Which Law School is the Right Fit for You?
June 10, 2019
Which Law School is the Right Fit for You?
Wanting to attend law school might have been an easy decision for you. But choosing which law school is the right fit for you amongst the 237 institutions across the country is far from simple. You can’t just guess based on names alone. To find your perfect law school options, you have to look over admissions statistics, locations, academic specialties, class sizes, social life, and find schools that fit the mold of what you want from your ideal JD experience.
Finding the right school is as important as the rest of your journey to getting that degree. Creating a reasonable and strategic school list is a defining stage, so you should definitely not wing it by picking school names out of a hat. Instead, take the time to research and make an informed decision. To guide you through which law school is the right fit for you, I’ve outlined the top 30 law schools around the country, the academic specialties at the top 14 schools, and the factors you should consider in your search, such as location, housing, campus culture, class size, and alumni experience.
Know the Numbers
To find out which law school is the right fit for you, you first need to know the kinds of numbers you need to get your foot in the door. Check out the table below for the top 30 law schools in the US, their locations, median LSAT scores, and acceptance rates to help narrow down your options based on your own numbers and preferred location:
|School Name||Location||Median LSAT Score||Acceptance Rate|
|Yale University||New Haven, CT||170-176||6.9%|
|Stanford University||Stanford, CA||169-174||8.7%|
|Harvard University||Cambridge, MA||170-175||12.9%|
|University of Chicago||Chicago, IL||167-173||17.5%|
|Columbia University||New York, NY||167-172||16.8%|
|New York University||New York, NY||167-172||23.6%|
|University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||164-171||14.6%|
|University of Virginia||Charlottesville, VA||163-171||15.3%|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor, MI||165-171||19.6%|
|Duke University||Durham, NC||167-170||20.2%|
|Northwestern University (Pritzker)||Chicago, IL||164-170||19.3%|
|University of California - Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||165-170||20.2%|
|Cornell University||Ithaca, NY||164-168||21.1%|
|Georgetown University||Washington, DC||163-168||21.2%|
|University of California - Los Angeles||Los Angeles, CA||165-169||22.5%|
|University of Texas - Austin||Austin, TX||160-168||20.9%|
|University of Southern California (Gould)||Los Angeles, CA||163-167||19.2%|
|Vanderbilt University||Nashville, TN||161-168||19.2%|
|Washington University in St. Louis||St. Louis, MO||160-170||30%|
|University of Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||161-166||34.9%|
|University of Notre Dame||Notre Dame, IN||159-166||25.1%|
|George Washington University||Washington, DC||160-166||34.2%|
|Boston University||Boston, MA||160-167||25.9%|
|University of California - Irvine||Irvine, CA||161-165||24.8%|
|University of Alabama (Culverhouse)||Tuscaloosa, AL||157-165||31.1%|
|Emory University||Atlanta, GA||158-166||29.6%|
|Arizona State University (O’Connor)||Phoenix, AZ||158-164||34.2%|
|Boston College||Boston, MA||160-167||25.9%|
|University of Georgia||Athens, GA||159-164||26.8%|
|University of Iowa||Iowa City, IO||157-163||46.0%|
Unsurprisingly, the top 30 schools are highly selective, with numbers in the high 160-170 range. If your scores aren’t too competitive, consider keeping a balanced school list, retaking the LSAT, and working hard on your personal statement. If your story and background are unique enough, you might be able to make up for low numbers!
Academic Specialties at the T-14
It’s obviously important to know the different areas of study, joint degree programs, and practical opportunities offered at the top JD programs. When you apply to law school, you should have some idea of the career path you want to take kind of law you see yourself practicing. Choosing the right school can help you build connections at clinics, expand your world views and knowledge of a specific field of the law, and set yourself up for a promising career post graduation.
If you want to study Human Rights Law, for example, and it’s not offered at your top choice schools, you should rethink your list. To help you narrow down which law school is the right fit for you, the table below lists the academic specialties of the top 14 law schools, including curriculum offerings, dual degree and study abroad options, and clinical opportunities.
