Overview

A report in 2012 stated that there are approximately 1.2 million lawyers in the United States; that calculates to one lawyer per 300 citizens. Most of these practicing lawyers have graduated from one of the 200 American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in the United States. Admissions to those law schools outnumber students in one of the 137 U.S. medical schools by nearly three to one. Perhaps one reason for the plethora of lawyers is due to the fact that the U.S. has 2.2 million people in prison-more than any other nation. However, criminal law is only one aspect of this multi-faceted profession that students are gravitating to in hoards. For example, in 2012, there were 44,000 Juris Doctor graduates but only 18,000 medical students to become doctors the same year. Some experts believe the U.S. has reached the saturation point, despite the law schools that claim high placement rates (>90%). And the profession pays well, with some law partners exceeding $1,000/hour bill rates, not to mention the contingency fees that average 33% to 40% . Though the rates were considerably less in President Theodore Roosevelt’s time, he did bestow this advice on one of his sons: “A man who never graduated from school might steal from a freight car. But a man who attends college and graduates as a lawyer might steal the whole railroad.”

As stated, there are 200 ABA accredited law schools in the United States-all of which would be an excellent choice. The following is a compilation of the best law schools based on reports from US News & World Report, abovethelaw.com, and Business Insider. You will recognize the more familiar Ivy League schools and may be surprised at some of the other top schools whose history is as fascinating as the stellar education you’ll receive.

 

1. Yale University

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Established in 1824, Yale Law has been ranked the number one law school in the country by U.S. News and World Report every year since the magazine began publishing law school rankings. Located in New Haven, Connecticut, the school’s small size and prestige makes its admissions process the most selective of any law school in the country. This prestige is reflected in the large number of prominent alumni: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, former President William Taft, United States Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor, to name a few. The school also saw a greater percentage of its students go on to become Supreme Court clerks between the 2000 and 2010 terms than any other law school- more than double the percentage of the second-highest law school (Harvard Law School).

Yale Law School offers five degree-granting programs: Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.), Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.), Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.), and the Ph.D. in Law. The latter is designed to prepare J.D. graduates for careers in legal scholarship through three years of coursework and the production of a substantial body of academic research and writing. Students pursuing their Ph.D. have the benefit of being under the close supervision of a three-member faculty dissertation committee. Both the LL.M. and the M.S.L. are one year programs open to a select number of graduate students each year. Successful candidates for Yale Law School’s J.S.D. program must have achieved high standing in taking the LL.M. degree and demonstrate strong aptitude for performing advanced scholarly research.

Accreditation: The New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Tuition: $56,200/year

2. Harvard University

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Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1817, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. Harvard Law was founded by the estate of wealthy landowner Isaac Royall, a wealthy Antiquan slaveholder who immigrated to Boston. Royall’s coat-of-arms, with its three stacked wheat sheaves, remains the school’s crest to this day. The Royall chair was traditionally held by the Dean of the law school. However, because Royall was a slaveholder, former Dean Elena Kagan (now Supreme Court Justice) and current Dean Martha Minow (Yale Law School grad) declined the Royall chair.

Harvard Law School offers the  J.D. (Juris Doctor) which is a three-year program that first gives students the intellectual foundations for legal study and opportunity to focus on areas of particular interest. Their one-year LL.M. (Master of Laws) program provides students who already have excellent legal training and experience. Also offered is the S.J.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science) which is a more advanced degree, intended for students who wish to pursue a career in legal education. According to the law school, graduates of the S.J.D. program are teaching in the world’s finest law schools and producing scholarship at the highest levels. Finally, for law students interested in pursuing expertise in another field, the Law School offers joint J.D. degree programs with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), Public Health (MPH), PhD in Arts and Sciences, and Master in Urban Planning (MUP).

Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Tuition: $55,842

3. Stanford University

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Stanford Law School is a graduate school at Stanford University located near Palo Alto, California, in Silicon Valley. The Law School was established in 1893 when former President Benjamin Harrison joined the faculty as the first professor of law. Stanford Law School is one of the most prestigious and elite law schools in the United States, typically ranking in the top three in the US News & World Report. Starting in 1908, the law department began its transition into an exclusively professional school when Stanford’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution to officially change its name from Law Department to Law School. Eight years later, Frederic Campbell Woodward became the first dean of the law school, and in 1924, Stanford’s law program officially transitioned into a modern professional school when it began requiring a bachelor’s degree for admission.

