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Does Law School Ranking Matter? Everything You Should Know

December 13, 2023
5 min read
Contents

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Reviewed by:

David Merson

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

Reviewed: 12/13/23

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. 

Getting into a top law school is the ultimate goal for most aspiring law students. With excellent resources, high prestige, and better job prospects, high-ranking law schools are 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 answers and list other factors you should 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

Law school rankings matter mainly because 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 will provide an extensive education that will prepare you for the legal world and help you become a more attractive candidate to potential employers.  

If you need help deciding which law school to attend, check out this “Where Should I Go to Law School? Quiz” to help you make that decision!

Man writing notes while looking at computer

The T14 School Vs. Everyone Else

The T14 law schools are highly coveted. These top 14 law schools in the nation 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. Given the current legal climate, these schools have had the best employment rates in the nation for decades, which are only predicted to increase. 

With an oversaturation of lawyers, employees pick T14 graduates over other graduates, assuming 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 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.

That said, rankings are 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, graduating with copious debt may not be worth it.

This debt will not be easy to pay off and may delay your life plans, 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 131st in the nation!

Ranking Vs. Grades

Even if you get into Yale, the best law school in the nation, it won’t help your job prospects unless you maintain good grades! High-ranking schools are generally harder to do well 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 may help you land a job at a large law firm without being a T14 grad!

Ranking Vs. Experience

Low-ranking schools may offer valuable internships or extracurricular experiences directly related to your field. High-ranking schools may not offer these same experiences.

A good experience can elevate your employment candidacy and help you gain the 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. 

Young woman working on computer

Other Factors that Matter for College

There are plenty of more factors to consider when choosing a college to attend for your JD. These include: 

Bar Passage Rate

Looking at a law school's bar passage rates indicates how effectively the institution's curriculum prepares students for the bar exam, a critical step in becoming a practicing attorney. High passage rates suggest a successful and comprehensive educational program, boosting confidence in graduates' ability to succeed in the bar exam and their legal careers. 

Also, consistently low rates may raise concerns about the school's curriculum and support systems. Thus, you should carefully consider bar passage rates when choosing a law school to ensure a strong foundation for your future in the legal profession.

Class Size

Smaller class sizes and a favorable student-to-faculty ratio enhance the law school learning experience by fostering personalized interactions and increased engagement. You can benefit from more individualized attention, active participation, and meaningful connections with professors in these settings. 

The intimate atmosphere encourages collaborative learning and vibrant discussions, creating a supportive community.

Employment Opportunities

Evaluating post-graduation employment outcomes is important when selecting a law school. Research the percentage of graduates employed in the legal field and the types of positions they secure. High percentages in the legal sector indicate effective preparation for legal careers while understanding the diversity of positions offers insights into program versatility with various career goals.

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 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 are highly selective schools, so most applicants get into lower-ranking schools but still have high-paying, prosperous careers!

3. Should I Only Apply To T14 Schools?

No, you should apply to lower-ranking schools since T14 schools are exceptionally challenging.

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.

6. Does the Ranking of a Law School Affect Job Opportunities?

The ranking of a law school may affect job opportunities. This is because the higher the rank of a law school, the easier it is to be recruited by bigger firms. However, once you’re established as a lawyer, job opportunities will depend on how well you are. 

Ranking Matters, But How Much?

So, does law school ranking matter? 

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

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

On top of the 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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