US News and World Report recently published its annual (2022) law school evaluations and ranking of United States law schools. The top ten, in order of rank, are Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, New York University, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Berkeley, and Duke. The 2022 top ten rankings are virtually unchanged from the 2021 ranking.
US News considered many subjective and objective factors, including 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.
Law School Opportunities
There are many excellent law schools in the United States, making a ranking difficult if not arbitrary and artificial. Ideally, curriculum and teaching quality are significant, if not most important, factors for evaluating law schools, at least insofar as law students are concerned. In fact, in some cases, the rankings are hard to reconcile with the reported statistics. For example, the schools, in addition to their overall ranking, are ranked according to specialties. Number 1 Yale ranked above third place in just one specialty. Number 2 Stanford also ranked above third place in just one specialty. Number 3 Harvard ranked above third place in 6 specialties. Number 4 Columbia ranked above third place in 2 specialties.
Law schools compete for the top students because they improve the school’s ranking. From the standpoint of a law school candidate, a school’s ratio of accepted to total applicants is an important consideration. While making applications, they must be realistic. According to the US News report, the top-tier schools report a relatively low acceptance rate between 10% and 17%. Middle-ranked schools report acceptance rates of about 50%. Some lower-tier schools have acceptance rates as high as 80%.
Aspiring law students aim to be accepted somewhere, and then they can be choosy. The best advice is to apply to 3 categories of acceptance rates: low, moderate, and high. Don’t be discouraged by rejection. It has been said that, as a general matter, top students become law school professors, second-level students become judges, the rest practice law. Most people are in the last category. They can get an excellent legal education at any one of many law schools and enjoy a fulfilling professional career in whatever role they choose.