If you’re preparing to apply to law schools in the United States, you are most certainly eager to know which are the best universities and colleges.
Law school rankings from America are by far the most stable ones, which have barely changed in the last 20 years. Very often, the only difference is the order of the first ten universities, which is slightly different every year. You could say that the only thing that matters is that you got admitted to a top law school in the US, no matter which one it is.
On the other hand, some of you have to follow the family tradition and go to a specific college, the one from which all your family members graduated. For others, it is important to get admitted to one of the top three or top five from the ranking.
One thing is sure, though: American law schools and colleges have a long and outstanding tradition in excellent academic teaching. While it is important to take note of these annual rankings, you should make your final decision based on multiple criteria set by your own judgement.
Best law schools in the U.S. in 2020
According to the U.S. News, these are the best law schools in America in 2020:
- Yale University
- Stanford University
- Harvard University
- Columbia University
- University of Chicago
- New York University
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Virginia
- Northwestern University
- University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
If you want to know what former students of these top law schools think about their experience, here are some of their reviews:
How to get into the best law school in the United States
You should know that compared to Europe, law schools in the United States have different requirements. These are the steps you need to follow during the admission:
- Complete a Bachelor's degree – it can be related to Law studies, but that is not mandatory. Law schools accept all candidates that finished a Bachelor's degree, regardless of their former fields of study.
- Take the LSAT – an official exam that tests your critical and analytical abilities – necessary for further pursuing a Law degree.
- Decide on two or three law schools and start applying.
Types of Law degrees in the U.S.
All law schools in the US, both public and private, grant the J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree that is required to practice law in the country. A J.D program involves three years of study for full-time Law students and four years for part-time students.
Master of Laws (L.L.M.)
A Master of Laws degree is a one-year full-time study course after finishing a J.D. program. An L.L.M. is designated for those students that want to further improve the knowledge of a particular area of law or for foreign students that need to additionally adjust to the U.S. legal system.
Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)
The Doctor of Judicial Science degree is similar to a usual PhD program and it is the highest academic degree in the legal field. An S.J.D. lasts three years and is more often pursued by students who are interested in teaching Law. However, most law schools from the States provide a small number of S.J.D. programs.
Teaching style and curriculum at U.S. law schools
During the three or four years of studying Law, you will have classes that will cover topics such as administrative law, legal theory, analytical legal methods, bankruptcy, business law and ethics, civil rights, constitutional law and much more.
Between the 2nd and 3rd year, most local and international students in the United States engage in an internship program in order to gain practical experience that can sometimes lead to a future job after graduation.
Beginning with the 3rd year, you can choose elective courses tailored for the particular Law specialization that will define your future career.
Specializations in Law in the United States include:
Law degree studies use the Socratic method
A popular practice in terms of teaching and learning style in all law schools from the USA is called the Socrates method.
Following the premises of the antic philosopher that had the habit of asking and debating different people about various philosophical ideas, law teachers from the U.S. are known to challenge students to analyze and present arguments to various law issues, similar to stating a case in court.
Although this is not an easy task for students, American teachers consider it is the best tool to prepare future law professionals to be critical, analytical and quick problem-solvers.
Passing the bar exam to become a lawyer in the U.S.
After successfully finishing Law school, you have to take one more step that will help you to become a genuine lawyer, and that is passing the bar exam.
You can take the bar exam in any state, but you have to select the exact state where you plan to practice law. Each state has its own rules for bar admission and once you are admitted in one state, most often you will only be allowed to work as a lawyer in that state only.
There are some exceptions, as some states have signed agreements in this sense, giving law professionals the right to practice without having to take another bar exam.
Why become a lawyer in the U.S.?
You've probably heard a thousand reasons why being a lawyer in America is so intense and fascinating. To start with, the U.S. is a big country and that inevitably leads to numerous career possibilities. Second, the legal system of the States is by far the most transparent, challenging, surprising and straightforward – all at the same time.
Last, but not least, the lawyer profession is extremely rewarding from any point of view. Financially, the annual income of a “fresh” lawyer starts at around 160,000 USD. Morally speaking, you will get to be an every-day hero for many people and actually make a difference in their lives.