The school has over 500 students who are working toward their Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree. Stanford Law also confers four advanced legal degrees: a Master of Laws (LL.M.), a Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.), a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), and a Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.). Stanford Law offers 280 course titles beyond the first-year curriculum, and advanced courses range from White-Collar Crime to a Supreme Court Simulation Seminar. The school also offers joint degrees combining the J.D. with a Master’s degree of choice, a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), or a Ph.D.. The typical JD/PhD can be completed in anywhere from 18 months to two years less time than required anywhere else. All of the Master’s programs are highly selective, for example, the LLM program only enrolls 15-20 per year.

Accreditation:  The Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Tuition: $54,336

4. University of Chicago

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The University of Chicago, one of the youngest of the major American universities, was granted its charter in 1890 and opened its doors for classes in October 1892. The generosity of its founding donors, led by John D. Rockefeller, enabled the first president of the University, William Rainey Harper, to realize his bold ideas and extraordinary standards in the creation of a new university. The aspiration of the new school was set by Harper’s conception of a legal education in a university setting. Harper opined that education in law “implies a scientific knowledge of law and of legal and juristic methods”. Among their alumni are not only extraordinary lawyers in the best law firms in the nation, but also, to cite just a few examples, the Chair of the nation’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the Commissioner of the NBA, the Director of the FBI, the executive director of the Legal Assistance Foundation, and the general counsel of United Airlines. Another accolade is the schools number 3 ranking by abovethelaw.com.

The Law School offers a three-year J.D. program, a one-year LL.M. program, and a J.S.D. program for graduates of a U.S. LL.M. program who wish to write a dissertation supervised by a member of their faculty. All applicants for the JD program must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), unless the student has earned his/her LLM degree from the University of Chicago Law School and are applying as a transfer student with advanced standing. Many non-US employers and multi-national firms contact US law schools looking for lawyers who wish to take positions abroad. They see the LLM programs as good sources of candidates who have already been “screened” by the schools’ selective admissions processes.

Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association
Tuition: $55,503

5. Columbia University

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Founded in 1754, Columbia University, formerly known as King’s College, was founded near the present site of New York’s City Hall. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in the state of New York and the sixth-oldest such institution in the United States. In 1858, Columbia Law School was founded as one of the first law schools in the United States and a charter member of the American Association of Law Schools. In 1896, Columbia moved to its present location in Morningside Heights.  By this time, the campus housed an undergraduate engineering school and graduate faculties in engineering, science, medicine, law, teaching, political science, and philosophy in addition to the undergraduate college. In 1993, Columbia Law School was the first law school in the United States to institute a pro bono requirement of all of its law students.

Whether your interest lies in international law, social justice, corporations, or any other area of legal thought, a Columbia education will support your goals. The first year of academia is referred to as their Foundation Curriculum, that serves as an introduction to legal institutions and processes. In the second and third years of the J.D. program, students are encouraged to explore such courses as: Human Rights Law, Environmental Law, Corporate Finance, or Civil Liberties. This school also offers many joint degree programs for those who wish to pursue a dual degree curriculum while attending Columbia Law School. A few examples are: Master of Science in Journalism (M.S.), Social Work (M.S.W.), Public Health (M.P.H.), and Business (J.D./M.B.A.).

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Tuition: $60,274

6. New York University

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New York University School of Law (NYU Law) is the law school of New York University. Established in 1835, it is the oldest law school in New York City. NYU Law is regarded as one of the most prestigious and selective law schools in the United States and the world. U.S. News & World Report currently ranks NYU Law 6th in the nation. According to New York University School of Law’s 2013 American Bar Association (ABA)-required disclosures, 93.7% of the Class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation. NYU Law is an intellectual powerhouse, with 105 faculty, 336 courses,11 areas of study, over 30 centers, and over 80 student organizations. The Law School has long taken a leadership role in introducing changes that have redefined legal education. One notable change being the admission of women into NYU Law in 1890 for the first time-60 years before Harvard allowed women into their law school.

NYU Law creates a vibrant community through our rigorous academic programs, including business, constitutional, criminal, environmental, intellectual property and antitrust, interdisciplinary, international, labor and employment, procedure, and tax law, as well as innovative programs, such as our renowned clinics and our groundbreaking “lawyering” program. Additionally, the school offers dual degrees to combine one’s J.D. with an LLM, MBA or Master of Arts (M.A.) in courses such as Economics, French Studies, Politics, as well as Social Work and Public Health. In conjunction with a degree, NYU Law provides advice on how to best prepare for career in a particular area such as Criminal Practice, Global Legal Practice, Intellectual Property and Information Law, Law and Business, and Tax.

Accreditation: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Tuition: $56,838

7. University of Pennsylvania

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The University of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia, was founded in 1740. In 1790, James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, framer of the Constitution and member of the first U.S. Supreme Court, delivered the University of Pennsylvania’s first lectures in law to President George Washington and all the members of his Cabinet. However, it wasn’t until 1850 that the university began offering a full-time law program. Two years later, the American Law Register (renamed Law Review in 1908), the nation’s oldest continuously legal periodical, was published by the law school. In  1927, the first African-American woman, Sadie Turner Mossell (Alexander), graduates (and also was the first African-American woman in the country to earn a PhD.).

