The 10 Best Law Schools in New York

When one pictures the world of high-powered lawyers guiding businesses through complex contracts or sentinels of justice defending the weak, one city leaps to mind: New York. Unsurprisingly, the big apple is home to some of the most dynamic and well-regarded law schools in the country, with several other equally impressive institutions found nearby. 

In fact, anyone planning on studying law in New York may find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the choices. Not only does each institution benefit from access to world leaders, multinational corporations, and pressing social needs, but they all claim an impressive list of alumni and resources. These schools prepare students for everything from traditional subjects, such as family law and civil litigation, to niche issues, such as fashion industry and film law, to even cutting-edge technology, such as data mining and blockchain. No matter what type of law you plan to practice, you’ll find a New York school ready to give you the proper tools. 

With so many options, how can anyone decide on the best school? 

That’s where College Gazette comes in. Following the rankings determined by U.S. News & World Report, this article outlines the most attractive qualities of the ten best law schools the Empire State has to offer. Whether you plan to work for a Fortune 500 company or fight for social justice or run for higher office, you’ll find a New York school to help you on your way. 

10. Syracuse University College of Law (Syracuse, NY)

Syracuse University
DASonnenfeld, SU Dineen Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

Most of the schools on this list will boast impressive alumni. But Syracuse University College of Law may have them all beat with their most famous graduate, U.S. President Joe Biden. The President is just one of many legislators who studied at SUCL, who counts among its graduates judges, representatives, and civil defenders. 

But SUCL has no intention of resting on the successes of its famous alumni. The school continues innovating with its acclaimed national security law program, offered through SU’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism.

For those not drawn to public service, SUCL also offers certifications in corporate and property law, as well as family law and estate planning. Whatever track students choose, they will be well-prepared for success. In 2017, 95.59% of students who took the bar exam passed, with 81.57% passing on their first attempt

9. CUNY School of Law (Queens, NY)

As part of New York City’s renowned public interest university, the CUNY School of Law strives to meet its motto: “Law in the Service of Human Needs.” Since its founding in 1983, CUNY Law has equipped its students with the practical tools they need to practice law in a wide range of subjects. Divided into a series of practice clinics, CUNY Law directs students through rigorous training in subjects such as economic justice, disability and aging justice, and worker’s rights. 

The school particularly prides itself on its justice initiatives, through which students do pro-bono work to serve their community. These programs include the Community Legal Resource Network, which supports alumni and recent grades as they gain in-court training helping those who cannot afford representation, and the Center for Latinx Rights and Equality, which addresses challenges facing the city’s Latinx population. 

8. University at Buffalo School of Law (Buffalo, NY)

The only law school in the official State University of New York system, the University of Buffalo School of Law is ranked in the nation’s top 100 law schools by U.S. News & World Report and within the top 50, according to Forbes and the New Yorker

The school has earned those accolades thanks to its commitment to building a community of practicing lawyers and students, building on the foundations set by alumni while constantly pushing forward to meet new challenges. 

Some of the most essential resources offered by UB Law are the three law journals published at the school, including the student-run Buffalo Law Review. Edited by 3L J.D. candidates, the Buffalo Law Review gives students practical experience working with cutting-edge research into the most pressing legal questions of our time. 

7. Brooklyn Law School (Brooklyn, NY)

Like all of the schools in this article, the Brooklyn Law School ranks high in general lists, including the Leiter Report placing the school’s faculty #30 for scholarly excellence in 2017 and the New York Law Journal ranking it the #2 Best Overall Law School in 2017 and 2018. But Brooklyn Law also receives attention for its work in the entertainment industry, receiving high marks from Billboard Magazine and the Hollywood Reporter

Such high praise comes thanks to the work of Brooklyn Law’s best-known alumni working in the news and entertainment industries, including Fox News anchor Geraldo Riviera and Allen Grubman, who has represented Bruce Springsteen and Mariah Carey. 

But Brooklyn Law’s achievements aren’t all glitz and glamour. The school also features leading science-based initiatives, such as the Center Law and Language Cognition and the Center for Health, Science, and Public Policy. 

6. St. John’s University School of Law (Queens, NY

Located in the Jamaica section of Queens, St. John’s University School of Law offers the nation’s only LL.M. in bankruptcy law. The program serves as the school’s claim to fame. Each year, St. Johns Law hosts the Conrad B. Duberstein Moot Court Competition, in partnership with the American Bankruptcy Institution. Teams from approximately 60 law schools participate in the competition, which is judged by practitioners from around the country. 

