Law School Rankings

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

U.S. News To Roll Out Brand New Law School Ranking | Above the Law

The U.S. News’ Best Law Schools rankings evaluate institutions on their successful placement of graduates, their faculty resources, the academic achievements of entering students, and opinions by law schools, lawyers and judges on overall program quality. The rankings measure 193 law schools that are fully accredited by the American Bar Association, or ABA. Changes for the 2022 edition included two new placement indicators on graduate indebtedness and a fully revamped approach to measuring library resources.

In fall 2020 and early 2021, U.S. News collected statistical and reputation data directly from law schools for the 20 (up from 13 previously) indicators used in the overall rankings and 13 law school specialty rankings and to populate each school’s profile.[ 

Ranking Indicators

Quality Assessment

Quality assessment was composed of two indicators of expert opinion that contributed 40% to the overall rank.

Peer assessment score (weighted by 0.25): Law school deans, deans of academic affairs, chairs of faculty appointments and the most recently tenured faculty members rated programs’ overall quality on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5), marking “don’t know” for schools they did not know well enough to evaluate. A school’s score is the average of 1-5 ratings received. U.S. News administered the peer assessment survey in fall 2020 and early 2021. Seventy percent of recipients responded.

Assessment score by lawyers and judges (0.15): Legal professionals – including hiring partners of law firms, practicing attorneys and judges – rated programs’ overall quality on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding), marking “don’t know” for schools they did not know well enough to evaluate. A school’s score is the average of 1-5 ratings it received across the three most recent survey years. U.S. News administered the legal professionals survey in fall 2020 to recipients that law schools provided to U.S. News in summer 2020.


Selectivityis a proxy of student excellence. Its three indicators contributed 21% in total to the ranking.

Median Law School Admission Test and Graduate Record Examination scores (0.1125; previously 0.125): These are the combined median scores on the LSAT and GRE quantitative, verbal and analytical writing exams of all 2020 full- and part-time entrants to the J.D. program. Reported scores for each of the four exams, when applicable, were converted to 0-100 percentile scales. The LSAT and GRE percentile scales were weighted by the proportions of test-takers submitting each exam. For example, if 85% of exams submitted were LSATs and 15% submitted were GREs, the LSAT percentile would be multiplied by 0.85 and the average percentile of the three GRE exams by 0.15 before summing the two values. This means GRE scores were never converted to LSAT scores or vice versa. There were 60 law schools – 31% of the total ranked – that reported both the LSAT and GRE scores of their 2020 entering classes to U.S. News.

Median undergraduate GPA (0.0875; previously 0.10): This is the combined median undergraduate GPA of all the 2020 full- and part-time entrants to the J.D. program.

Acceptance rate (0.01; previously 0.025): This is the combined proportion of applicants to both the full- and part-time J.D. programs who were accepted for the 2020 entering class. A lower acceptance rate indicates greater selectivity.

Placement Success

Placement successis composed of five indicators that total 25.25% of each school’s rank. The two most heavily weighted indicators pertain to employment.

Employment rates for 2019 graduates 10 months after graduation (0.14) and at graduation (0.04): For both ranking factors, schools received maximum credit when their J.D. graduates – in alignment with ABA reporting rules – obtained long-term jobs that were full time, not funded by the law school, and where a J.D. degree was an advantage or bar passage was required. In contrast, jobs that were some combination of short-term, part-time, funded by the law school and/or did not require bar passage received less credit by varying amounts, determined by the combination. See Notes on Employment Rates below for a more detailed explanation.

Bar passage rate (0.0225, previously 0.02): This is the ratio of the bar passage rate of a school’s 2019 graduating class to that jurisdiction’s overall state bar passage rate for first-time test-takers in winter and summer 2019.

The jurisdiction listed is the state where the largest number of 2019 graduates took the state bar exam. The National Conference of Bar Examiners provided the state bar examination pass rates for first-time test-takers in winter and summer 2019.

Average debt incurred obtaining a J.D at graduation (0.03, new) and the percent of law school graduates incurring J.D. law school debt (0.02, new): According to a 2020 American Bar Association report, many new lawyers are postponing major life decisions like marriage, having children and buying houses – or rejecting them outright – because they are carrying heavy student loan debts. J.D. graduate debt is impacting Black and Hispanic students the most since they borrow more, according to the ABA. We added two new indicators to take into account this J.D. graduate debt load and its impact on law school graduates, the legal profession and prospective law school students.