Penn Law has a full-time program leading to the JD, the first professional degree in Law. The Law School has admitted international students who hold a law degree from outside the United States but who want to earn a JD degree in the United States. For those students advancing to the LLM degree, he/she student must attend full-time for two academic semesters. There is also the Master of Comparative Law (LLCM) degree for candidates who have completed at least 16 credits, earned in at least three courses per semester, over two semesters. Credits earned in the LLM program cannot be counted toward the LLCM degree. Another graduate degree offered is the Doctor of Judicial Science (SJD): the principal requirement this degree is a dissertation that makes an original and substantive contribution to legal scholarship and an oral defense of that dissertation.

Accreditation:  The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Tuition: $56,916

8. Duke University

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Duke University School of Law is a constituent academic unit of Duke University located in Durham, North Carolina. One of Duke’s ten schools and colleges, the School of Law began as the Trinity College School of Law in 1868. In 1865, Trinity’s Law Department was officially founded, while 1868 marked the official chartering of the School of Law. In 1924, following the renaming of Trinity College to Duke University, the school was renamed the Duke University School of Law. More recently, Duke Law is routinely ranked within the top 14 law schools in the country. In addition, Duke Law was ranked by Forbes as having graduated lawyers with the 2nd highest median mid-career salary amount. It is currently ranked the #8 best law school by the 2015 U.S. News Rankings. Equally significant, Duke Law has the highest New York Bar Exam pass rate of all US law schools. A reported 97% of students that take the exam pass at first sitting.

Duke Law’s first-year curriculum provides a firm grounding in the core subjects of the study of law and rigorous training in legal analysis, reasoning, and writing. Students take six semester-long courses: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property, and Torts, and two year-long courses: Foundations of Law and Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing. Beyond the customary J.D. degree, Duke offers a Masters of Laws (LL.M.) for applicants who have earned a law degree outside the US. Further academic advancement is available through the SJD (Doctor of Judicial Science) degree for students who have completed a LLM at an accredited American law school. The SJD program normally takes a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years.

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Tuition: $55,588

9. University of Virginia

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Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law, located in Charlottesville, Virginia, is the fourth-oldest active law school in the United States (second oldest in the state after William & Mary). The Virginia Law Weekly, the Law School’s student-run weekly newspaper, has been published since 1948. It has consistently ranked among the top law schools with US News & World Report ranking it in the top 10 for 2015. Virginia Law is among the most selective law schools in the nation. For the class entering in the fall of 2014, 307 out of 5,246 J.D. applicants matriculated. The school receives virtually no funding from public coffers except for in-state student tuition subsidies. Instead, The Law School depends upon the generosity of private donors, its substantial endowment ($ 380 million) and student tuition payments.

The first year J.D. curriculum consists of civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, torts, legal research, and constitutional law, to name a handful. With access to more than 250 courses and seminars each year, Virginia Law students explore learning the law through a variety of opportunities. In addidtion to the J.D. program, this institution offers the Masters of Laws (LL.M.), designed primarily for graduates of foreign law schools wishing to study U.S. law and legal methods. For those pursuing a higher degree, there is the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) for students who demonstrate superior intellectual ability in a program approved by the Graduate Committee. Similar to most law schools, Virginia also offers dual-degree programs from Foreign Affairs (M.A.) to Public Health (M.P.H.).

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Tuition: $51,800 (in-state); $54,800 (out-of-state)

10. University of California-Berkeley

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In 1882 William Carey Jones, a young professor in the Latin Department, taught a class in Roman law, the first law course offered on the Berkeley campus. Jones, an 1875 graduate and the grandson of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, was one of the first students to attend classes on the Berkeley campus when the university moved from its original location in downtown Oakland.  The Department of Jurisprudence granted its first Bachelor of Law degrees in 1903, and in 1922 Walter A. Gordon became the first African-American to earn a law degree at Berkeley. In 1950 the School of Jurisprudence was renamed the School of Law, and the following year it moved into a new building. Students have graduated from Berkeley Law to become leaders in the fields of jurisprudence, politics, academia, and industry. Eight have become justices of the California Supreme Court. Two have become governor of the state.

