The 50 Best Law Schools in America

Harvard Law School

Photo: Flickr/Abi Skipp

In an oversaturated market where countless lawyers are unemployed or underemployed, choosing the right law school makes all the difference.The right school puts you on track to a competitive corporate or public sector job. The wrong school may be a waste of three years and $250,000.

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We held a survey to determine what real professionals consider the best law schools. They have determined that this school is Harvard Law School.

More than 650 of our readers responded, of which 60 per cent had J.D.s. and 69 per cent had hiring experience. 30-six per cent of the respondents work in legal fields, 23 per cent work in finance, 10 per cent work in technology, 6 per cent are current law students, and 6 per cent work in consulting.

A full 40 per cent of the respondents said that law school is NOT worth attending if you don’t get into a top-tier school, while 32.9 per cent said that it depends on factors like your financial background, the cost of attending, the school’s alumni network and connections, the type of law you want to practice and the specialty of the school, whether you intend to practice in the state you attend school, and personal connections.

“If you want to work at a large firm or company in a large city, then a top tier school is more important,” one respondent wrote. “If you want to be a lawyer in a mid-size city or smaller, then attending a top tier school is not as important.”

Survey takers stressed that it’s important to consider where you plan to practice when deciding which law school to attend, as some of the state schools can have very strong networks in their region. “Someone practicing in Portland, Maine is better off going to UMaine Law as opposed to Harvard for the very fact that that network is more beneficial in Maine,” one respondent wrote.

Other respondents wrote that attending a second-tier law school can still be beneficial and can even land you a gig at a BigLaw firm—if you graduate in the top of your class.

Ultimately, though, if you dream of being a lawyer, the fact remains that you must attend law school and pass a state bar exam in order to do so.

“If you have a very specific reason for wanting to become a lawyer, then law school can be worth attending even if you don’t get into a top-tier school,” a respondent wrote. “Also, a legal education has inherent value, so law school can be worth attending if you don’t overpay.”

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#50 Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount scored a 1.97 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #51

Notable alumni: Gloria Allred, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.


#49 Southern Methodist University (Dedman)

Dedman scored a 2.00 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #51

Notable alumni: Robert H. Dedman, Sr. (Founder and CEO of ClubCorp), U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña

#48 Baylor University

Baylor scored a 2.02 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #51

Notable alumni: Former Texas Governor Mark Wells White, U.S Congressman Louie Gohmert

#47 University of Georgia

Georgia scored a 2.06 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #34

Notable alumni: Former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, Real Housewives of Atlanta star Phaedra Parks

Comments: 'Geography matters. You can't go to U of Georgia and get a job in DC, NY or SF. Many of these schools are very limiting. Some have national relevance. It's not necessarily a straight rankings issue. Some degrees and alumni bases just travel better.'

Tiebreaker: Three schools scored a 2.06. UF (Levin) had a 3.3% 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 14 votes, the University of Maryland had a 3.3 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 13 votes, and the University of Georgia had a 3.2 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 13 votes.

#46 University of Maryland (Carey)

Maryland scored a 2.06 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #39

Notable alumni: Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Edgar Allen Poe

Tiebreaker: Three schools scored a 2.06. UF (Levin) had a 3.3 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 14 votes, the University of Maryland had a 3.3 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 13 votes, and the University of Georgia had a 3.2 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 13 votes.

#45 University of Florida (Levin)

Levin scored a 2.06 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #48

Notable alumni: Former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Lawton Chiles, U.S. Representative Ander Crenshaw

Tiebreaker: Three schools scored a 2.06. UF (Levin) had a 3.3 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 14 votes, the University of Maryland had a 3.3 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 13 votes, and the University of Georgia had a 3.2 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 13 votes.

#44 University of Iowa

Iowa scored a 2.07 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #29

Notable alumni: Former U.S. Senator William S. Kenyon, Paul P. Harris (founder of Rotary International)

#43 University of Colorado—Boulder

Colorado scored a 2.09 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #44

Notable alumni: U.S. federal judge Robert E. Blackburn, Chief Justice on the Colorado Supreme Court Michael L. Bender


#42 American University (Washington)

American scored a 2.10 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #49

Notable alumni: John Dean (Counsel to former President Nixon and key Watergate scandal figure), Judith Sheindlin (aka 'Judge Judy' but she later transferred to the New York Law School)

#41 University of Illinois—Urbana—Champaign

Illinois scored a 2.12 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #35

Notable alumni: Former Illinois Governor Samuel H. Shapiro, U.S. Representative for Illinois Jesse Jackson, Jr.