This data is based on J.D. candidate graduates in 2019-2020. The indicators were calculated by comparing each school’s value with the median value (midpoint) for that indicator. Schools whose values were farthest below the median scored the highest, and schools that were most above the median scored the lowest on each indicator.

Faculty, Law School and Library Resources

Faculty, law school and library resources is 13.75% of the ranking and is composed of two indicators on expenditures, one on student-faculty ratio and seven on library resources. The two metrics on expenditures per student, below, pertain to the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years.

The average spending on instruction, library and supporting services (0.09; previously 0.0975) and the average spending on all other items, including financial aid (0.01; previously 0.015): As part of the faculty resources calculation for instruction, library and supporting services – new this year in order to adjust for cost of living variations in law school salaries between school geographic locations – U.S. News replaced Runzheimer indexes with publicly available Bureau of Economic Analysis Regional Price Parities index data.

Student-faculty ratio (0.02; previously 0.03): This is the ratio of law school students to law school faculty members for 2020. The definition that U.S. News uses is a modified version of the Common Data Set’s student-to-faculty ratio definition, a standard used throughout higher education based on the ratio of full-time equivalent students to full-time equivalent faculty. For law schools, full-time equivalent faculty is defined as full-time faculty plus one-third part-time law school faculty. Full-time equivalent students are defined as full-time law school students plus two-thirds of total part-time law school students.

Library resources and operations (0.0175 in total; previously 0.0075): We created seven new ranking indicators using data for fiscal year 2019-2020, each weighted 0.0025. See indicators below.

  • Number of hours per day law students have access to library study space during regular semester and exam schedules.
  • Number of hours per week law students have access to real-time reference/research/library services during the regular semester schedule.
  • Total number of licensed or owned digital/electronic databases available to law students as members of the larger college or university.
  • Total number of titles available to law students.
  • Ratio of full-time equivalent professional and paraprofessional library staff to full-time equivalent law students.
  • Ratio of the number of seats with library spaces to full-time equivalent law students.
  • Ratio of the total number of presentations by library staff to full-time equivalent law students.

Overall Rank

Data was standardized so that each school’s value was compared with the mean and standard deviations of all other schools, and standardized scores were weighted, totaled and rescaled so that the top school received 100; others received their percentage of the top score. Law schools were then numerically ranked in descending order based on their scores.

Schools Listed With a Ranking Range

U.S. News has individually ranked the top three-quarters of law schools. For schools in the bottom quarter of the rankings, U.S. News made an editorial decision to only display the bottom quartile ranking range and display them alphabetically.

U.S. News will supply schools listed in the ranking range with their numerical ranks if they submit a request following the procedures listed in the Information for School Officials.

World University Rankings 2020 by subject: law

The 2020 Times Higher Education World University Rankings table for law uses the same trusted and rigorous performance indicators as our overall World University Rankings, but the weightings have been recalibrated to suit the individual field.

This year’s table includes 190 universities, up from 187 last year.

View the World University Rankings 2020 by subject: law methodology

Once again, Stanford University tops the table, while the University of Cambridge rises one place to second. Yale University, the University of Oxford and the University of Chicago each climb one place to round out the top five. Harvard University drops out of the top 10, falling six places to 13th.

California’s top universities make significant progress this year, with the University of California, Berkeley joining the top 10 in joint sixth place and the University of California, Los Angeles rising seven places to 11th.

The National University of Singapore is Asia’s top representative at 15th place (up from 21st), while the University of Hong Kong is 17th (up from 22nd). Overall, six Asian institutions feature in the global top 50.

2021 U.S. News Law School Rankings

A couple of weeks ago, on a Zoom call where everything from the efficacy of face masks to whether the last two LSATs of the year would be LSAT-Flex versions (spoiler alert: yes they are) was discussed, my friend blatantly said, “I’ll only go to law school if I get accepted to Harvard.” Switch out “Harvard” for any Ivy League and you get a mindset many pre-laws (college students and non-trads alike) adopt. It doesn’t help that law school rankings seemingly reinforce that every year.