Their J.D. degree incorporates school-sponsored clinics into their  program: the Death Penalty Clinic; International Human Rights Law Clinic; Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic; East Bay Community Law Center; the Domestic Violence Clinic—give students the opportunity to gain hands-on legal and public policy experience. . The school provides two paths to the same LL.M. degree: the traditional nine-month track and a professional track that spans two consecutive summer terms. The professional track is designed for lawyers educated outside the U.S. who want an internationally renowned Berkeley Law degree, but can’t leave professional commitments for an entire year. The traditional track, which runs during the school year from August to May, provides students with a range of opportunities, from obtaining a basic knowledge of the U.S. legal system to undertaking original research on a particular aspect of law.

Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Tuition: $48,166 (in-state); $52,117 (out-of-state)

11. University of Texas- Austin

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The University of Texas School of Law began as The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Law when the university was founded in 1883. The law school started with two professors and 52 students in the basement of the university’s Old Main Building. The Department of Law appointed its first dean, John C. Townes, in 1901, and moved out of the basement and into its own building in 1908. The Department of Law became The University of Texas School of Law in 1920. By 1935, it had become one of the largest law schools in the United States, and required a new building. The school’s first course on oil and gas law was held in 1914, and in 2008 it became the first law school to offer a course on wind energy law. Today, there are seventeen different legal clinics as well as numerous internship programs.

The cornerstone of their law program is the Juris Doctor degree-a three year program. The first year is spent on the study of foundational topics in our legal system, such as constitutional law and civil procedure, that are essential for every lawyer to master. In the second and third years, students have the opportunity to design a course of study that fits their aspirations. In part this means choosing courses on the subjects of the greatest interest, and studying with the professors. The Law School offers dual degree programs with several different graduate programs at The University of Texas. These programs offer the simultaneous award of two graduate degrees in four years or less, rather than the five years it would normally require to complete two graduate degrees. Additionally, there is a combined JD/PhD degree program for Law and Philosophy, and a program for Law and Government.

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Tuition: $33,162 (in-state); $51,720 (out-of-state)

12. Cornell University

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Cornell Law School is the law school of Cornell University, a private Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York. The Law Department at Cornell opened in 1887 in Morrill Hall with Judge Douglas Boardman as its first dean. At that time, admission did not require even a high school diploma. In 1917, two years of undergraduate education were required for admission, and in 1924, it became a graduate degree program. The department was renamed the Cornell Law School in 1925. Today, their law library contains 700,000 books and microforms and includes rare historical texts relevant to the legal history of the United States. The library is one of the 12 national depositories for print records of briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court. Also, there is a large collection of print copies of the records and briefs of the New York Court of Appeals. Rare books in the library include the Samuel Thorne collection, which has 175 of the some of the earliest and most rare books on law.

Cornell offers the usual gambit of law degrees: the 3 year J.D., the one year Master of Laws (LL.M.), and Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.), the Master of Science-Legal Studies (M.S.L.S.), as well as a number of international dual-degree programs. In the second and third years of the J.D. program, there are no required courses. Within the dual-degree programs, Cornell has been a pioneer by making available the opportunity to earn a Cornell J.D. and a graduate law degree from one of two European partner institutions in Paris and Berlin. The former program is offered jointly by Cornell Law School and the Université de Paris I. The latter available at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. Applicants must be fluent in English and French or German, depending on the foreign school of choice.

Accreditation: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Tuition: $59,360

13. University of Michigan

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The University of Michigan Law School (Michigan Law) is the law school of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. The Law School was founded in 1859, and quickly rose to national prominence. By 1870, Michigan was the largest law school in the country. It consistently ranks among the highest-rated law schools in the United States. Admission to Michigan Law is highly selective. For the class entering in the fall of 2012, 1,238 out of 5,062 applicants (24.5%) were offered admission, with 344 matriculating. The 25th and 75th LSAT percentiles for the 2012 entering class were 166 and 170, respectively, with a median of 169 (top 3.3 percent of test takers). Approximately 31% of the class of 2011 secured positions in one of the nation’s 250 largest firms. More than 170 Michigan law graduates have served as legislators as either United States Senator (20 graduates) or as a Congressional representative (more than 150 graduates). Michigan Law has also placed thirty-three of its graduates on the state’s Supreme Court.

