2021 U.S. News Law School Rankings
- Jul 28, 2020
- 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. 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. Yale University
- 2. Stanford University
- 3. Harvard University
- 4. Columbia University
- 4. University of Chicago
- 6. New York University
- 7. University of Pennsylvania (Carey)
- 8. University of Virginia
- 9. Northwestern University (Pritzker) (+1)
- 9. University of California–Berkeley (+1)
- 9. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
- 12. Duke University (-2)
- 13. Cornell University
- 14. Georgetown University
Outside of the T14 schools, there are a few more movers and shakers.
- 15. University of California–Los Angeles
- 16. University of Texas–Austin
- 17. Washington University in St. Louis (+1)
- 18. University of Southern California (-1)
- 18. Vanderbilt University
- 20. Boston University (+3)
- 21. University of Minnesota (-1)
- 22. University of Notre Dame (-1)
- 23. George Washington University (-1)
- 24. Arizona State University (O’Connor) (+3)
- 24. Emory University (+2)
- 24. University of Florida (Levin) (+7)
- 27. Fordham University (+12)
- 27. University of California–Irvine (-4)
- 27. University of Iowa
- 27. University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (+7)
- 31. Boston College (MA) (-4)
- 31. University of Alabama (-6)
- 31. University of Georgia (-4)
- 31. University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (+8)
- 31. Washington and Lee University (+3)
- 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!
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