The top 14 (or, T14, if you’re on a law school forum) law schools in the 2021 U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Schools rankings hardly look different than those in the 2020 rankings. Download Blueprint’s Top Law School Guide to see what stats lef the Top 20 schools into the top 20.

Shoutout to Northwestern and UC Berkeley law schools for gaining ground over the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Duke wasn’t so lucky and fell down two spots. 

  1. 1. Yale University
  2. 2. Stanford University
  3. 3. Harvard University
  4. 4. Columbia University
  5. 4. University of Chicago
  6. 6. New York University
  7. 7. University of Pennsylvania (Carey)
  8. 8. University of Virginia
  9. 9. Northwestern University (Pritzker) (+1)
  10. 9. University of California–Berkeley (+1)
  11. 9. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
  12. 12. Duke University (-2)
  13. 13. Cornell University
  14. 14. Georgetown University

Outside of the T14 schools, there are a few more movers and shakers. 

  1. 15. University of California–Los Angeles
  2. 16. University of Texas–Austin
  3. 17. Washington University in St. Louis (+1)
  4. 18. University of Southern California (-1)
  5. 18. Vanderbilt University 
  6. 20. Boston University (+3)
  7. 21. University of Minnesota (-1)
  8. 22. University of Notre Dame (-1)
  9. 23. George Washington University (-1)
  10. 24. Arizona State University (O’Connor) (+3)
  11. 24. Emory University (+2)
  12. 24. University of Florida (Levin) (+7)
  13. 27. Fordham University (+12)
  14. 27. University of California–Irvine (-4)
  15. 27. University of Iowa
  16. 27. University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (+7)
  17. 31. Boston College (MA) (-4)
  18. 31. University of Alabama (-6)
  19. 31. University of Georgia (-4)
  20. 31. University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (+8)
  21. 31. Washington and Lee University (+3)
  22. 31. William & Mary Law School (+8)

UCLA and UT Austin are holding in their same positions as last year. But the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Fordham University, and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, and William & Mary Law School made incredible strides this year in the rankings! That’s great, right? Is it, though? Now that you know what the top law schools in the country (and probably your state) are, what should you do with this information?

Before we answer this question, let’s take a look at who compiled the U.S. News Best Law School rankings. There is, after all, a method to the madness. First, the schools must be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) because you should never go to a school that’s not ABA-accredited. From there, 40% of a school’s ranking is determined by their peers (fellow law schools, lawyers, and judges) who, you can imagine, might have some bias for whatever reason. Perception is reality, after all. Then they analyze a school’s median LSAT/GRE scores, undergraduate GPA, acceptance rate, and bar passage rate (barely). To its credit, U.S. News also looks at the student-to-faculty ratio, something that can be detrimental or advantageous to a student. It also looks at, not just a school’s placement rate, but also what kind of employment graduates had, with “real jobs” defined as full-time positions that lasted longer than a year and were not university-funded. Then they inputted all those numbers into a computer and it spat out the rankings and sent plaques to the top law schools—or so we imagine. 

If you’ve already taken the LSAT or are currently prepping and have covered logical fallacies, surely some red flags have gone off. The U.S. News and World Reports Law School rankings are not the end-all-be-all. They are not the guide to your future success. It’s a flawed system of award and recognition and probably one big conspiracy to sell university hoodies at a premium. Everyone thinks they need to go to Yale or Harvard or Columbia. 

Which brings me back to my friend. After testing her Ivy-League resolve, I found out she was only striving for Harvard because of the success she perceived the school’s name on her law degree would afford her. And she’s not entirely wrong—according to recent data, 97% of Harvard’s graduates are employed, with 87% of those positions requiring a JD. However, a law school’s prestige doesn’t consider its hefty price tag and your future success and overall happiness. Even if your state school isn’t “good enough” to make it onto U.S. News’ Best Law Schools list, that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for you. 

So what should you do with the 2021 law school rankings? Take them into consideration. Then take your LSAT. The fact is, if you’re set on going to a top law school, you’ll need a top LSAT score. The median LSAT scores of the top 5 law schools are 173, 171, 173, 172, and 170, respectively. While law school admissions are a holistic process, it doesn’t hurt to have a competitive LSAT score. You can check your chances of admission with your GPA and find out what LSAT score you’ll need for a certain school using Blueprint’s Law School Compass. Once you have a goal score in mind, it’s time to get your LSAT prep in order; whether it’s a self-paced LSAT prep or an instructor-led class, the choice is yours. 