|School Name||Academic Specialties|
|Yale University||Areas of study include Administrative Law, Constitutional Law, Corporate & Commercial Law, Criminal Justice, Environmental Law, Human Rights Law, International Law, IT & Media Law, Law & Health, Law Teaching, Legal History, and Public Interest Law. No grading in the first semester; students graded by honors, pass, low pass, credit, and failure from second semester onwards. Joint degree offered with other Yale schools, including three year joint JD/MBA program with Yale School of Management.|
|Stanford University||Areas of study include Academia, Clinical Education, Criminal Law, Health Law and Policy, International and Comparative Law, Law and Public Policy, Law, Economic & Business, Law, Science and Technology, Public Service and Public Interest Law. International initiatives include W.A. Frank Global Law Program in international and comparative law. 28 joint degree programs offered with other Stanford departments and schools.|
|Harvard University||Areas of study include Law and Government, Law and Business, International and Comparative Law, Law, Science, and Technology, Law and Social Change, Criminal Justice, and Law and History. Opportunity for students to apply studies in real world situations through the Student Practice Organization, starting the first year. Joint degree programs include JD/LLM program between Harvard Law School and University of Cambridge, along with other options to study abroad for 3-week winter term or a semester.|
|University of Chicago||Areas of study include Interdisciplinary Inquiry, Law & Economics, Law & Philosophy, Legal History, International and Comparative Law, Law & Business. Dual degrees in Business, Public Policy, Religious Studies, International Relations, Computer Science, Linguistics, and Economics. Strong support system for students seeking public interest work through counseling, guaranteed public interest funding, post-graduate public service financial support, and job opportunities.|
|Columbia University||Areas of study include Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contract Law, Criminal Law, Legal Methods, Property Law, Tort Law. Electives include Federal Income Taxation, Japanese Law and Legal Instruction, Transnational Litigation. Moot court competitions and legal practice workshops provide practical experience.|
|New York University||Areas of study include Cities & Land Use, Constitutional, Civil Rights, & Democracy, Corporate & Commercial, Criminal Justice, Environmental Law, Family, Gender, & Sexuality, Global & International Law, Human Rights Law, Immigration Law, Intellectual Property & Innovation Law, Labor & Employment Law, Law and Security, Legal Theory, History, & the Social Sciences, Litigation & Procedure, Regulation & Public Policy, Taxation Law. More than 30 legal clinics and 25 on-campus centers for students to gain hands-on experience. Dual degrees through other schools at NYU or other institutions such as Harvard Kennedy School and Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.|
|University of Pennsylvania||Areas of study include Administrative Law & Regulation, Business & Corporate Law, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Environmental Law, Health Law, Intellectual Property & Technology Law, International & Comparative Law, Law & Economics, Legal History, Philosophy, Tax Law & Policy, Leadership & the Law. Clinics like the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, and academic centers including the Center for Ethics & the Rule of Law, Center for Asian Law, and Criminal Law Research Group where students can research under scholars and practitioners around the world. Joint degrees available in Medicine, Engineering, Bioethics, Business, Social Policy, Nonprofit Leadership, Education Policy, Higher Ed, Criminology, International Study, Economics, as well as JD/LLM at Hong Kong University.|
|University of Virginia||Areas of study include Business Organization and Finance, Commercial Law, Communications and Media Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Justice, Employment and Labor Law, Environmental and Land Use Law, Family Law, Health Law, Human Rights and Civil Law, Intellectual Property, International and National Security Law, Jurisprudence and Comparative Law, Legal History, Litigation and Procedure, Public Policy and Regulation, Race and Law, Tax Law. Experiential learning opportunities at pro bono clinics, government and nonprofits offer hands-on experiences with clients on real cases. Dual degree programs in English, Environmental Science, Government, Foreign Affairs, History, Philosophy, Business, Medicine, Public Health, Public Policy, Accounting, Urban Planning, Economic Law in Paris.|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Areas of study include Antitrust, Banking and Finance, Commercial Law, Constitutional Law, Corporate Law, Criminal Law, Environmental and Natural Resources Law, Estate Planning, European Law, Family Law, Health Law, Human Rights, Intellectual Property, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Law, International and Corporate Law, Japanese Law, Labor and Employment, Law and Economics, Legal History, Legal Theory and Philosophy, Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution, Professional Responsibility, Property, Public Interest Law, Public Law and Regulatory Policy, Refugee and Asylum Law, Taxation, Writing and Drafting. Opportunity to directly represent clients under faculty supervision after first year of law school. Semester-long abroad opportunities in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Japan, and Hong Kong.|
|Duke University||Areas of study include Foundations of Law, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Legal Analysis, Research and Writing, Property, Torts, Criminal Law, Administrative Law. Clinical and experiential learning courses such as Health Justice Clinic, Corporate Counseling and Communication, Poverty Law, Introduction to Technology in the Law Office. Dual degrees in International & Comparative Law, Law & Entrepreneurship, Bioethics & Science Policy, Medicine, Environmental Management, Public Policy, Theological Studies, Law & Entrepreneurship, Global Business Law.|
|Northwestern University (Pritzker)||Areas of interest include Appellate Law, Business Enterprise, Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Environmental Law, International Law, Law and Social Policy, Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Study abroad exchange programs in France, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Israel, China, Mexico, Switzerland. Hands-on experience at Bluhm Legal Clinic through simulation of trials and negotiations, actual client representation, and externship work at legal practice settings.|
