Top 10 Law Schools in the United States

What should you do if you want to get a good job that pays well? Have sex with a partner? Top 10 List wishes that it was so easy and so  inexpensive.

Most people will come to the conclusion that going to law school is a more reliable long-term career strategy than latching onto a partner stuck in a love-hate relationship. But which law school should you apply to? According to the National Law Journal, students looking to land a job in law faced a lot of challenges in 2009, but some schools were better than others at placing graduates in top jobs.

Here are the stats for 2010. The rankings are based on the percentage of graduates graduating, the number of grads hired, and the number of J.D.s awarded. The article focuses on why Northwestern University School of Law is number 1 and then looks at how students should apply, if they wish to be accepted into one of these 10 best law schools in the United States.

Best Law Schools

Why Northwestern?

Northwestern is known as an innovative, business-oriented law school whose reputation is one the rise, and for good reason. Northwestern Law offers more to its students than just a prime central Chicago location. With its well-established preference for students with work experience and demonstrated interpersonal skills, the school fosters a different, yet professional environment than some of the other schools in the United States. Job prospects are also some of the best among law schools, especially for those students hoping to land a career in a big law firm.

A current 2L states, “The student body is excellent, most of which has done something interesting before law school. Students tend to bring interesting perspectives into the classroom as a result, and I think this is a major advantage over schools primarily composed of people straight through from undergrad.”

Northwestern Law also puts major emphasis on global enterprises and practical learning, where students can experience some of the most highly regarded study abroad, clinical and interdisciplinary programs in the country. The school recently employed a sweeping initiative called “Plan 2008: Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World,” in which it conducted extensive focus groups with law firm, corporate and governmental leaders, with assistance by a legal consulting firm, to mold the direction of the law school.

Though the law school is one of the most expensive, especially when factoring in the costs of  living downtown , its students issue few complaints besides the cost and the cold.  Students describe the university as a pleasant place to attend law school. They say that it has an atmosphere that makes it fun to be in grad school, irrespective of the work load and the high expectations.

How competitive is Northwestern?

Northwestern Law School admissions are extremely competitive, with only 18% of applicants receiving offers for admission. The median LSAT score is a 170 (about the 98th percentile) and the median undergraduate GPA is a 3.7. Data suggest Northwestern prefers high LSAT scores to high GPAs, as its GPA range is one of the lowest of its peer schools, whereas its 75th percentile LSAT score is one of the highest. Unlike at other law schools where work experience and leaderships skills are perhaps considered small bonuses, here they are nearly requisite.

How to choose the best school?

The law school application process begins and ends with critical decisions about where to attend law school. First, you need to identify a handful of schools to which you will apply. Later, after admissions decisions are made, you must determine which school to attend. Because each school offers a unique complement of services and features, you should spend time gathering reliable information so that you can successfully identify the schools best suited to your individual goals.

You have your work cut out for you: As of April 2010 there were 200 law schools approved by the American Bar Association as well as many unaccredited law schools around the United States.

Educational quality is an important consideration in choosing a law school. To assess the quality of a school, many students consult several annual law school rankings that attempt to measure the quality of education. For instance, US News & World Report’s Law School Rankings, published every April, compares law schools using such categories as: average student LSAT scores; average student undergraduate GPA; student/faculty ratios; application acceptance rates; graduate placement success rates; faculty resources; bar passage rates; and academic reputation among lawyers, judges, and law professors.

The USNEWS law school rankings have received their fair share of criticism over the years. For example, in 1998, the American Association of Law Schools commissioned a study entitled “The Validity of the US News and World Report Ranking of ABA Law Schools” that strongly criticized the methodology US News employs when generating its rankings. More recently, a letter endorsed by most of the country’s law school deans, including deans from schools that consistently receive very favorable reviews, attacked the US News rankings for failing to examine variables that students traditionally list as most important when deciding the law school to attend. More recently, in 2009, reports by the Law School Admissions Council and the Government Accountability Office criticize law school rankings for forcing some schools to “game” the system and employ questionable admissions tactics to improve (or at least maintain) their USNEWS ranking.

But US News and World Report admits that its rankings are not perfect. In an online report, the magazine conceded, “Our defense of our rankings is the same as the deans’ defense of theirs: students should be able to compare schools with each other using the most comprehensive measures available. Our rankings are not perfect, but neither are theirs.”

A popular alternative to the US News ranking is the Educational Quality Ranking (EQR), published by Brian Leiter a University of Chicago law professor. Unlike US News, EQR focuses exclusively on three factors when determining its rankings: quality of the faculty, quality of the student body, and quality of the teaching. A few law school deans have praised EQR as a favorable alternative to the US News rankings. For a side-by-side comparison of both the US News Law School Rankings and Leiter Rankings, you can visitAdmissionsDean.com.

Most rankings systems neglect other significant factors, including the racial and gender diversity of a school’s student body; the location of the school; the cost of tuition and availability of loan repayment assistance programs; average class size; variety of course offerings; availability of clinical and externship programs; availability of part-time and evening programs; commitment to technology; access to faculty; alumni support; and more. Be sure to consider these factors when choosing which law school is right for you.



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