Top Rated Law School - Arlington, VA

Students interested in studying law in Arlington, Virginia, have several schools to choose from. Read about the top local schools' degree programs, tuition, and ranking info to find the right one for you.

School and Ranking Information

Within the area surrounding Arlington, Virginia, which includes the District of Columbia, there are about 7 options for students interested in studying law at the graduate level. Based on national law school rankings, the top 3 law schools in the area are ranked below.

In order to practice law in Virginia, one must complete a Juris Doctor (JD) degree program from a school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) and pass the Virginia Bar Examination and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. All top-3 schools profiled are accredited by the ABA.

  • Winner: Georgetown University School of Law, commonly referred to as Georgetown Law, is ranked among the top 20 U.S. law schools, and the university is ranked in the top 25 nationally. GU offers JD, Master of Laws (LLM) and Doctor of Juridical Science degree programs.
  • Runner-Up #1: The George Washington University School of Law is ranked in the top 25 law schools in the nation and offers JD, LLM and Doctor of Juridical Science programs.
  • Runner-Up #2: The Washington College of Law at American University is ranked 56th among best law schools in the United States, and AU is ranked 77th among top universities. This school also offers JD, LLM and Doctor of Juridical Science degree programs.

School Comparison Chart

Category Georgetown University George Washington University American University
Rankings (2013) 14th among best law schools, nationwide**, 21st among top national universities** 21st among best law schools, nationwide** 56th among best law schools, nationwide**, 77th among top national universities**
Location Washington, District of Columbia (3.3 miles from Arlington)* Washington, District of Columbia (4.1 miles from Arlington)* Washington, District of Columbia (4.9 miles from Arlington)*
School Type 4-year private, not-for-profit* 4-year private, not-for-profit* 4-year private, not-for-profit*
Law School Tuition & Fees in 2013 $34,600 per year (part-time), 48,835 per year (full-time)** $36,795 per year (part-time), $47,535 per year (full-time)** $32,812 per year (part-time), $46,794 per year (full-time)**
Law Levels Offered Juris Doctor, Master of Laws, Doctor of Juridical Science Juris Doctor, Master of Laws, Doctor of Juridical Science Juris Doctor, Master of Laws, Doctor of Juridical Science
Law Degrees/Certificates Awarded (All Levels) in 2011-2012 1,083* 879* 623*
Most Popular Law Program in 2011-2012 Doctoral degree in law (625 awarded)* Doctoral degree in law (575 awarded)* Doctoral degree in law (468 awarded)*

Sources: *NCES College Navigator, **U.S. News & World Report.

Winner: Georgetown University

  • Law school has the largest full-time faculty of law schools in the country, according to the school
  • U.S. News & World Report ranked 7 of Georgetown's individual law programs in 2013: #1 for clinical training, #1 for part-time law, #2 for tax law, #3 for international law, #8 for trial advocacy, #9 for healthcare law, and #9 for environmental law
  • Member of the Association of American Law Schools
  • Has 2 law libraries
  • Law School has 17 relevant centers, like the Center for the Constitution and the Institute for Public Representation

In 2013, Georgetown University's Law School enrolled nearly 2,000 students, the majority of whom attended full-time, according to U.S. News & World Report. The law campus is located near the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court. Juris Doctor (JD) students can choose upper-level topics of study in about 27 areas, including constitutional law, labor law, taxation, education law, environmental law, and family law. Practical experience in applying legal principles, thinking skills, and ethics is obtained through practicum courses, externships, and clinics. If attending full-time, the JD takes 3 years to complete, and part-time students can graduate in 4 years. Several special programs, like certificate programs, the Public Interest Law Scholars program, and the Global Law Scholars program are available. Juris Doctor students may also complete joint degree programs in business administration, foreign service, philosophy, and more.

Georgetown also has several programs for current lawyers. It offers many Master of Laws (LLM) programs, in areas like global health law, taxation, international business and economics, and international legal studies. LLM students can complete an externship. In addition, the school offers certificate programs in areas like employee benefits law and international human rights law that can be completed in conjunction with an LLM program, or as standalone programs (LLM students can only complete one certificate during their degree program). Georgetown also has a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degree program that is focused on legal research and academic scholarship and requires a dissertation.

Runner-Up #1: George Washington University

  • U.S. News & World Report ranked 3 of GW's individual law programs in 2013: #2 for part-time law, #4 for intellectual property law, and #7 for international law
  • GWU's law school has 7 research centers and institutes
  • The law school offers over 275 electives
  • Students may work on production, editing, and management of 8 law journals

Juris Doctor law students take required courses in legal research and writing, contracts, torts, constitutional law, and advocacy. Through coursework, they can choose to specialize their degree in intellectual property law, litigation and dispute resolution, or national security law. Students are not required to specialize their law degree, but are encouraged to take coursework from the many different sides of law. GWU has several law-specific research centers, including the Competitive Law Center, which focuses on national policy issues and international law enforcement.

The Master of Laws (LLM) degree programs all consist of 24 credit hours, 4 of which encompass the thesis. There are 11 LLM program options, which include government procurement law, international environmental law, and business and finance law. The Doctor of Juridical Science is competitive and admits few students. It is known for being a very specialized, research-oriented program.

Runner-Up #2: American University

  • U.S. News & World Report ranked 4 of AU's specialty law programs in 2013: #2 for clinical training, #5 for international law, #8 for intellectual property law, and #10 for part-time law
  • In 2011-2012, 90% of the doctoral degrees conferred upon AU students were in law, per NCES

The law programs at AU are housed within the Washington College of Law. While the 1st-year law curriculum for the Juris Doctor includes core courses, 2nd- and 3rd-year law students choose electives of their interest and participate in clinical programs where they actively practice every aspect of law, from witness preparation to gathering litigation documents. Students get hands-on legal research and litigation experience through the Supervised Externship Program, and they may also complete an independent study and fieldwork. JD students are also encouraged to participate in law journals, including the 'Human Rights Brief' and 'Business Law Brief.'

The LLM in Advocacy is offered by the Stephen S. Weinstein Trial Advocacy Program and provides students with many opportunities for externships and teaching opportunities. The LLM in International Legal Studies offer concentrations in areas like intellectual property law, international trade laws, regional trade agreements, and international organizations, while the LLM in Law and Government includes specializations in environmental law and policy, health law and policy, and civil and constitutional rights, among many others.

AU also offers the research SJD, which accepts students practicing in countries around the world, and dual-degree programs where students can receive an LLM and combine that degree with one in international affairs, justice, business, public policy, or public administration.


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