No matter what the specialization, St. Johns Law graduates find themselves well-prepared for their future endeavors. 89% of the school’s first-time test takers passed the bar exam in 2019. 82.3% of the class of 2018found full-time employment JD-required employment within nine months of graduation. 

As these numbers prove, St. Johns Law gives students the fundamental experience that they’ll need to practice law, no matter which concentration they choose. 

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

Founded in 1976, Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law is one of the younger law schools in the country. But in its short 45 years, the school has already established itself as one of the best. 

The school offers programs in its FAME Center for fashion and entertainment law and its cutting-edge Data Law program and Blockchain Project. But YU Law’s most outstanding achievement is the Innocence Project, which works to exonerate wrongly convicted persons through DNA testing and criminal reforms. Since its establishment in 1992, the Innocence Project has successfully overturned 375 false convictions. 

YU Law offers an impressive variety of clinics through which students gain hands-on experience, including the Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic, the Tech Startup Clinic, and even the Indie Film Clinic. 

4. Fordham University School of Law (New York, NY)

Fordham University School of Law
Ajay Suresh, Fordham University School of Law, CC BY 2.0

As the forum in which some of the most important legal discussions take place, law journals are an important part of any law school program. Although most schools publish at least one journal, Fordham University School of Law puts out six law journals, each published by students. Not only that, but these journals consistently rank toward the top of the field, with the Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law cited more than any other publication. 

With experience working on such respected publications, it’s no wonder that graduates from Fordham Law frequently find positions in the nation’s 100 largest firms. But they achieve these lofty goals by starting with good students. Fordham Law draws its student body from some of the country’s best colleges and universities, including NYU, University of Michigan, and Columbia University. 

3. Cornell Law School (Ithaca, NY)

Cornell Law School
Eustress, Cornell Law School, CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the five Ivy League law schools, Cornell Law is one of the nation’s smaller top-tier programs, graduating only 200 students each year. But those graduates find themselves in rarified company, alongside several attorneys general, members of the U.S. and state houses of representatives, and professors of law.

Even those who do not reach such legendary status gain meaningful work due to their Cornell Law degree. A full 92.1% of the class of 2018 found full-time employment in the legal field, with a mere 2.1% reporting as unemployed. 

Cornell Law continues to blaze new paths in the field. Their work has been recently recognized with accolades from the American Association of Law Libraries and a victory for the team they sent to the World Justice Challenge

2. New York University School of Law (New York, NY)

NYU School of Law
Beyond My Ken, Furman Hall NYU Law School from West 3rd and Thompson Streets, CC BY-SA 4.0

Established in 1835, NYU Law is the oldest law school in New York and one of the oldest in the nation. In its 185 years, the school has consistently ranked high in lists of the best schools, from not only U.S. News & World Report but also international outlets such as the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the QS World University Rankings

This international focus can be seen in the quality of their alumni. More NYU Law grads sit on the International Court of Justice than those from any other school. Some of the most recognized legal philosophers teach at NYU Law, such as Jeremy Waldron and Thomas Nagel. Its graduates include everyone from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to civil rights leader Vanita Gupta. 

Students prepare to enter the world stage by studying in one of the school’s acclaimed legal centers, including the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy and the Institute for International Law and Justice. 

1. Columbia Law School (New York, NY)

Columbia Law School
Ajay Suresh, Columbia Law School – Jerome L Greene Hall, CC BY 2.0

Since they began ranking colleges in 1983, U.S. News & World Report has seen colleges come and go from their lists. But one school has not only never left the list, but it has never even left the top five. Columbia Law School has consistently been one of the five best law schools in the country and is considered one of the best law schools in the world. 

Its reputation has been built in part by the Columbia Law Review, the third-most cited law journal in the world. Columbia’s specialization centers further the school’s prestige by allowing students to engage in some of the most pressing issues of our time. The Center for Gender and Sexuality Law teaches students to navigate our evolving understanding of gender norms, while the Center for Japanese Legal Studies is the only such institution in the U.S.

With these incomparable resources, Columbia Law consistently turns out some of the best lawyers and public servants the country has ever known.