Aspiring lawyers must graduate from one of the 200 schools accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). Over the course of a Juris Doctor (JD) program, students can expect to study topics in economics, federal and state law, history, public speaking, philosophy and government.
Top Law Schools
According to the U.S. News and World Report's 2016 rankings of the best law schools, these are the top ten universities for aspiring lawyers:
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Tuition and fees (2015-2016)*|
|Yale University||New Haven, CT||Private||$58,050|
|Harvard University||Cambridge, MA||Private||$58,242|
|Stanford University||Stanford, CA||Private||$56,274|
|Columbia University||New York, NY||Private||$62,700|
|University of Chicago||Chicago, IL||Private||$56,916|
|New York University||New York, NY||Private||$59,330|
|University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||Private||$58,918|
|University of California - Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||Public||$48,679 in-state, $52,630 out-of-state|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor, MI||Public||$53,112 in-state, $56,112 out-of-state|
|University of Virginia||Charlottesville, VA||Public||$54,000 in-state, $57,000 out-of-state|
Sources: *U.S. News and World Report
School Selection Criteria
Considerations when choosing a law school include:
- Students may want to look for law schools that provide clinics or externships in their particular area of interest, as these programs provide law students with real-world experience in the field.
- Students may want to find out whether the school has relationships with local law firms, which can provide networking opportunities that can lead to summer jobs or employment after graduation.
- Students who want to focus their studies in a particular subfield may want to consider law schools that offer specific concentrations, such as environmental law, constitutional law, medical law, business law, corporate law, real estate law and international law.
- Aspiring lawyers with diverse academic interests may look for schools that offer dual degree programs, allowing students to pursue a law degree while also earning a graduate degree in medicine, business or public health.
Juris Doctor (JD) Degree
After finishing a four-year undergraduate degree, aspiring lawyers must complete three years of law school, leading to a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. In these three-year programs, students experience a broad introduction to the legal field beginning with general theory courses in the first year. In the second and third years, students may start to take elective courses in particular interest areas, and they gain extensive experience with legal writing. Some schools offer JD candidates the chance to choose a concentration or earn a certificate in a particular topic, such as criminal justice, tax law, health law or dispute resolution. Interested students may also find schools that allow them to earn a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree alongside the JD degree. A less extensive alternative is a simultaneous graduate certificate in an outside interest area such as health ethics, education policy or community processes. Upon graduation from a JD program, students are prepared to take the state's BAR examination, which must be passed in order to practice law.
If you want to become a lawyer, you can maximize your chance for career success by choosing a top-ranked school that offers ample work experiences and specialization opportunities.