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Does Law School Ranking Matter?

June 13, 2023
7 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 01/16/23

If you’re concerned about whether you should be attending a high-ranking law school to get the best legal education, read on to find out the importance of law school ranking. 

For the majority of aspiring law students, getting into a top law school is the ultimate goal. With excellent resources, high prestige, and better job prospects, high-ranking law schools are regarded as the best options to guarantee prosperous legal careers.

But, with so many other great law schools offering excellent programs at a fraction of the cost, you may be wondering: does law school ranking matter that much? This guide will provide you with the answers and list other factors you should also consider when choosing the best law school.

How Are Law Schools Ranked?

US News ranks law schools based on the following factors:

  • Percentage of successful job placement of graduates
  • Bar passage rate
  • Faculty resources
  • Academic achievements of entering classes (GPAs and LSAT scores)
  • Peer assessment
  • Opinions by law schools, lawyers, and judges on overall program quality
  • Selectivity of school
  • Average debt incurred

As you can see, several important factors go into deciding the rankings of law schools.

Why Law School Ranking Matters

The main reasons that law school rankings matter are that graduates from these schools are better recognized and have a higher chance of being employed by major law firms.

Tuition at high-ranking law schools is often much higher than others for good reason! These schools offer only the best professors and resources. Considering these assets, these schools are sure to provide you with an extensive education that will prepare you for the legal world and help you become a more attractive candidate to potential employers.  

The T14 School Vs. Everyone Else

The T14 law schools are highly coveted. These are the top 14 law schools in the nation that have remained relatively unchanged for years, which is a major reason they have gained such an elite status.

Compared to other schools, even those in the top 20, T14 graduates are sought out by major law firms. These schools have had the best employment rates in the nation for decades, and these rates are only predicted to increase given the current legal climate. 

With an oversaturation of lawyers, employees are picking T14 graduates over other graduates, with the assumption these top-ranked programs produce the most qualified and successful lawyers.

For those interested in joining Biglaw, admission to a T14 school is likely your best chance to fulfill this goal. The majority of these firms only hire Ivy League graduates from T14 schools. 

Law School Rankings: Not The Only Factor to Consider

While getting into a T14 law school will make it easier for you to land your dream legal career, you can still achieve your goals by attending a lower-ranked school! You may just have to become a more attractive candidate in other ways, such as experience, grades, or excellent connections.

With that being said, rankings are definitely not all you should consider when deciding which law schools to apply to. Here are a few factors you might want to consider more:

Ranking Vs. Location

Top law schools may be located very far from you! For those of you who get homesick easily, moving states may not be ideal for you and can make getting your JD even more difficult.

 Leaving home is also expensive! On top of the high tuition costs of T14 schools, students moving to new, high-cost university states can expect to increase their cost of attendance by thousands of dollars.

Ranking Vs. Cost

Building off the last point, high-ranking law schools come with high prices too. While you’re more likely to obtain a high-paying job post graduation if you attend a high ranking school, it may not be worth it to graduate with copious amounts of debt.

This debt will not be easy to pay off and may delay other life plans you have, such as buying a house or starting a family.

Ranking Vs. Practice Focus

If you already know the specific type of law you want to practice, a T14 school may not have the best program for you. In this case, you should look at the highest ranked program in your field of interest. For example, the best school for environmental law is Pace University, a school that ranks 142nd in the nation!

Ranking Vs. Grades

Even if you get into Yale, the best law school in the nation, it won’t help you with your job prospects unless you maintain good grades! High-ranking schools are generally harder to do well in because of the rigorous curriculum and accomplished students you’ll be competing with. 

So if you get into a lower-ranking school, you may have a better chance at staying at the top of your class, which in return may help you land a job at a large law firm without being a T14 grad!

Ranking Vs. Experience

Low-ranking schools may offer you valuable internship or extracurricular experience directly related to your field of interest. High-ranking schools may not offer these same experiences.

Good experience can elevate your employment candidacy and help you gain the right exposure and skills necessary to land your dream job without attending a high-ranking school. While all students graduate with the same JD, having this experience can differentiate your resume from other students. 

Law School Rankings FAQs

If you have any remaining questions about the importance of law school ranking, read on to find your answers.

1. Why Does Law School Ranking Matter?

Law school ranking can help you pick a program that can offer you the highest quality legal education. These high-ranking programs also tend to open doors to better job prospects, especially if you’re interested in Biglaw.

2. Do I Have To Go To A High-Ranking Law School To Be A Successful Lawyer?

No, not at all! These schools are highly selective, so the majority of applicants end up getting into lower ranking schools but still end up with high-paying, prosperous careers!

3. Should I Only Apply To T14 Schools?

No, you should also apply to lower ranking schools, since T14 schools are exceptionally challenging to get into.

4. What Are The T14 Schools?

The T14 schools in order of ranking are:

  • Yale University 
  • Stanford University
  • University of Chicago
  • Columbia University
  • Harvard University
  • University of Pennsylvania (Carey)
  • New York University
  • University of Virginia
  • University of California - Berkeley
  • University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
  • Duke University
  • Cornell University
  • Northwestern University (Pritzker)
  • Georgetown University

5. What LSAT Score Do I Need To Get Into High-Ranking Law Schools?

Median LSAT scores for the top 20 law schools in the nation range from 168-174.

Ranking Matters, But How Much?

So, does law school ranking matter? 

When it comes to employment, ranking definitely matters. But, it isn’t the only factor that matters otherwise.

Ranking alone shouldn’t be the sole factor you consider when choosing the perfect law school for you! Consider creating your own method of ranking to ensure your law school checks off all the important boxes you’d like to see in your dream law school. 

On top of ranking, consider factors like cost, location, other life goals, or your desired area of focus to ensure you make the most out of your legal education and have an enjoyable law school experience! 

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