Below is a guide to the information provided in this section. Click on an item in the guide to jump to that area, or simply scroll down to view the entire section:
The Law School Admission Council
Admission Odds Calculator
U.S. News and World Report Rankings
National Placement Rankings
Supreme Court Clerkship Rankings
Academic Placement Rankings
Princeton Review Research Area
Vault.com Law School Info
There are two important factors in getting your first legal job. One is how well you do in law school -- grades are important. However, where you go to school is equally important. Certain schools are generally considered better by the legal community, and tend to get their students better jobs, even when their grades are modest.
For this reason, you should generally attend the best school possible, if only so you won't have to worry as much about your grades. (Law school can be stressful enough.) Better schools will also give you more national options in terms of where you can work upon graduation. The better a school's reputation, the more national your job opportunities will be.
There are a handful of schools that are considered truly "national", in that they usually send graduates all around the country. The very best schools, in terms of reputation over the last few decades, are Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Chicago, Columbia, and Michigan. These are also the top schools in terms of national elite-firm placement, Supreme Court Clerkships, and legal academia (teaching positions). Schools like NYU, Virginia, and Berkeley (Boalt Hall) also excel comparably in the above categories, and have similar reputations. Penn is not far behind, and is generally felt to round out the top 10 in the eyes of most attorneys, judges, and academics. These schools are generally considered the very best in the country.
Outside of these programs, Cornell, Duke, Northwestern and Georgetown are also excellent, and complete most people's lists of the most national schools in the country. (Some would also include Texas.)
There many other excellent programs, especially Texas, UCLA, Vanderbilt, and USC, which also have fairly national reputations. However, most of these programs have their strongest reputations in their respective regions. Therefore, if you can't get into one of the 15 or so "national" programs, you should strive to attend the best school possible in your desired city or region.
Of course, which school is "best" for any individual can also depend on their specific goals and personality. For example, if you want to open your own practice, or work in public interest, you may choose a scholarship at a slightly lower-ranked school over an offer at a higher-ranked program. And since all schools have somewhat different personalities, different people will be more comfortable at different programs, even if they're comparably ranked. Consider what's important to you before deciding on schools, and be sure to actually visit each program before making a final decision. Often, purely subjective elements of environment, location, and attitude can make one school a much better fit than another.
A note on rankings: there are various rankings of law schools, the most well-known being U.S. News and World Report. However, there is also a good deal of discrepancy between various rankings, and even between different years of the same ranking. The methodology in U.S. News is subject to manipulation by schools to some degree, and shifts can also occur due to simple changes in methodology.
Therefore, it's probably better to think of schools in groups or tiers, and to ignore minor ranking differences (especially several points or less). This is especially true when thinking in terms of desired regions. For example, Fordham is not ranked as highly as Minnesota or Iowa, but would probably be better for getting a job in New York. The same would apply to George Washington University, and perhaps even American or George Mason, in Washington, D.C. Again, outside of the most national programs, most schools have relatively regional reputations. This is because lawyers will naturally know more about local programs, and also because local alumni networks are very important in terms of finding jobs.
You should research any desired schools before applying, and even visit when possible. Below are links to sites that can help you learn about programs, including actual links for most law schools, admission and application information, and various rankings in different categories:
The Law School Admission Council
The LSAC is an organization of law schools that oversees the LSAT. Their official site, however, also includes a great deal of information about law schools, including a page providing your estimated likelihood of admission to schools when you input your LSAT/GPA information.
Admission Odds Calculator
U.S. News and World Report
The U.S. News and World Report probably has the best-known rankings of graduate programs, including law school rankings based on specific criteria, admissions numbers, and campus statistics. We have therefore provided a link to their Law School Rankings website. Basic information is provided for all accredited law schools in the country. However, in addition to basic information, the site also contains direct links to official websites for many of the schools. This is therefore an excellent starting point for researching potential law schools and requesting application materials.
To access this information, simply click on the link below:
U.S. News and World Report Law School Website.
(Note: U.S. News recently made much of their specific rankings inputs available to subscribers only. However, the overall rankings and law school links are still available, and last year's complete rankings information is available here (from JD2b.com, below.)
Rankings by National Elite-Firm Placement
This ranking attempts to measure both the geographic diversity and quality of school placement. In other words, it looks at how national the job opportunites of graduates are, by seeing how many graduates are sent to top firms in every major market across the country. It should be noted that some schools, like Stanford and Boalt, are probably affected in this ranking by self-selection. (Many grads prefer to stay in the Bay area, as it's an inherently desireable location.)
National Placement Ranking
Rankings by Supreme Court Clerkships
Certain judicial clerkships are very prestigious, and can help clerks later get the best jobs in the country, including top firm positions (with bonuses) and teaching positions at top law schools. Even after being hired, having a prestigious clerkship on your resume will get you more respect and deference within a firm, enhancing your partnership prospects and making it easier to move to other firms or government positions.
For this reason, getting such clerkships is very competitive. The degree to which a school can place students in such positions is a fairly good measure of the esteem the school enjoys within the legal community.
The most prestigious clerkships, of course, are those with the United States Supreme Court. These clerks actually help write the judicial opinions that make up our constitutional law, and therefore have a great deal of actual influence in addition to prestige and future employment options. Below is a ranking that lists the top schools for such clerkships:
Supreme Court Clerkship Rankings
Academic/Faculty Placement Rankings
The most difficult legal job to get is probably that of a law school professor. While professors don't make as much as many attorneys, they are still paid fairly well. More importantly, the work is interesting, prestigious, and thoughtful; you get to work with young, admiring students; the environment is usually pleasant, and the hours are much more humane. (You can also often get your summers off, of course.)
For many law students, this is therefore an ideal job. For the same reason, however, these jobs are also extremely competitive. Getting them usually requires going to a top school, doing well, making Law Review, and/or getting a prestigious clerkship. Going to the right school probably matters more for these jobs than any other.
Below is a ranking which reflects which law schools are the best at getting their students top faculty positions:
Study on Long-Term School Reputation
Examines why the same sixteen schools have long been ranked as the top programs in the country:
Jd2b.com is a law school blog that contains a great deal of information for pre-law students, including links to complete U.S. News Rankings info, faculty quality rankings, Supreme Court Clerkship rankings, and other law school information. It also contains articles about law schools and legal practice, as well as links to other blogs created by current law students.
Princeton Review Law School Research Area
The Princeton Review also maintains a variety of information about schools that can be helpful for quick searches and basic information:
PR Research Area
Vault.com Law School Information
Vault.com is a site that contains information about law firms, legal practice, and law schools. The link below goes directly to the law school page.
Vault Law School Page
This site contains rankings of schools by actual students, as well as information for future students like course outlines, case briefs, and bar resources. It also contains application information and tips.
Discussion Groups / Blogs