Association of American Law Schools since 1923 and has been fully accredited by the ABA since 1925.
The Law School accepts approximately 43% of applicants, with a median LSAT score of 153 and an average GPA of 3.41. The school’s current first-time Georgia bar passage rate is 83.2%, on par with the average first-time bar passage rate across all of Georgia.
Mercer is known for its Woodruff Curriculum, which has inspired law school curricula across the country. The curriculum emphasizes small class sizes, practice-based learning opportunities, legal and professional ethics, legal writing, and professional responsibility, and was even awarded the sought-after Gambrell Professionalism Award by the ABA. Relatedly, the School of Law is home to the Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, the National Criminal Defense College, and the largest legal writing organization in the world, the Legal Writing Program.
Mercer boasts a number of influential alumni, including dozens of politicians, judges, and high-profile legal figures. Among these alumni are former Georgia governor Nathan Deal, former Attorney General of the United States G. Harrold Carswell, CNN political commentator Erick Erickson, political commentator and Headline News host Nancy Grace, and high-profile attorney to celebrities such as Kobe Bryant, L. Lin Wood.
3. Georgia State University College of Law (Atlanta, GA)
Georgia State University College of Law is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Founded relatively recently in 1982, the law school is accredited by the ABA and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. GSU College of Law has grown quickly from its humble beginnings and is now ranked #78 in the country by US News and World Report. Impressively, the law school is ranked #1 in the entire country for Health Care Law and #17 nationwide for its Part-Time Law program.
GSU College of Law admits approximately 30% of applicants, with a median LSAT score of 158 and average GPA of 3.52. The school’s first-time bar passage rate is approximately 85%, and in 2020 the ABA ranked GSU College of Law #5 nationally for Bar Exam Overperformance. Finally, The National Jurist awarded GSU College of Law a grade of A+ for its Environmental Law and Health Law specializations.
One of GSU College of Law’s interesting features is its study abroad programs, which enable students to study for five weeks in Linz, Austria through the Summer Academy in International Commercial Arbitration; in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil through the Summer Legal and Policy Study; or in Buenos Aires, Argentina through the Buenos Aires Summer Program which is jointly sponsored with the Florida International University College of Law.
GSU College of Law alumni have made notable contributions to the world in the judicial and governmental spheres, as well as in business and media. Graduates of the program have gone on to become Georgia Supreme Court justices and state judges, members of the Georgia House of Representatives, business executives, and news media anchors.
2. Emory University School of Law (Atlanta, GA)
Emory University School of Law, located in Atlanta Georgia, is a Top 30 law school in the United States, currently tied with Boston College, Brigham Young, University of Iowa, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and University of Wisconsin-Madison at #29 nationally in the US News and World Report rankings. Emory University as a whole is also highly regarded nationwide, ranked #21 in the country by US News.
Emory’s law school admissions are quite selective, with approximately 30% of applicants admitted. Successful applicants have a median LSAT score of 158 and average GPA of 3.80. Emory’s first-time bar passage rate is 82.8%, and the top jurisdictions where graduates sat for the bar in 2019 were Georgia, New York, Florida, Texas, and California.
The school’s curriculum offers a challenging mix of theory and practice and develops students’ competencies through a number of specialized clinics. Students can also participate in a summer exchange program in Budapest, Hungary. Externships are a key feature of the program, linking students with real world professional opportunities in public defense, government, NPO, or in-house counsel positions, to name a few.
Emory University School of Law alumni can be found in the top tier of businesses, government and politics, the court system, and a host of other industries. Among Emory Law’s notable alumni are numerous CEOs, US Congressmen and ambassadors, dozens of judges, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many business founders. The law school faculty also boasts a number of renowned legal scholars.
1. University of Georgia School of Law (Athens, GA)
The top-ranked law school in all of Georgia is the University of Georgia School of Law, more commonly known as Georgia Law. Ranked #27 nationally by US News and World Report, Georgia Law is located north of Atlanta in Athens, GA and is one of the oldest law schools in continuous operation in the entire country. Since its founding in 1859, Georgia Law has graduated nearly a dozen state governors, over 100 state and federal legislatures, dozens of federal judges and state supreme court justices, and influential players in nearly every industry.
Georgia Law is highly selective, admitting approximately 19% of its applicants. Successful applicants have a median LSAT score of 165 and an average GPA of 3.78. Meanwhile, Georgia Law’s first-time bar passage rate averages a whopping 94%, and within 10 months of graduation, 93% of members of the Class of 2019 were employed in full-time, long-term jobs that required bar passage. With numbers like these, it’s easy to understand why Georgia Law has been ranked the #1 Best Value Law School in the country three years in a row (2020, 2019, 2018) by the National Jurist.
Part of what makes Georgia Law so successful is its small student-to-faculty ratio of just 6:1, and its related Mentorship Program, which matches every incoming law student with a faculty mentor, upperclassman peer mentor, a Career Development Office counselor, and an alumnus professional mentor to support their time in and beyond the program.
Georgia Law’s alumni are some of the most well-respected and influential JDs in the country and around the world. Some particularly influential recent graduates include former acting United States Attorney General Sally Yates, former President Pro Tempore of the Senate Richard B. Russell Jr., and former Chief Judge and present Senior Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals Larry Edmondson.