Perhaps the degree with the highest return on investment, a law degree from a top school is as prestigious of a mark as it gets in the US.
Students who graduate with the vaunted juris doctor from a top law school gain the privilege few others ever get to achieve; a starting six-figure salary at a firm of international reputation.
Of course, those jobs are competitive, and nearly every student salivates at the idea of a starting job out of a JD with a salary of roughly $200k yearly.
So what separates the students who get these jobs from those who do not?
Certainly, experience in a law firm, internships, and more can help.
However, at the beginning stage of a career, the prestige of an applicant’s college degree is one of the most important considerations a company can make in their hiring process.
Which schools are the very best for law? Which ones provide the highest ROI (return-on-investment, a phrase often associated with law school)?
This list has some of the mainstay schools of any top law school list, while there are others you may just be finding out today are among the very best.
For this list, we made an “aggregate” ranking of other law school lists. Essentially, we analyzed other law rankings, created a weighted score for each school on each list, then made a meta-analysis ranking based on all the combined lists.
10. University of California at Berkeley School of Law (Berkeley, CA)
Coming in at number 10 on the list, UC Berkeley, as well as every other school on this list, is a member of the T14 list of law schools, which are the 14 law schools that essentially always appear at the top of lists based on a number rankings criteria, including the lists we aggregated for this particular ranking.
The bar pass rate at UC Berkeley is among the highest in the nation; according to their ABA profile, their bar pass rate is an astounding 92%. The endowment for the parent university is among the highest in the country at $4.3bn as of 2017.
UC Berkeley’s law school is remarkable for the number of leaders its school has produced, including US Chief Justice Earl Warren, Chairman of the Federal Reserve G. William Miller, and attorney general Edwin Meese who worked during the Reagan administration.
In 2016, nearly 96% of graduates found employment within 9 months, and another 1.2% enrolled into another full-time degree.
9. Duke University School of Law (Durham, NC)
Consistently ranked in the top 10 law schools in the country, Duke’s 2017 first-time bar pass rate was an astonishing 97.44%, which was 3rd at the time in all law schools for bar pass rate. Duke University as a whole has an $8.52bn endowment.
We note that a number of publications rank Duke Law #1, including Times Higher Education in 2018. The acceptance rate is many years is less than 20% overall, according to Tipping the Scales. The LSAT score required for admission is extremely high, the median for admission being 169.
Duke publishes a number of widely-read legal texts and journals. These include the Alaska Law Review, which is in collaboration with the Alaska Bar Association as Alaska does not have any law schools. Additionally, Duke is also home to the Duke Law Journal, which publishes 8 issues a year.
Uniquely, 25% of students at Duke Law are enrolled in dual-degree programs with other programs at Duke University.
Law School Transparency, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to divulging accurate statistics about every law school in the country, gave Duke the highest employment score in 2017.
8. University of Virginia School of Law (Charlottesville, VA)
People often call the Kennedys the United States version of the royal family.
The reason is that so many of them have had a hand in our political system and held other influential positions in society.
If you’ve ever wondered who educated much of this family, the answer is the University of Virginia School of Law, who trained Robert, Ted, Robert Jr., and Michael.
A public university, UVA is just as highly reputed as any other law school on this list. The bar pass rate is an impressive 96%.
Annually, the school is ranked among the top 10 law schools in the country.
This school’s roots are as impressive as its alumni. It was founded by Thomas Jefferson all the way back in 1819 when it became just the second law school in the entire country.
In the last 200 years, it has retained its reputation by hiring world-class professors, updating facilities constantly, and maintaining high standards for admissions.
The result is Virginia Law being one of the most attractive schools in the world.
7. University of Pennsylvania Law School (Philadelphia, PA)
In 2019, only one student in the entire graduating JD class did not pass the bar exam, making the bar passage rate an incredibly 99.61%.
Over 99% of class of 2018 graduates found employment. The median starting salary for that same class was $180,000, according to the school’s Wiki page.
Students at U Penn publish many of the most prestigious law journals in the country. These include the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, which is actually the oldest law review in the country, as well as The Regulatory Review, an online publication covering current events and topics in law.
Alumni of the program are among the highest paid & most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, lawyers, and businessmen in the world.
6. New York University (New York, NY)
Coming in at #6 on the list, we note that NYU placed in the top 10 in 8 of the 9 rankings lists we used to create this article (sources available at the end of this article).