#40 Pepperdine University

Pepperdine scored a 2.12 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #49

Comments: 'Pepperdine University School of Law focuses not just on shaping good lawyers, but it's emphasis on service and justice help shape good people. Working in developing nations all around the world in areas of rule of law, global justice, and peacemaking, no other law school in the U.S. affords more opportunity to apply a J.D. internationally in a meaningful way and to serve people, countries, and institutions working to see access to justice for those that would not have it otherwise.'

Notable alumni: Rod Blagojevich, former Mayor of L.A. James Hahn

Tiebreaker: Pepperdine had a 4.8 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 22 votes, while Illinois had a 3.0 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 12.

#39 George Mason University

George Mason scored a 2.16 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #39

Notable alumni: Kathleen L. Casey (Commissioner of the SEC from 2006-2011), Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli

#38 University of Minnesota—Twin Cities

Minnesota scored a 2.18 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #19

Notable alumni: Tim Pawlenty, Walter Mondale

#37 Ohio State University (Moritz)

Moritz scored a 2.25 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #39

Notable alumni: Erin Moriarty, former U.S. Attorney General William B. Saxbe

#36 University of Washington

Washington scored a 2.26 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #20

Notable alumni: former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tom Foley, William H. Gates, Sr., (father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates)

#35 Indiana University—Bloomington (Maurer)

Maurer scored a 2.28 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #26

Notable alumni: Former Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon, Stanford Law Professor J. Keith Mann

#34 Brigham Young University (Clark)

Clark scored a 2.28 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #39

Notable alumni: Monte Stewart (president of the nonprofit Marriage Law Foundation), Steve Young (former NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers)

Tiebreaker: Clark had a 4.7 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 22 votes, while Maurer had a 4.7 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 20 votes--a difference of two votes.

#33 Wake Forest University

Wake Forest scored a 2.29 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #44

Notable alumni: Christopher Barron (cofounder of GOProud, an organisation that represents gay conservatives), Reid Hunter (music lawyer who has represented John Mayer and The Fray)

#32 Tulane University

Tulane scored a 2.34 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #51

Notable alumni: CEO of Broadwebasia Peter Schloss, Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Edward White


#31 Washington and Lee University

Washington & Lee scored a 2.35 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #24

Notable alumni: Sports lawyer Stokely Caldwell, Jr., Christopher Wolf (director of the Privacy and Information Management practice group at Hogan Lovells)

#30 University of Wisconsin—Madison

Wisconsin scored a 2.35 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #35

Notable alumni: Former U.S. Representative from Wisconsin Tom Barrett, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin (the first openly gay woman in Congress)

Tiebreaker: Wisconsin had a 4.7 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 19 votes, while Washington & Lee had a 5.6 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 22 votes.

#29 University of California—Davis

UC Davis scored a 2.37 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #29

Notable alumni: Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye, writer Gus Lee


#28 University of California—Hastings

UC Hastings scored a 2.44 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #44

Comments: 'UC Hastings Career Services teaches students how to get jobs beyond big firms.'

Notable alumni: Richard Thalheimer (founder and CEO of The Sharper Image), celebrity lawyer Thomas Mesereau

#27 Fordham University

Fordham scored a 2.54 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #29

Comments: 'Fordham, Penn, and Northwestern have been our best law recruits. MD at a F100 bank'

Notable alumni: Geraldine Ferraro, General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles Howie Roseman


#26 College of William and Mary (Marshall-Wythe)

William & Mary scored a 2.54 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #35

Notable alumni: Michele Bachmann, Eric Cantor

Tiebreaker: William & Mary had a 5.7 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 27 votes, while Fordham had a 7.4 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 35 votes.


#25 Washington University in St. Louis

Wash U scored a 2.55 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #23

Notable alumni: Former Governor of Missouri Henry S. Caulfield, Phyllis Schlafly (author, lawyer, and antifeminist activist)

#24 Boston University

BU scored a 2.59 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #26

Notable alumni: Michael Fricklas (general counsel at Viacom Inc.), John Ward (founder of Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders)


#23 Boston College

BC scored a 2.72 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #29

Notable alumni: U.S. Senator John Kerry, U.S. Senator Scott Brown

#22 University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill

UNC scored a 2.76 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #38

Notable alumni: John Edwards, Former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt

#21 Emory University

Emory scored a 2.77 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #24

Notable alumni: fashion designer Kenneth Cole, current Attorney General of Georgia Thurbert Baker

#20 Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt scored a 2.79 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #16

Notable alumni: Al Gore, Fred Thompson (former U.S. Senator and actor on Law & Order)


#19 George Washington University

GW scored a 2.82 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #20

Notable alumni: U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Allen Dulles (longest-serving director of the CIA)


#18 University of Southern California (Gould)

