Here Are the Best Law Schools in Washington, DC

To obtain a Juris Doctorate degree, or the highest level of education in the legal field in the United States, prospective lawyers must attend law school. The intensive program gives law students the tools they need to pass the bar exam and become practicing attorneys. The 1.33 million lawyers across the country today all took courses to learn from experts in the field.

Although law students spend plenty of time in the library studying subjects from civil law to business law, they have many activities outside of schoolwork. The top law schools require practical hands-on legal experience through internships, legal clinics, and extracurricular activities. These courses, along with real-world legal experience, helps students decide which area of law is right for them. 

The nation’s capital in Washington DC is one of the best places to practice law, with around 80,000 attorneys in the region. Law students from the many prestigious schools in the area have many opportunities to meet policy leaders and build professional networks for their future careers. Through their university experiential learning programs, law students can work on Capitol Hill alongside the federal government, law firms, non-profits, and judiciary bodies.

Due to the fruitful opportunities available throughout the metropolitan area, National Jurist magazine ranks Washington DC as the best city for young attorneys. With the second largest legal market and many federal government offices, it is the land of many opportunities for aspiring lawyers. 

Here are the best law schools in Washington DC based on their appearance in the US News law school list.

6. University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law

University of the District of Columbia
Matthew G. Bisanz, UDC Quad, CC BY-SA 3.0

The David A. Clark School of Law at UDC is known for its mission of recruiting students from groups that are traditionally underrepresented at the bar. The Princeton Review ranked the Clark School of Law #1 amongst older students and #2 for the most diverse faculty among 200 other ABA-accredited law schools. Members of the UDC community believe that students are more likely to be better lawyers if they interact with people from a wide range of backgrounds.

In order to gain this exposure to a diverse community, all full-time law students experience at least 600 hours of experiential work under the supervision of faculty members. This hands-on work is performed through clinical centers on behalf of low-income clients. Law students handle real cases preparing them to work effectively with clients and use their legal knowledge to solve real-world problems.

UDC Law students also show their commitment to public service through the Law and Justice course, where each first-year student provides a minimum of 40 hours of community service. This work is typically alongside a DC non-profit or government agency. As a result, preLaw magazine has recognized the Clarke School of Law as contributing the #1 most community service hours per student.

For students looking for an affordable option for law school that still provides a high-quality education, UDC Law is a great choice. The tuition is a fraction of the cost of other law schools in the area, and 91% of students receive scholarships or financial aid. The affordable tuition allows students to graduate with less debt and more flexibility to choose to work in public service.

5. Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law

Catholic University of America Columbus Law School
Farragutful, Columbus School of Law CUA, CC BY-SA 3.0

At the Columbus School of Law, students have the opportunity to learn from accomplished professors who are devoted to their success. The department boasts over 30 full-time faculty members who are experts in a variety of legal fields. Many have experience in practicing law, from being active in the courtroom to authoring benchmark texts to presenting at top conferences and panels.

Law students also have many opportunities to pursue a specialized concentration through the university’s certificate programs. These centers are highly selective, accepting around 15 students each year, and have a 25-year record of producing industry leaders within their areas of specialization. The prestige and reach open limitless career opportunities for graduates. Available certificate programs include Law and Technology, Comparative and International Law, Law and Public Policy, Securities Law, and Compliance, Investigations, and Corporate Responsibility.

Students can also explore specific legal fields through the 40 different organizations on campus, ranging from professional interests to community service. The Moot Court and Trial teams are a popular choice, earning accolades in global competitions. The Moot Court Association hosts many interscholastic competitions and the most extensive appellate program in the DC metropolitan area.

The National Mock Trial team represents the Columbus Law School against more than 1,000 law students nationally. Recently, the group won the 2019 National Trial Competition, outperforming their peers in simulated civil and criminal jury trials.

4. Howard University School of Law

Howard University School of Law
AgnosticPreachersKid, Howard University School of Law, CC BY-SA 3.0

Established in 1869, the Howard University School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in the country. The leading historically Black university embraces the legacy of their alumni who fought for social justice, such as Thurgood Marshall and Pauli Murray. Other distinguished alumni include judges, politicians, and other legal leaders. Howard University proudly boasts an impressive diversity within their community, ranking #1 in terms of the highest percentage of students and professors who are racial or ethnic minorities.

The Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard is the flagship location for the study and practice of civil rights law. It is named for alumnus Thurgood Marshall, the key to the US Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education and the first Black Supreme Court justice. The center aims to fuel social change and expand human rights by promoting collaboration between law, policy, academic study, and grassroots organization.

Through quality courses and opportunities for hands-on learning, Howard draws in law firms and remains competitive with top law schools. More than 100 major law firms visit campus for the fall recruiting season, opening opportunities for a diverse pool of candidates. The school’s longstanding history means that it has formed decades-old relationships with prestigious firms. In addition, graduates from Howard receive the confidence and skills necessary to practice law in the real world.

3. American University Washington College of Law

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

The Washington College of Law at American University is no stranger to breaking boundaries. Founded in 1896, it was the first law school to be founded by women, the first with a female dean, and the first to graduate an all-female class. The inspiring history created a tradition of providing opportunities to those who were historically outside of the mainstream legal field. 

Today, the Washington College of Law continues its mission of promoting public interest through the Equal Justice Foundation. Since its establishment, the organization has provided over 1,000 stipends to students who work in unpaid internships with public interest organizations. This allows students to deliver critical services to typically underrepresented members of their community.

Law students also receive a well-rounded legal education through the internationalization of their education. American’s College of Law has one of the best study abroad programs in the country, with the ability to study in over 18 countries across five continents. 30% of law students take advantage of this opportunity to be immersed in a different culture and gain a global perspective of the legal profession. Students can work abroad, develop language skills, and learn how to interact with international clients.

There are plenty of extra-curricular activities for law students to use the skills learned from the classroom. The American University Business Law Review is the first law review in Washington DC dedicated solely to business issues. Although it was founded only 10 years ago, it is already the #4 commercial law review in the country. The review is edited and produced by students and is committed to publishing high-quality and high-impact pieces.

2. George Washington University Law School

George Washington University Law School
Pjn1990, George Washington University Law School Buildings, CC BY 3.0

The George Washington University Law School is recognized as a top law school with impressive course offerings and accomplished alumni. The school has a network of more than 24,000 alumni within the law and government. This includes 150 judges on local, state, and federal benches with 10 on the Supreme Court. Within the government, notable alumni include a US Attorney General, US Secretaries, heads of state, members of Congress, and directors of the FBI. 

Law students are able to explore their interests at the school with the largest course offerings in the nation. GW Law has 275 elective courses covering topics from environmental law to national security to business and finance law. The rich and diverse curriculum allows students to sample a broad array of legal specializations.

The wide variety of courses and alumni connections are useful for recent graduates in the current job market. In 2019, 77.8% of graduates obtained full-time, long-term, bar passage required employment 10 months after graduation. The class of 2019 went on to work at law firms of all sizes, businesses, government agencies, clerkships, and public interest organizations. Due to the opportunities provided to students, the admissions into GW Law School have become highly selective. Applicants for the most recent class have a median LSAT score of 166

1. Georgetown University Law Center

Georgetown University Law Center
Karatershel, Georgetown Law Campus, CC BY-SA 3.0

As a T14 school, Georgetown is consistently ranked among the most prestigious law schools in the United States. The school’s leading programs in constitutional and international law, along with a high proportion of graduates who work at top law firms, make it a top choice for many aspiring lawyers. Georgetown Law receives more full-time applications than any other law school in the country, with an impressive 10,000 applicants in 2020.

Georgetown is also recognized nationally for its leadership in clinical legal education. US News ranked the program as #1 in the nation for Clinical Training in 2018. For more than 50 years, students have learned how to evaluate their legal work and receive focused attention from faculty members in clinical placements. Each year, 300 students participate in 18 different clinics and are responsible for all facets of their casework.

The Georgetown Law Library supports the research of students and faculty and receives national attention as a premier research facility for the study of law. The library’s mission is to collect, organize, preserve, and disseminate the law. Along with a collection of nearly 2 million works, the center provides effective service, instructional programs, and electronic information systems for all members of the Georgetown community. 

The practical experience through clinical education and research leads to a high success rate in student’s future careers. Georgetown Law has an impressive first-time bar passage rate of 92.67%, more than 15 points higher than the national average of 76.99%.