Choosing a law school isn’t easy. Don’t stress over law school rankings more than you have to. The last thing you want to do is go to a school that has prestige, but ultimately makes you unhappy or doesn’t offer you opportunities in the type of law you want to practice. Focus on your GPA, your LSAT score, and finding a law school that fits your goals, personality, and doesn’t drown you into debt. Use rankings strategically to find schools you think you might be interested in and how competitive your LSAT score needs to be. And remember: law school is four years but you have a lifetime to be a powerful attorney! 

How to Prepare for and Apply to Law School

Are you considering a legal career? Determining whether you should apply for law school is a big decision, but U.S. News is here to help.

As an unbiased resource, we provide advice based on data and expert interviews to help prospective law school students make an informed decision about their education.

Explore U.S. News’ library of resources, which covers what to ask law school admissions officers, the pros and cons of attending an unaccredited law school, and what to do should you receive a dreaded rejection letter.

Create a free U.S. News account and use our My Schools tool, where you can save schools and track your application status.

How Long Is Law School?

A full-time Juris Doctor program usually lasts three years, while part-time programs stretch into four years or more. Accelerated programs can be completed in as little as two years.

How To Get Into Law School

Admission to the programs that top U.S. News’ Best Law Schools tends to be competitive.

There are some things you can do to help yourself stand out in the applicant pool, however. Academic performance is crucial to determining whether you are admitted into law school. So regardless of any extracurricular activities, make sure to study so you can earn good grades and a good LSAT score.

Compelling extracurriculars and academic projects can set you apart from other law school hopefuls, as can strong letters of recommendation, work experience, and a clear argument in your personal statement for why you want to pursue a J.D.

What Do You Learn in Law School and Why Enroll?

Law students learn how to think like lawyers. They can expect to study complex cases that involve gray areas of the law, allowing arguments to be made for both sides.

Students who have a knack for thinking logically and an interest in analyzing and solving complicated problems may be good J.D. candidates.

Before you apply for and enroll in law school, decide whether you really want a career in law – and not just for the potential salary or because you made good grades during undergrad.

If you are serious about entering the legal profession, research different types of law and have a clear picture of what you want to do. Having a focused professional goal may help you determine which school might best prepare you.

Is Law School Worth it?

Law school may be worth it for you if you can’t imagine doing anything other than practicing law in some form. But other factors at play include the perceived value of a legal education: How well does law school prepare you for your career, and what’s your financial investment in a J.D.?

Consider weighing the cost of the law schools you are applying to – and the amount of debt you’d accrue to attend – against the typical starting salaries of recent graduates from those programs.

How Much Does Law School Cost?

Like with other higher education programs, the cost of law school can vary depending on whether a school is private or public and whether you’d be paying in-state or out-of-state tuition.

According to the U.S. News annual survey of full-time law school programs in the 2019-2020 academic year, tuition ranged from $72,465 at the private Columbia University to $13,134 in-state at the public University of the District of Columbia (Clarke). In this survey, the average tuition for a full-time law program was $49,548 at a private university, $28,264 for in-state students at a public university and $41,726 for out-of-state students at a public university.

Law school hopefuls shouldn’t overlook potential scholarship opportunities, grants and other tuition help that could be available to help offset expenses.

When Should I Apply to Law School?

Law school application deadlines vary from school to school but usually come during the early weeks of the spring semester. This doesn’t mean you should wait until the new year to apply, though; applying before winter break could give you a better chance of being accepted.

Applying for law school is a process that involves studying for and taking the LSAT, requesting transcripts from schools you attended and uploading them to the Law School Admission Council’s Credential Assembly Service, writing a personal statement and a resume, and securing letters of recommendation.

Following a month-by-month plan can help you stay on top of deadlines and ensure you’re not scrambling to get everything done at the last minute.

About the author

The Editorial Team at is dedicated to providing the best information on learning. From attaining a certificate in marketing to earning an MBA, we have all you need. If you feel lost, reach out to an admission officer.
Study on Scholarship Today -- Check your eligibility for up to 100% scholarship.

Leave a Comment