Michigan’s Legal Practice Program provides each first-year student with individualized instruction in legal research, analysis, writing, and other skills necessary for the practice of law. The average class size is fewer than 25 students. Second year students in the J.D. program can perform both litigation and transactional work for real clients as part of their 18 clinics. In addition to the basic four-year law degree, the school offers four graduate degree options:

  • Master of Laws (LL.M.)
  • International Tax LL.M.
  • Master of Comparative Law (M.C.L.)
  • Doctor of the Science of Law (S.J.D.), for which prior completion of the
    LL.M. is a requirement

Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Tuition: $51,398

14. Northwestern University

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The law school was founded in 1859 as the Union College of Law of the Old University of Chicago by Henry Booth. It is the first law school established in Chicago. Booth is inaugurated as the first dean and professor of the school. Twenty-three students enroll the first year and tuition costs $100 per year. In 1896, the Law School adopts a three-year curriculum for the Bachelor in Laws degree (LLB) – an increase of one year. In 1919, the Law School adopts a four-year curriculum and raises entrance requirements from one to three years of undergraduate work. In the wake of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the Scientific Crime Detection Lab, affiliated with Northwestern Law, begins operation in July 1929. Fast forward to 2009 when Northwestern Law becomes the first top tier law school to offer an Accelerated JD program. Students in the program take the same number of credit hours as traditional JD students, but in a condensed time-frame.

Northwestern Law offers a number of different degrees and programs of study, from our primary JD degree programs to Master in Laws (LLM) programs to our Master of Science in Law (MSL) degree. The first year of study in the J.D. curriculum focuses on building a solid foundation in legal reasoning, analysis, and writing, as well as a thorough understanding of the structures and policies of the law. In the second and third year, Students may choose a general course of study or a concentration in one of six areas: Appellate Law, Business Enterprise, Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Environmental Law, International Law, or Law and Social Policy. The school also offers a dual-degree in the J.D./MBA program whose core curriculum is complemented with elective course work in such areas as finance, entrepreneurship, international business law, real estate law and tax law. Further degree opportunity lies in the JD/PhD combined program that can completed in as few as six years.

Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
Tuition: $56,434

15. Vanderbilt University

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Vanderbilt’s Law Department, located in Nashville, Tennessee, opened its doors in the fall of 1874, a full year before the main university campus began classes. Only seven students attended class that first year, so the approved faculty of eight members was trimmed to one. In 1889, the law department left the Vanderbilt campus and moved downtown to make it easier for the faculty, who were nearer their offices, to balance teaching and practicing law. The law department did not begin requiring a year of prior college experience until 1922. Three years later in 1925, the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) made law schools’ eligibility dependent upon requiring two years of college. As enrollment rose to an average of more than 200 students by 1960, the school needed a new building. It opened in 1962 and by 1982, an addition was needed. In 2015, Vanderbilt Law professors rank high, based upon a study of scholarly impact of American law school faculties. It boasts that graduates consistently secure top-tier legal employment with nearly 80% of each graduating class taking employment out of state.

Their J.D. program starts with the required first-year curriculum. Second- and third-year students then choose from a broad range of electives, including clinical courses focusing on civil, criminal, international and other areas of legal practice. All students also have the opportunity to focus on specific areas of law and practice through various academic programs. Vanderbilt’s LL.M. program offers foreign lawyers and international students an opportunity to pursue a one-year master’s degree program. The Law School also offers combined Ph.D. in law and economics and a J.D. concurrently. The same dual-degree is offered in Law and Neuroscience. In addition, there are several other dual degrees: J.D./M.B.A., J.D./M.S. Finance, J.D./M.D., J.D./M.Div. (Masters of Divinity and M.T.S. (Masters of Theological Studies), and J.D./M.P.P. (Education Policy). LL.M. students can earn a certificate of specialization in Law and Business, or M.A. in Latin American Studies.

Accreditation:  The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 
Tuition: $49,722

16. Boston College

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When Boston College Law School was founded in 1929 at 11 Beacon Street in downtown Boston. The first dean, Dennis Dooley, envisioned a law school with a social conscience as well as an analytical mind. It won accreditation from the American Bar Association in 1932, just three years after its founding, joining the Harvard, Yale, and Boston University law schools as the only ones in New England to attain such a distinction. Academic standards were so high that in some years, as many as two-thirds of the first-year class would be excluded for poor grades. The decades that followed have seen much change in Dean Dooley’s law school-it now spreads across a 40-acre campus in Newton, Massachusetts, and ranks among the nation’s premier law schools. BC Law graduates have been propelled to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, to federal and state courthouses, board rooms, law firms, government agencies and public interest organizations, as well as to distinguished places on law school faculties.

Freshmen enrolled in the J.D. program are indoctrinated into Boston College Law School’s Academic Support Program (ASP) – designed to help students adopt learning strategies in their first year of law school. By second year and into third year, nearly all credits taken will be elective except for the required Constitutional Law II and the Professional Responsibility survey course. The Law School has adopted the premise that “learning by doing” results in higher retention rates. For this reason they encourage all students to participate in some form of experiential learning—from programs that provide services ranging from civil litigation to overturning wrongful convictions to externships at major law firms. As with other law schools, Boston College offers many dual degree options in different subjects, some with other Boston College graduate schools and programs, and two (JD/MA, JD/MPH) in partnership with Tufts University.

