Being an attorney means pursuing justice to help those who are less fortunate. Whether working for a non-profit or defending a company’s intellectual property, this profession means working for the greater good. Lawyers also have exciting jobs full of intellectual stimulation and are respected by their peers.
To become a practicing attorney, prospective lawyers must obtain a degree from a law school and pass the bar exam. The top universities teach students the intricacies of the law and how to think like a lawyer. Being a full-time lawyer requires critical thinking skills and the ability to solve problems in creative ways. These abilities are often learned through experiential learning. The best law schools have externships, clinics, mock trials, and student organizations to help students develop professionally.
With nine well-regarded law schools, it is no surprise that Pennsylvania is a great place to practice law and attend school. There is a vibrant legal community with opportunities in nearly every practice area. Popular fields include litigation, finance, and corporate law, but there are plenty of other options as well. The state is home to over 50,000 active lawyers, with an 8.5% growth over the past decade.
Pennsylvania is also home to dozens of Fortune 500 companies in the area that seek to hire talented graduates. Lawyers in Pennsylvania earn an average yearly salary of $117,000, an income that is 126% above the national average. With so many options, it can be challenging to decide which educational path is right for you. Here is the ranking of the best law schools in Pennsylvania based on each school’s placement in the US News list. When a tie was listed, the College Gazette team made an editorial decision for the tiebreaker school
9. Widener University Commonwealth Law School (Dauphin County, PA)
Widener University is at the forefront of legal education, providing enriching opportunities for students and alumni. The Princeton Review ranked it as a Top 10 Law School for state and local judicial clerkships in 2020. The school works with top students through a competitive application process to land the coveted spots.
Widener graduates also top the rankings for employment outcomes. The law school was recognized as the #1 school for Employment Honor Roll by preLaw magazine. This ranking looks at law schools that do not attract the top 1% of law students but still place their graduates in good jobs.
In a joint venture with the Dauphin County Bar Association, Widener has started a legal incubator program. This program provides new graduates with the resources and training for solo small firms that benefit the surrounding community. Around 30% of Widener graduates seek to start small practices that benefit from the skills training and support provided by the university.
8. Duquesne University School of Law (Pittsburgh, PA)
Duquesne has over 8,000 alumni practicing in all 50 states and several countries nationally. Out of all the law schools in Pennsylvania, it has produced the most judges seated in the Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, and Court of Common Pleas.
With such distinguished alumni, it is not surprising that Duquesne is among the top law schools in bar passage nationally. Due to the rigorous legal education program, the school boasts an impressive ultimate bar passage rate of 93%. The admissions team looks beyond statistics to see the potential in every applicant.
Along with an impressive alumni network, Duquesne has a nationally ranked trial advocacy program that prepares students to be courtroom-ready attorneys. Law students gain experience in case analysis, trial preparation, witness preparation, and case presentation. The best students earn the opportunity to compete in regional and national competitions and be coached by practicing attorneys. The team has earned a number of national championships, including the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition and the Buffalo-Niagara Invitational Mock Trial Competition.
7. Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law (Philadelphia, PA)
The Kline School of Law was started to fulfill a demand for law graduates with immediate experience. The co-op program requires each student to complete at least one co-op or clinical placement and an additional 50 hours of pro bono service. Co-op placements align with each student’s area of interest and allow graduates to enter the workforce with the skills necessary to meet the rigorous demands of a lawyer. Students also make relationships with professionals in the business, choosing from over 200 of Drexel’s co-op partners.
Due to the experienced lawyers that Drexel produces, it is ranked among the top 25 law schools in the US for job placement based on Law School Transparency. Students can work for a variety of employers from government agencies to corporations to public interest organizations. Major employers include the ACLU, US Army JAG Corps, US Department of Justice, IBM, and Pfizer.
Drexel is home to the Thomas R. Kline Institute for Trial Advocacy, a facility that allows law students to practice their skills in a professional setting. The building houses many trial practice rooms, cutting-edge technology, and a ceremonial courtroom.
6. University of Pittsburgh School of Law (Pittsburgh, PA)
Pitt’s School of Law is committed to providing scholarships to law students through all three years. The National Jurist ranked it as one of the Best Value Law Schools when taking into account job placement, tuition, debt, and bar passage rates. The vast majority of students at Pitt receive scholarship funds to maintain an impressive cost to value ratio.
Law students at Pitt have access to a wide range of opportunities, such as the interdisciplinary centers on campus. These include centers for Bioethics and Health Law, International Legal Education, Community Legal Services & Clinical Legal Education, Cyber Law, Policy, & Security. Students can perform research alongside faculty and engage with policymakers to make a change.