Gould scored a 2.83 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #18

Notable alumni: celebrity lawyer George Hedges, Charles Prince (former chairman and CEO of Citigroup)

#17 University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame scored a 2.96 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #22

Notable alumni: CEO of Bank of America Brian Moynihan, owner of the Cleveland Indians Larry Dolan

#16 University of Texas—Austin

U Texas scored a 3.08 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #16

Comments: 'Other than the top national schools and a handful of others, not worth the $$$. A school like Texas Austin, which is the only law school of a quality academic calibre, owns the Texas market. So even though its not a H/S/Y, it can make up for that because it's the big boy in its region. For the students who remain in Texas, they have great opportunities there, provided that they finish in the top 1/3 of their classes.'

'I attended the University of Texas. They place very well in the state, even in this bad economy. You can work a big law job in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio with a UT degree. I now work as a consultant to an investment firm here in Houston. Going to UT allowed me to make these connections and be where I am today. The best advice I can give to future students: know WHY you want to attend law school. If you can't articulate the reasons, law school is not for you, and you will end up miserable.'

Notable alumni: Paul Begala (political consultant, commentator and former advisor to President Bill Clinton), U.S. Senator from Texas Kay Bailey Hutchison

#15 University of California—Los Angeles

UCLA scored a 3.10 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #15

Comments: 'UCLA has a great career services office.'

Notable alumni: U.S. Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman from California Henry A. Waxman

#14 University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

U Michigan scored a 3.50 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #10

Notable alumni: Valerie Jarrett (senior advisor to President Barack Obama), U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

#13 Cornell University

Cornell scored a 3.54 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #14

Comments: 'Fordham, Penn, and Northwestern have been our best law recruits. MD at a F100 bank'

Notable alumni: former Maine Governor and U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie, Xerox Chairman Sol Linowitz

#12 University of Virginia

UVA scored a 3.57 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #7

Notable alumni: Ted Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy

#11 Northwestern University

Northwestern scored a 3.59 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #12

Comments: 'Fordham, Penn, and Northwestern have been our best law recruits. MD at a F100 bank'

Notable alumni: former U.S. Secretary of State and democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, T.V. talk show host Jerry Springer

#10 Georgetown University

Georgetown scored a 3.62 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #13

Notable alumni: Jack Abramoff, current White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew

#9 University of California—Berkeley

#8 Duke University

Duke scored a 3.71 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #11

Notable alumni: Richard Nixon, Charlie Rose

#7 New York University

NYU scored a 3.76 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #6

Comments: 'NYU Law is doing some serious work to increase their clerkship opportunities, which coupled with their current employment, salary, and faculty numbers should allow them to get ahead of both Chicago and Columbia in future rankings.'

Notable alumni: former New York City mayors Fiorello La Guardia, Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani

#6 University of Pennsylvania

U Penn scored a 3.78 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #7

Comments: 'Penn Law is very generous with funding...and there is no shortage of jobs for graduates--Current student.'

'Fordham, Penn, and Northwestern have been our best law recruits. MD at a F100 bank.'

Notable alumni: former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts, Mark Yudof (President of the University of California system)

#5 University of Chicago

Chicago scored a 3.99 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #5

Comments: 'Chicago or Stanford should be #1 on the list. Harvard is overrated.'

Notable alumni: Judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Robert Bork, founder of TMZ Harvey Levin

#4 Columbia University

Columbia scored a 4.02 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #4

Notable alumni: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt

#3 Stanford University

Stanford scored a 4.35 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #2

Comments: 'Stanford's fantastic clinical program is the best training ground for students and the future of legal education.'

'If you cannot attend a top tier school (and I mean Harvard, Stanford, Yale), then you should attend a school in a region where you want to live and practice.'

Notable alumni: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist

#2 Yale University

Yale scored a 4.35 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

Tiebreaker: Yale had a 69.3 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 388 votes, while Stanford had a 67.9 per cent 'Extremely Worth It' rating with 379 votes.

US News & World Report: #1

Comments: 'None of them are worth it except for Harvard, Yale or Stanford. There simply are not enough jobs available to justify $150,000+ in student loans to attend.'

Notable alumni: Former U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton

#1 Harvard University

Harvard scored a 4.38 out of 5 on Business Insider's rating.

US News & World Report: #3

Comments: 'From time to time, magazines try to seek publicity by rating some law school other than Harvard as No. 1. Take a look at the Supreme Court. Regardless of all the noise, Harvard Law School is the gold standard. All the rest is fluff. There are many very good law schools. Among the best are Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Michigan, Virginia, Stanford - not necessarily in that order but after Harvard, who cares about order?'

Notable alumni: U.S. President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney

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