In 2013, there were 54,000 applications submitted to American law schools. This number represents a nearly 50% decline from just 10 years earlier. Many factors may account for the dramatic dip, including the decreasing availability of scholarships and rising costs of tuition. Starting pay for new lawyers is also at an all-time low of $85,000 per year. Despite these depressing statistics for champions of the legal profession, going to law school remains the top choice of those fascinated by law and the naturally argumentative hoping for a career where they can get paid to debate. In the field of law, where you went to school matters more than in almost any other profession. A degree from a top American law school opens many doors, and places in elite programs are highly coveted. Below is a list of the top 10 U.S. law schools, ranked both in terms of selectivity and by national reputation among lawyers and law scholars.
10. George Washington University
Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Acceptance rate: 27.2%. 1,753 total law students. 97% of George Washington University students pass the bar exam on their first try.
George Washington University offers 12 concentrations and 6 options for joint-degree programs, including in Environmental Law, Business and Finance Law, International Environmental Law, Government Procurement and Environmental Law, Intellectual Property Law, International and Comparative Law, Government Procurement Law, and National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law. A doctoral degree is offered to a imited number of candidates.
Notable George Washhington Alumni: Daniel Inouye (1953), United States Senator, Yasmine Pahlavi, Crown Princess of Iran, (1940), W. Mark Felt, former associate director of the FBI and Watergate scandal informant also known as “Deep Throat”
9. University of Michigan
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Acceptance rate: 21.4%. 1,149 total law students. 92% of University of Michigan students pass the bar exam on their first try.
The Princeton Review consistently ranks Michigan Law in the top three for best career prospects and 93% of graduates are employed within a year of graduation.
Notable University of Michigan Alumni: Ann Coulter (1988) right-wing author, Clarence Darrow, (attended), famous trial lawyer; defense counsel in the Scopes Monkey trial
8. University of Virginia
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Acceptance rate: 9.3%. 1,093 total law students. 95% of University of Virginia students pass the bar exam on their first try.
Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, Virginia ranks second after Harvard in the number of chief legal officers at the nation’s top 500 companies who are alumni.
Notable University of Virginia Alumni: Ted Kennedy, (1959), U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, 1980 Democratic Presidential Candidate, Woodrow Wilson, (1879), President of the United States, Robert Mueller (1973), Director of the FBI
7. University of Pennsylvania
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Acceptance rate: 17.4%. 806 total law students. 95% of University of Pennsylvania students pass the bar exam on their first try.
Located in the birthplace of the United States constitution, Penn Law is still tops in constitutional law programs. The first African-American woman to earn a law degree went here, and it was the first law school in the world to offer a joint J.D./M.B.A. Degree.
Notable University of Pennsylvania Alumni: John Heisman, (1892) namesake of the Heisman Trophy, Michael Smerconish, (1987) American radio and television personality
6. New York University
Location: New York, New York
Acceptance rate: 24.2%. 1,464 total law students. 96% of New York University students pass the bar exam on their first try.
Located in the most cosmopolitan city in the United States, NYU Law offers study abroad programs in Buenos Aires, Paris and Shanghai. Many of its graduates go straight to Wall Street jobs and NYU Law School’s LL.M. in Taxation program is considered the best taxation program in the United States.
Notable NYU Alumni: Louis Freeh, (1984), FBI Director, Rudy Giuliani, (1968) mayor of New York City and former presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy jr, (1989) journalist and son of President John F. Kennedy
5. University of Chicago
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Acceptance rate: 17.5%. 624 total law students. 97% of University of Chicago students pass the bar exam on their first try.
One of Chicago Law specialties is the analysis of legal issues from an economic perspective. In keeping with the city of Chicago’s reputation as the modern architecture capital of North America, the law school of the University of Chicago is housed in a building designed by Eero Saarinen.
Notable University of Chicago Alumni: John Ashcroft, (1964) Former U.S. Senator, Governor of Missouri, and Attorney General of the United States, Phillip E. Johnson, (1965) Founder of the Intelligent Design movement, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, (1965) 33rd Prime Minister of New Zealand
4. Columbia University
Location: New York, New York
Acceptance rate: 15.8. 1,332 total law students. 96% of Columbia University students pass the bar exam on their first try
Columbia Law alumni include 2 presidents of the United States, 9 Supreme Court justices, and more members of the Forbes 400 than any other law school. In 1988, Columbia Law School founded the first AIDS Law Clinic in the United States.
Notable Columbian University Alumni: Eric Holder, (1976), United States Attorney General, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1907), President of the United States, Phillipe Dauman (1978), president and CEO of Viacom
3. Stanford University
Location: Stanford, California
Acceptance rate: 9.1%. 571 total law students. 93% of Stanford University students pass the bar exam on their first try.
Stanford Law School is known for its extremely low student-to-faculty ratio, with first-year classes counting approximately 180 students. The film “Legally Blond” was originally set at Stanford Law School, but Stanford did not approve of the script, so the setting was changed to Harvard law school.
Notable Stanford University Alumni: Warren Christopher, (1949), U.S. Secretary of State, David C. Drummond, (1985), Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer of Google, Roderick Hills, (1955), former Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
2. Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Acceptance rate: 13.3%. 1,679 total law students. 98% of Harvard University students pass the bar exam on their first try.
Home to the largest law library in the world, Harvard law counts among its alumni both current President Barack Obama and his opponent in the 2008 presidential election, Mitt Romney. 5 of the 9 sitting justices of the United States Supreme Court are also Harvard Law graduates.
Notable Harvard Alumni: Elizabeth Dole, (1965) Senator from North Carolina, Director of the Red Cross, John G. Roberts, (1980), Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Samantha Power, (1999) U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
1. Yale University
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Acceptance rate: 7.9% 638 total law students. 94% of Yale University students pass the bar exam on their first try.
Yale law is consistently ranked #1 in the United States, particularly for those seeking careers in academia. 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. In a 2010 survey of “scholarly impact,” Yale’s faculty was found to be the most cited law school faculty in the United States.
Notable Yale Slumni: Bill Clinton, (1973), 42nd President of the United States, Sonia Sotomayor,(1979), Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Pat Robertson, (1955), televangelist and founder of Regent University.