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What Are the Top Law Schools in the United States?

By Yann, published on 27/10/2018 Blog > Professional Development > Law > The Best Law Schools in the U.S.

The United States is home to some of the world’s top institutes of higher learning. Who hasn’t heard of Yale, Stanford, Princeton and, perhaps, the most famous of them all: Harvard?

Harvard and Yale even enjoy a longstanding rivalry! Well, more of an intense competition…

Each of these schools has a sterling law program; in fact, many of America’s politicians earned their law degree through one or the other of them.

Contrary to what many seem to think, the United States is not synonymous with North America.

Canada also boasts many schools where you could gain a well-rounded legal education and your Superprof has geared up to make the rounds with you ahead of your law school application.

How Schools Are Ranked

You may learn of a university's world standing from the QS Report The QS Report ranks universities worldwide Source: Pixabay Credit: Mohamad Hassan

Once upon a time, universities were known by their reputation alone; a word of mouth expression of esteem for venerable institutions that served as advertisement among the highest strata of society.

Being a Harvard man or a Princeton alumnus has always had a certain cachet.

In fact, so distinguished were such appellations that other schools sought similar recognition.

So, at the dawn of the Information Age, a British company named Quacquarelli Symonds set about polling every university in the world and ranking them according to certain statistics.

Unfortunately, they receive a lot of criticism because they use a lot of subjective data to determine their rankings, such as:

  • the quality of student life

  • peer reviews

  • staff to student ratios

  • a school’s general reputation

  • broad academic discipline categories – rather than specialisations

  • graduate employability rankings

It seems they leave out important criteria such as affordability and the availability of work exchange programmes.

In spite of that, the QS report is the only international university ranking to receive approval from the International Ranking Expert Group.

Endorsed as it is by IREG, we feel confident in reporting top schools as listed in the QS World University Rankings.

You may attend a law seminar at Falconer Hall Falconer Hall houses the University of Toronto’s graduate programme Source: Wikipedia Credit: Chen Si Yuan

Top Schools for Law in Canada

The University of Toronto doesn’t just have the best law faculty in the country; it is generally reputed to be the best university in Canada altogether.

That means that admission criteria are stringent; you must have earned excellent marks to gain entrance!

For example, the median accepted LSAT score is 168.

Tuition for the Faculty of Laws is in keeping with the fees for their other colleges; unfortunately, the University of Toronto law school has the highest fees of any law school in Canada.

As of 2018, the total fees for their Juris Doctor programme exceed $36,000.00. The good news is that financial aid is available, either in the form of scholarships and grants or as student loans.

What we found most impressive is the variety of study programs and how they are managed.

You may earn a double degree through their combined JD programmes, graduating with a Master of laws, if that was your intent.

What’s so great about that programme is that you may earn your degree either through coursework or as a thesis-based award!

Our final rave about this programme is the pro bono work they do.

You may choose to intern through their programme, working on various bono cases or you could work on international human rights law. Besides those, you may work in any number of legal clinics they support.

Its neighbour, both geographically and in law school rankings, is the University of Ottawa, a relative newcomer to higher education (it was established in 1953).

How are your French language skills?

Like many Canadian law programmes, the University of Ottawa’s is divided into two parts. Their civil law program is taught entirely in French, while their common law programme is available in both English and French.

This presents a unique situation in which your curriculum choices are predicated entirely upon your language ability!

As far as paying is concerned, you may breathe a sigh of relief at knowing your tuition will be substantially lower here than at the illustrious university listed above.

If you enrol in their civil law programme, your programme’s tuition would ring in at just under $10,000.00 and the common law programme tuition totals roughly twice that amount.

A trifling sum compared to the other Faculty of Law!

As a prospective student to this school, you may study under a joint program. For example, you may opt for a dual JD program, established in partnership with select American universities, so that you will earn two degrees in four years.

There is a lot of good to say about this school and its study programs but we’ll leave you with its record of international success in moot court.

So good is this school’s moot team that it has been known to outperform even the team from Harvard law!

You may also like to know that they publish the revered law journal: the Ottawa Law Review.

Before moving on to describe U.S. law schools, we give honourable mention to McGill University, whose Faculty of Law is the oldest in Canada.

You may enrol at the University of Chicago forsome of the best law programs in North America The University of Chicago has one of the U.S. ‘s best law programmes Source: Wikipedia

Law Schools in the United States

This article started by naming four of the most reputable, high-profile law schools in the U.S.

As we don’t wish to belabour the obvious by extolling the virtues of those four, our selected highlights concern schools well-deserving of merit but unfortunately less renowned.

Such as the University of California Berkeley School of Law or, simply, UC Berkeley School of Law, consistently listed as one of the top law schools in the world.

The QS rankings currently list this school as 7th-best worldwide.

Unlike the Canadian schools with their two broad categories of legal studies, UC Berkeley comprises no fewer than 17 specialised curricular programs, among them International Law, Environmental Law, and Social Justice.

Acceptance into any of their law programs is extremely competitive, with fewer than 25% of all applicants admitted each year.

Tuition rates might cause some sticker shock: an international student would pay more than $80,000.00 for his first year, for a grand total of over a quarter of a million dollars paid in fees by graduation.

Their marking system is unusual among law schools in that theirs is, more or less, a pass/fail scheme. However, they do accord some mention of honour for the best-performing students: the highest mark one can earn is High Honours or HH.

As you may know, the American Bar Association oversees every aspect of the legal profession, including education, by endorsing especially meritorious degree programs.

Berkeley Law has been a Bar Association approved law school for nearly 100 years.

Boston University School of Law shares that distinction and it is a standout in another respect, being one of the first public universities in the United States to admit students regardless of race or gender.

To wit, their most recent admissions statistics reveal that their student body reflects that commitment to diversity: collectively, it represents 16 different countries.

Like Berkeley, Boston offers legal training in specialised areas; its top three fields are Tax law, Intellectual Property law and Health law.

Besides those, you would have your choice of approximately 200 different programs and seminars to choose from.

You may earn your LLM degree in Chinese law through a partnership with Tsinghua University, one of the top universities in Asia!

Price-wise, the Boston law student fares better than at Berkeley; an undergraduate degree at Boston Law costs under a quarter-million dollars.

Whereas the two previous schools were public, the University of Chicago Law School is a private school meaning, among other things, that admission criteria are much stiffer and fees are much higher.

The 2017/18 admittance report indicated that one year’s fees, including tuition, other fees and living expenses totalled more than $93,000.00

What do you get for that amount of money?

For one, a low teacher-student ratio: with 200 faculty members, this school has approximately 12 students for every one teacher.

Furthermore, there are a number of clinical programs you may participate in, including Child Advocacy and a justice clinic on Entrepreneurship.

Perhaps the best part of earning your degree in law from the University of Chicago Law School is that you will have no trouble finding work: the National Law Journal ranked it first in overall employment outcomes for graduates.

There are so many law schools in the U.S. that it would be difficult to choose which study programs to cover that might suit you best!

Going purely by the numbers, we now summarise the 10 best law programs in America, per the 2018 rankings.

NameLocationTuition Enrolment Cap
Yale UniversityNew Haven, CT$62,170625
Stanford UniversityStanford, CA$60,270565
Harvard UniversityCambridge, MA$62,7921,757
University of ChicagoChicago, IL$62,865597
Columbia UniversityNew York, NY$67,5641,264
New York University New York, NY$63,9861,364
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA$63,364736
University of Michigan--Ann ArborAnn Arbor, MI$60,508931
University of California--Berkeley
Berkeley, CA$53,315936
University of VirginiaCharlottesville, VA$61,300912
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