Top 10 law schools for people who actually want to become lawyers

By Jessica Marmor Shaw

The No. 1 ranked law school in the country doesn’t make this list


Columbia University

Prestige, location and curriculum are standard go-to factors for law school applicants to consider, but what about the law degree’s value after graduation?

We crunched data from StartClass to come up with the top 10 law schools based on two metrics that put hard numbers to postgraduation concerns: school employment rates, or the percent of students employed nine months after graduation, and bar exam passage rates. Neither one of these metrics necessarily indicates quality of education, as StartClass notes, but together they speak to how effective the institution is at setting graduates up for the big tests that come immediately after graduation: finding a job, and passing the bar.

No huge surprise: The list is dominated by schools in the top 15 of U.S. News & World Report’s law school ranking. However, Yale -- the No. 1 law school in the country according to U.S. News -- doesn’t make the top 10: It has an employment rate of 91.3%, lower than most of its top tier rivals, and a bar pass rate of 91.9%, only good enough for 14th place in that category.

And there’s one school that pops up using these real-world metrics that doesn’t show up until No. 30 in the U.S. News ranking (read on to find out what it is).

State bar exams have varying levels of difficulty, so a school’s pass rate can depend on where its graduates choose to take the test. California’s exam is notoriously difficult, which likely contributes to the absence of California schools in our list. Stanford, ranked No. 2 by U.S. News, would have landed at No. 13 on our list, but it was weighed down by its 90.1% bar pass rate (though the Silicon Valley school also ranks outside of the top 10 on employment rate, at 96.3%).

Wisconsin’s law schools have been excluded from the ranking because the state allows grads to seek admission to the State Bar without having to take the bar exam, which inflates those schools’ bar pass rates.

And now for the top 10...

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

 10. Cornell Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 91.6%

Employment Rate: 96.9%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 13

Tuition: $59,900 per year (full-time)

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

 9. University of Michigan Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 93.2%

Employment Rate: 95.9%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 8

Tuition: $53,112 per year (in-state, full-time); $56,112 per year (out-of-state, full-time)

A statue of Washington Duke on Duke University's East Campus in Durham, North Carolina.

 8. Duke University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 94.1%

Employment Rate: 96.3%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 11

Tuition: $57,717 per year (full-time)

Columbia University graduates outside St. John the Divine cathedral in New York City.

 7. Columbia University Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.4%

Employment Rate: 97.2%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 4

Tuition: $62,700 per year (full-time)

The University of Chicago Law School

 6. University of Chicago Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.1%

Employment Rate: 98.1%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 4

Tuition: $56,916 per year (full-time)

Ohio State University in Columbus.

 5. Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University

Weighted bar pass rate: 92.6%

Employment Rate: 97.1%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 30

Tuition: $29,131 per year (in-state, full-time); $44,081 per year (out-of-state, full-time)

A building on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottsville, Virginia.

 4. University of Virginia School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 93.5%

Employment Rate: 97.1%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 8

Tuition: $54,000 per year (in-state, full-time); $57,000 per year (out-of-state, full-time)

Vanderbilt Hall, part of New York University School of Law in New York

 3. New York University School of Law

Weighted bar pass rate: 95.7%

Employment Rate: 98.1

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 6

Tuition: $59,330 per year (full-time)

Harvard Law School's Langdell Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts

 2. Harvard Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 95.3%

Employment Rate: 99.7%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 2

Tuition: $58,242 per year (full-time)

The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

 1. University of Pennsylvania Law School

Weighted bar pass rate: 98.4%

Employment Rate: 98.9%

U.S. News & World Report ranking: 7

Tuition: $58,918 per year (full-time)

 

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Top Law Schools Analyzed and Ranked By America’s Top Legal Recru:

  1. Stanford
  2. Harvard
  3. Virginia
  4. New York University
  5. Columbia
  6. Chicago
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. Yale
  9. Michigan
  10. Berkeley
  11. Duke

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