Widely regarded as one of the top law schools in the country, it is particularly known for its strength in the public law sector. Indeed, the school is home to one of the most prestigious public interest scholarships in the country, the Root-Tilden scholarship, a full-tuition public service scholarship.
The standard metrics used to evaluate any law school demonstrate NYU as one of the top law schools in the country. Nearly 98% passed the bar in 2017.
According to Above the Law, a leading law school publication on the internet, NYU is ranked as having the best overall faculty in the country. According to Law.com, NYU is 6th for best employment outcomes.
Located in the business capital of the country, NYU is as lauded as any of the Ivy league schools on this list.
5. Yale School of Law (New Haven, CT)
Your first indication of Yale Law’s excellence comes from the fact that their graduates have been running the United States for decades. The most notable of them are the Clintons, Bill and Hillary, who met at this school and married soon after.
Going back into history, Yale Law also produced Gerald Ford, who was president in the 70’s.
With a 99% bar pass rate according to their ABA profile, Yale is consistently cited in the top 5 in nearly every list it appears. In 2014, over 88% of students found gainful employment within 9 months of graduation.
Notably, Yale does not have a traditional grading system.
Instead, professors grade new students on a simple credit/no credit system, and all other students on a slightly more complex honors/pass/fail methodology.
Not only does this system reduce stress, but many believe it creates a superior learning environment.
4. Columbia University School of Law (New York, NY)
Columbia Law has graduated many of the world’s most famous lawyers, scholars, and politicians, including both Teddy Roosevelt as well as Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The prestige of Columbia’s law school is best reflected in its exceptionally high bar pass rate at 95.6%. Only a handful of schools in the country can boast a bar pass rate above 95.6%.
The class of 2016’s median starting salary upon full-time employment was an impressive $180,000, not counting any bonuses which could rise the number up to $200k.
In 2015, according to the school’s Wikipedia page, Columbia was no. 1 for sending students to a top-100 law firm as determined by size of the company.
The Columbia Law Review is one of the most frequently cited law journals in the world.
3. Stanford School of Law (Palo Alto, CA)
Stanford Law’s history is synonymous with greatness.
Alumni of the program – among the world’s leaders in law, politics, and philosophy – best demonstrate the incredible accomplishment of this unique program. Perhaps the most famous alum of Stanford Law is none other than Sandra Day O’Connor, retired US Supreme Court Justice.
Stanford is among the most well-funded research institutions in the world. Stanford University, as a whole, has an endowment of over $26 billion dollars, trailing only Harvard and Yale in total funding.
Amazingly, between 4,000 – 5,000 prospective students apply to Stanford every academic year. Total enrollment among all three years at any given time is less than 600. The median GPA of an accepted student is 3.93, making it one of the most academically rigorous for admission worldwide.
For its 2019 list, US News ranked it #2 in the world.
2. University of Chicago Law School (Chicago, IL)
In 2017, 98.58% of this school’s graduating law class passed the bar on their first attempt, among the highest in the country, the highest that year. The school is among the most selective in the country; students applying typically need a 3.9 GPA to be considered for acceptance.
Throughout its history, University of Chicago has been home to incredible faculty that are household names in politics. These include Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, and current Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
In 2018, the National Law Journal ranked Chicago #1 for overall employment outcomes.
The school publishes the University of Chicago Law Review; with an impact factor of 2.284 (meaning the average number of citations in the last two years from consumers are 2.284), it is among the most influential journals in law education.
1. Harvard Law (Cambridge, MA)
Harvard Law is another school that has produced influential leaders, the most famous of them being Michelle and Barack Obama.
Among the largest law schools in the country, the total enrollment at Harvard Law is nearly 2,000 students. Notably, Harvard is home to the largest academic law library in the country.
US News, in 2018, ranked it at #3, while ARWU (Academic Ranking of World Universities) and QS ranked it #1. Based on the aggregate score of the rankings we sourced for this list, Harvard scored the highest and is the #1 law school in the country.
Acceptance is extremely low at Harvard Law – just 12.8% were accepted in the class of 2021. The 50% percentile for incoming GPA was 3.9.
Harvard is home to the Harvard Law Review, which has one of the highest “impact factor” scores of any academic law journal at 4.979 in 2015.
Besides the Obamas, other notable alumni include Ted Cruz, Chuck Schumer, Tom Cotton, and countless more influential political figures.
This ranking is an aggregate ranking based on the top law school publications. Here are the rankings cited for this article:
Rankings sourced early August 2019. Why this is important.