Accreditation: The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Tuition: $46,790

17. Georgetown University

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In the fall of 1870, with high expectations and a tenuous financial structure, Georgetown’s law school enrolled 25 students from 12 states and Cuba. The course of study required two years of evening classes. The LL.M. program began in 1878 and enrolled its first international student from the Philippines – in 1903. In 1890, construction began on a new law school building at 506 E Street, N.W. After 80 years in its Victorian quarters, the Law Center moved to 600 New Jersey Avenue, Washington, D.C., following the construction of the Bernard P. McDonough Hall in 1971. Today, the Law Center boasts the nation’s top-ranked clinical program, joint degree and advanced degree programs, world-renowned centers and institutes, an Office of Public Interest and Community Service. To complement is diverse law program, the school has one of the largest full-time faculties in the world. Twenty-three of the law school’s professors have served as U.S. Supreme Court clerks and 39 have advanced degrees in other disciplines.

Their Juris Doctor Program strives to prepare students to be superb lawyers who combine the highest analytical ability with ethical sensitivity. In addition to a wide variety of courses in more than 27 traditional legal fields, the Georgetown Law curriculum provides  numerous experiential learning opportunities in course and clinics. A number of joint degrees are also offered, through which students may combine their legal education with a degree in business, public health, public policy, government, philosophy, or one of many offered by the School of Foreign Service. At the graduate level, American and international lawyers gather to their LL.M., S.J.D., and certificate programs. Georgetown offers more than 350 classes and seminars – including 140 classes and 90 seminars specifically for graduate students

Accreditation: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Tuition: $53,130 

18. University of California- Los Angeles

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Founded in 1949, UCLA School of Law has garnered a reputation for artful teaching, influential scholarship and enduring innovation. It is the first public law school in Southern California and the youngest top-ranked law school in the United States. Beginning in the 1970s, UCLA’s Law clinics were among the first to teach students systematically about the link between doctrinal mastery and practical skills. In the 1990s, UCLA Law created an Empirical Research Group (ERG) so that faculty could incorporate sophisticated data techniques into their research. During this time, the law school also established think tanks where policy and legal issues could be discussed. Today, the UCLA Law alumni community is more than 15,000 strong and extends around the world. Six UCLA Law alumni are now judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit – the largest number of graduates from any one law school who are serving on the court.

Their distinctive yearlong Lawyering Skills course provides students with the opportunity to explore the relationship between legal analysis and lawyering tasks, such as effective legal writing, oral advocacy and legal research. The Lawyering Skills course is taught alongside courses that historically have laid the foundation for law of all kinds: Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Property and Torts. The second and third years in the J.D. program at UCLA Law offer a comprehensive selection of upper-division classes, clinics and six specializations. Also, students at UCLA Law may choose to pursue one of the eight formal joint degree programs we offer in cooperation with other distinguished UCLA professional schools and departments. The formal joint degree programs include Law & African-American Studies, Law & American Indian Studies, Law & Management, Law & Philosophy, Law & Public Health, Law & Public Policy, Law & Social Welfare, and Law & Urban Planning.

Accreditation: The Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Tuition: $45,226 (in-state); $51,720 (out-of-state)

19. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

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The University of Minnesota Law School, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota,  was founded in 1888. The Law School is consistently ranked among the top 20 law schools in the United States. The school was originally housed in Pattee Hall, named after the school’s first dean, William S. Pattee, who served from 1888 to 1911. In 1978 the school moved to its present building, originally named the Law Center. Along with Harvard Law School, University of Minnesota Law School founded the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) in 1982. According to Minnesota’s ABA-required employment disclosures, 70.4% of the Class of 2013 obtained long-term, full-time employment requiring a J.D. nine months after graduation. The Law Library, with over 1 million volumes, it is the 7th largest of its kind in the United States. The Law School offers a number of study abroad opportunities and, in 2006 opened a summer study program for J.D. students in Beijing.

The University of Minnesota Law School offers a full-time J.D. degree program, extensive dual and joint degree program options and a one-year Master of Science in Patent Law program. The school’s LL.M. programs provides foreign lawyers with a rigorous academic experience, exposing them to a broad array of legal skills and knowledge. The Law School offers two LL.M. programs: American Law and Business Law. The S.J.D. program at the Law School is intended for those who wish to carry on advanced legal study and original research under faculty supervision. Their unique Master of Science in Patent Law Program addresses these opportunities with a one-year professional master’s degree program for scientists and engineers interested in pursuing a career in the field of patent law. Their Law School professors rank 10th among all law schools based upon scholarly impact. Equally significant is the 11:1 student to faculty ratio.

Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Tuition: $41,222 (in-state); $48,710 (out-of-state)

20. Washington University- St. Louis

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In 1853, prominent St. Louis, Missouri merchant Wayman Crow and his pastor, William Greenleaf Eliot Jr., concerned about the lack of institutions of higher learning in the growing midwest, led the founding of Washington University (named after President George Washington). Founded in 1867, the School of Law (WashULaw) is the oldest continually operating private law school west of the Mississippi River. Originally, the law school was located in downtown St. Louis, but it relocated in 1904 to the Danforth Campus of Washington University in St. Louis, and is housed in Anheuser-Busch Hall. It is ranked in the top 20 among the 200 American Bar Association approved law schools by U.S. News & World Report. Its clinical training and trial advocacy programs have consistently ranked in the top ten according to the same source.

The first year of Washington University Law is highly structured: 1Ls take three substantive classes each semester that give a broad survey of American common law: Contracts, Property, and Torts in the fall, followed by Civil Procedure, Criminal Law, and Constitutional Law. Upper-level J.D. students fulfill the remaining 56 credit hours by tailoring their studies to fit their individual interests. There are graduate programs offered in both the LLM and MLS (Master of Legal Studies). The LLM specialty areas are: U.S. Law, Intellectual Property and Technology Law, Taxation, and Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. In addition, WashULaw offers a JSD (Juris Scientiae Doctoris) that requires 2 years residency on campus in St. Louis.  This degree is designed for attorneys pursuing a career in academia, policy, or scholarly legal research.

Accreditation: the  Higher Learning Commission
Tuition: $50,152

21. Emory University

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In 1836, a small group of Methodists from Newton County contemplated the establishment of a new town and college. The town was called Oxford after the school’s prestigious British Cousin. The college was named after John Emory, an American Methodist bishop who inspired them. On December 10, 1836, the Georgia General Assembly granted the Methodists a charter to Emory College. Two years later, three faculty members welcomed fifteen freshman and sophomores to Emory. It was Asa Griggs Candler, the founder of The Coca-Cola Company and brother to former Emory President Warren Candler, who persuaded the church to build the new university in DeKalb County, Georgia. Emory College was rechartered by DeKalb County on January 25, 1915, as Emory University. By September 1919, Emory University had created a school of law, medicine, business, and graduate studies. Business Insider ranks Emory Law in the top 25 and it also ranks among the top law schools for practical training.

First year law students in the J.D. program become immersed in Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Legislation, and a number of specialized, upper level courses. Students will complete their second year with a one-week immersion in advocacy and a summer internship or clerkship. At the graduate level, Emory Law offers a Juris Master degree-a 30-credit hour program that supplements your professional interests with a range of concentrations you can customize to meet your needs. There is the LLM (Master of Laws)- a highly customizable 24-credit-hour program designed for individuals with a law degree. Further advancement is offered in the SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science)- for those seeking careers as teachers and scholars of the law. Another consideration is one of Emory’s five joint degrees offered in the disciplines of medicine, business, science, and arts and science. 

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Tuition: $49,734

22. University of Notre Dame

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Founded in 1869, the Notre Dame Law School is the oldest Roman Catholic law school in the nation. Embracing equally the wealth of its heritage and a calling to address the needs of the contemporary world, Notre Dame Law School brings together centuries of Catholic intellectual and moral tradition. The Law School draws its inspiration from the Catholic tradition of Saint Thomas More (English lawyer, author and statesman; 1478-1535), who was able to say he was “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” The Congregation of Holy Cross, an order of Roman Catholic Priests, founded and maintain the University of Notre Dame. One of Notre Dame Law School’s greatest strengths—and something that distinguishes it from other top-tier law schools—is its alumni network. Notre Dame Law ranks 17th in graduates attaining Supreme Court clerkships in recent years. The school also boasts that 78.7% of the Class of 2014 obtained full-time J.D.-required employment.

Their J.D. curriculum provides a strong foundation that has proven to be fundamental to the practice of law in every American jurisdiction. Notre Dame Law School offers an LL.M. degree that can be pursued either at their main campus in South Bend, Indiana, or at the Law School’s London Law Centre in the United Kingdom (UK). In addition, The Notre Dame Center for Civil and Human Rights offers an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law for lawyers primarily from outside the United States. The school’s Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) in International Human Rights Law is designed especially for people who teach in the field of international human rights law and who seek additional education beyond the LL.M. degree level. Also, the Law School offers a one-year Master of Science in Patent Law program whose degree is awarded through the College of Science, not the Law School. Other considerations are their seven programs of study for students who wish to concentrate on various legal fields: business law, criminal law, and environmental law, to name a few.

Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges
Tuition: $50,520

23. George Washington University

Exploration Hall on The George Washington University's Virginia Science and Technology campus. Circa 1992.

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The George Washington University grew out of President Washington’s desire to establish a national institution of higher learning. Washington died before his vision was carried out. On Feb. 9, 1821, President James Monroe signed the Act of Congress that created the Columbian College in the District of Columbia. In 1873, Columbian College changed its name to Columbian University and moved to a location at 15th and L Streets. It began offering doctoral degrees and admitted its first women. Columbian University became The George Washington University in 1904. Currently, the Law School boasts more than 24,000 living alumni, of whom some 150 are judges serving on local, state, and federal benches, including 10 justices on State Supreme Courts. Every year, GW Law hosts more than 100 events, including major international conferences, addresses by Supreme Court Justices and other prominent speakers.

GW Law believes that their diverse J.D. program provides students with the skills to perform in a small firm, public interest organization, government agency, academia, or the judiciary—and in every capacity—as counselor, litigator, mediator, negotiator, legislator, or lobbyist. Graduates with a J.D. may proceed to a LLM degree that involves the completion of 24 credit hours, including 4 hours of thesis. Students may choose to concentrate their studies in one or more areas, such as constitutional law, labor law, corporate law, and health care law. At the next level, the Law School accepts a very limited number of candidates for the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree. GW offers joint degree programs for both J.D. and LL.M. degree students. For J.D. candidates, the Law School offers joint degree programs with four other schools within the University.

Accreditation: The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Tuition: $52,033

24. University of Alabama

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In 1818, the federal government authorized Alabama Territory to set aside a township for the establishment of a “seminary of learning.” On December 18, 1820, the seminary was established officially and named “The University of the State of Alabama” in Tuscaloosa. After the Civil War the university reopened in 1871 and in 1880, Congress granted the university 40,000 acres (162 km²) of coal land in partial compensation for $250,000 in war damages. The School of Law was founded in 1872 when total student enrollment was 107. Currently it tops 36,000 and is ranked a “Best Value” law school according to the National Jurist. Also, UA Law School is proud that 91.8% of their Class of 2014 were employed within nine months of graduation. Alabama Law fields 17 outstanding moot court and trial advocacy teams and publishes four student-run journals.

The curriculum of The University of Alabama School of Law is traditional but certainly includes offerings in emerging areas of the law, including electives in environmental law, international law, intellectual property, white-collar crime, and business. In addition to the standard J.D. degree, UA Law offers a JD/MBA Program in conjunction with its Manderson School of Business. Other joint degree programs include the JD/MSCE (Master of Science in Civil Engineering), JD/LLM in Taxation or Business Transactions,  JD/MA in Political Science, and a JD/PhD in Political Science or Economics. While pursuing the degree of choice, student may participate in any of its six law clinics — the Civil Law Clinic, Community Development Law Clinic, Criminal Defense Law Clinic, Domestic Violence Law Clinic, Elder Law Clinic, and Mediation Law Clinic. These clinics provide free legal assistance to needy individuals and community organizations and offer students an opportunity to represent real clients.

Accreditation: The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Tuition: $21,624 (in-state); $36,304 (out-of-state)

25. University of Iowa

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The University of Iowa ( UI) is a flagship public research university in Iowa City, Iowa. Founded in 1847, Iowa is the oldest university in the state. The University of Iowa established the first law school west of the Mississippi River, and it was also the first university to use television in education in 1932. In 1855, Iowa became the first public university in the United States to admit men and women on an equal basis. The university was one of the first institutions in America to grant a law degree to a woman (Mary B. Hickey Wilkinson, 1873), and to grant a law degree to an African American (G. Alexander Clark in 1879). Today, according to the American Bar Association data for the class of 2013, Iowa Law ranks among the top schools for placing the highest percentage of graduates from our three-year Juris Doctor Program in full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage.

In addition to the conventional 3 year J.D. program, Iowa Law has a “3+3 Program”. This program allows eligible undergraduates at partner institutions to apply to law school in their junior year. Students admitted under the program fulfill their senior year of undergraduate credits through the successful completion of their first year law school courses, allowing them to graduate with both a bachelor’s and law degree in just six years. The school also offers the Master of Laws (LLM) where students will concentrate on Legal Analysis, Writing and Research course, Contracts, Property, Torts and Professional Responsibility. Further degree advancement is provided in the SJD program for students who desire to conduct advanced legal research. Another option is the Master of Studies in Law (MSL) intended primarily to educate students and professionals in other fields who do not wish to practice law but need to recognize legal issues.

Accreditation: The North Central  Association of Colleges and Schools
Tuition: $23,760 (in-state); $41,296 (out-of-state)