The Future Law Project at Pitt investigates how law policy and action should be informed by cross-field research. The center brings in experts across research, academia, and legal practice to determine the future of law as a field of expertise and a source of social order infrastructure.
5. Penn State Law (University Park, PA)
Penn State graduates enter the workforce as part of a network of over 700,000 alumni worldwide who work in all areas. Law students gain critical knowledge of the law along with the communication, legal practice skills, and confidence to achieve their professional goals.
Law students at Penn State have many integrated learning opportunities, such as the business startup accelerator program. The Entrepreneur Assistance and Intellectual Property clinics allow students to learn basic legal skills required to attract and interview potential clinics. Law students have the opportunity to represent entrepreneurs, startups, and non-profits in a similar setting to a small law firm. In the IP clinic, participants prepare Patent & Trademark Office documents under the supervision of practicing attorneys.
The Externships Everywhere program at Penn State allows law students to spend a semester working in a legal office anywhere in the world. They can earn credits and gain valuable experience with judges, government agencies, non-profits, businesses, or law firms that best fit their professional goals.
4. Pennsylvania State University Dickinson Law (Carlisle, PA)
Due to Dickinson Law’s rigorous curriculum and opportunities for involvement, graduates find success across the board. 95% of law graduates in the class of 2019 were employed in positions requiring bar passage or a JD degree nine months after graduation.
One popular extracurricular activity is the Dickinson Law Review, one of the oldest continuously published law school journals nationwide. Law students are responsible for publishing articles and commentary on relevant legal topics. The collection of articles, essays, reviews, and commentary are often cited from courts to treatises. The organization also hosts symposia and scholarly dialogues with highly-regarded legal authors.
Outside of publications, Dickinson law students have their choice of a wide variety of organizations to get involved with the campus community. The groups help law students develop personally and professionally. The Student Bar Association forms new groups and holds events that align with student interests.
3. Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law (Villanova, PA)
Villanova is renowned for preparing students with academic, professional, and practical skills. The university’s “Where Law Meets Business” philosophy is seen through the six in-house clinics and over 275 externships tailored to specific career interests.
Students can also gain hands-on experience through the Lawyering Together program, which brings together law students, attorneys, and pro bono organizations in an innovative partnership. Villanova prides itself in recruiting law students committed to public service and teaches them the skills required to help the disadvantaged. Those who hope to devote their career to public service are matched with practicing attorneys to provide free legal aid to those in need.
Thanks to the practical experience that Villanova provides, the school has a wide range of accomplished alumni, including federal and state judges, professors, entrepreneurs, and many of the top lawyers nationwide. This network, from senators to general counsels, is committed to helping all Villanova Law students succeed.
2. Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law (Philadelphia, PA)
Temple University’s broad legal education allows students to succeed in any field. This can be seen in their program’s rankings in US News, placing #1 in Trial Advocacy and #7 in Legal Writing nationwide. The university trains both law students and practitioners alike in the art of trial advocacy. Graduates from Temple are courtroom-ready as they have received a cutting-edge education.
Law students at Temple are well-prepared for their future careers as lawyers. First-time test-takers in 2020 passed the bar at a rate of 83.6% compared to the average of 78%.
Temple has also found great success in moot court competitions. The team has recently earned the right to represent the country at the International Criminal Moot Court Competition held at the Hague for the fourth consecutive year. The team is led by faculty with appellate advocacy expertise and practicing attorneys as coaches. Law students are invited to join the team based on their success in appellate advocacy briefs and oral arguments.
1. University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School (Philadelphia, PA)
As an Ivy League school, UPenn has the resources and recognition for preparing students for a successful career in law. It has consistently been ranked among the T14 law schools since the US News began publishing rankings.
As a top school, UPenn is one of the top feeders to Top 100 law firms. 95.3% of the class of 2020 obtained full-time jobs after graduation, with a median salary of $180,000.
Law students are responsible for the UPenn Law Review, the oldest law review in the country founded in 1852. As a forum for high-quality legal research, the organization evaluates around 2,000 submissions annually and narrows it down to 18 articles for each volume.
UPenn’s multidisciplinary focus is behind its success. The school believes that the next generation of lawyers will be trained in law and related fields that complement and enhance their legal expertise. Nearly 50% of the law school courses are interdisciplinary, and the school offers over 20 joint and dual degree programs to meet this goal.