|University of California - Berkeley||Areas of study include Social Justice and Public Interest, Business and Startups, Law and Technology, Environmental Law, Criminal Justice, International and Comparative Law, Constitutional and Regulatory Law. Opportunities to gain hands-on legal and public policy experience at school-sponsored clinics such as the Death Penalty Clinic, International Human Rights Law Clinic, Technology & Public Policy Clinic. Field program placement for second and third-year students in Civil Fields, Judicial Externships, Criminal Field Placements, Away Field Placements, and UCDC Law Program in Washington, D.C.|
|Cornell University||Areas of study include Civil Procedure, Contract Law, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Property Law, Torts, Advocacy, Public Law, Business Law and Regulation, and General Practice. Well-reputed clinical programs to gain hands-on experience such as Child Advocacy Clinic, Labor Law Clinic, and New York State Attorney Clinic. Partnership with Sorbonne Law School to provide students with a five-week semester in Paris to study International and Comparative Law.|
|Georgetown University||Areas of study include Business & Financial Regulation, Civil Rights & Antidiscrimination, Constitutional Law & Theory, Consumer Protection, Social Welfare, and Employment, Criminal Law, Environmental Law, Feminism & Gender Studies, Health Law, Human Rights & Immigration, International & Comparative Law, International Economic Law, Legal History, Legal Profession & Professional Ethics, Legal Writing and Student Scholarship, Legal Theory, Legislation and Administrative Law, Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution, National Security Law, Race & Law, Tax Law, and Technology, Communication, and Intellectual Property. Clinical exposure at centers such as the Civil Rights Clinic, Domestic Violence Clinic, and Juvenile Justice Clinic. Opportunities for pro bono work and externships at the Georgetown Law Center.|
Note that even though most schools have common academic offerings in Civil Law, Criminal Law, Financial Law, Torts Law, and International Law, there are unique programs such as Gender & Sexuality at NYU, Innovation and Technology at Northwestern, and Japanese Law at the University of Michigan. All of the top schools offer strong clinics and study abroad programs as well if those are important to you.
Other Factors to Consider
While the curriculum makes up the most important component of your time at law school, it is far from the only one. You’re not just going to be studying, but also moving to a new city, joining the social scene, and interacting with your peers. So here are a few other factors to keep in mind while navigating which law school is the right fit for you.
- Location - The importance of where you choose to go to school shouldn’t be underestimated. You could be drawn to a particular type of weather, or think about your job and internship prospects. If you enjoy the sun, UCLA or USC might be the right choice for you. If you want to attend a school with easy access to politics, look into Georgetown or George Washington, located in the heart of Washington, D.C. The location of where you go to law school determines a lot, from the cuisines you could be eating everyday to how much of the year you’d find yourself trudging to class during heavy snowfall, so consider the setting of the schools on your list when thinking about which law school is the right fit for you.
- Housing - Once you’ve narrowed down some locations, it’s time to think about housing availability. If you attend a law school near where you already live, great! If not, you need to consider whether you want to live on campus or off, how much you are willing to pay, what you look for in roommates, and more. Many law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Duke, Stanford, and Columbia, offer on-campus housing. If you want a bit of space from school, you might want off campus housing. Rent and JD tuition adds up, so don’t forget about this crucial factor!
- City Life - In a similar vein, it is important to think about the local social scene when thinking about which law school is the right fit for you. You can’t just study all the time - sometimes you need to go out, explore, and have fun. The social life at most campuses is dedicated to undergraduates, and if you live off campus anyway, you’re probably wondering what to do in the town on a Friday night. UC Berkeley for example, is a city packed with art, music, film and political activity. Cornell is located around student-friendly bars, while University of Georgia offers access to miles and miles of hiking trails. While it’s definitely important to prioritize your career and education, consider what you might benefit from in your downtime to help you relax once in a while!
- Class Sizes - The number of students in a class and the overall student body population could affect which law school is the right fit for you. The sizes of each class impacts how many of your classmates you’ll get to know, as well as your academic experience with your professors. At many top law schools, classes are broken down into smaller sections. Yale’s sections are far smaller than Harvard’s. At Georgetown, class sizes can go above 100 students per session, so if you’re looking for smaller classes, don’t just apply to any top school! The size of your overall class also will also shape your law school experience. UC Irvine, Vanderbilt, University of Washington, and Stanford are some of the top schools with the smallest overall populations. UVA has a significantly bigger student population than Columbia. Although Columbia has a large student body, first-year writing classes can be as small as 10-12 people, with lecture classes as small as 30 people.
- Alumni Experience - The alumni connections and networks at the programs on your list can help you figure out which law school is the right fit for you. The law school alumni network can help you gain support and advice from those who have been in your shoes. Law school is a huge financial burden, and you obviously want to choose a school which will help your career prospects. Building the connection to alums can prove valuable once students graduate. When considering your options, look through the specialties the graduates of each class go into. The more alumni support you might find in your area, the greater your networking options.
You can’t discover which law school is the right fit for you overnight. Plenty of factors go into making the decision, from how your numbers align, to what kind of law you want to practice, to whether you want to want to live by the mountains or by the ocean. It can be hard to find a school which perfectly meets your requirements, but the right program doesn’t have to match all your criteria.
The amount of options out there is overwhelming. But, it all starts with prioritizing what’s important to you. Once you narrow down the kind of law you want to practice, the location and housing options, along with what you value in alumni support and class size, you can make a balanced list of schools where you see yourself succeeding. Who knows, you might be surprised by what you gravitate toward!
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