2020 Best Graduate Schools Badge

25 Best Law Schools 2020

By the GradReports team | Updated 4/1/2020

These are the 25 best law schools in the country based on alumni median salaries one year after graduating. Graduates of Columbia University's law school were the highest earners, with a median salary of $180,300. Law school alumni of New York University and University of Pennsylvania are not far behind, with median salaries of $175,800 and $175,100 respectively. To be considered for this program ranking, schools needed to have a reported median salary for graduates with a professional degree in law.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education in November 2019. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

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Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Location Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 New York (NY) New York (NY) $52,924 $165,314 $180,300
#2 #2 New York (NY) New York (NY) $38,206 $183,857 $175,800
#3 #3 Philadelphia (PA) Philadelphia (PA) $42,932 $149,729 $175,100
#4 #4 Evanston (IL) Evanston (IL) $56,567 $156,418 $171,900
#5 #5 Chicago (IL) Chicago (IL) $63,936 $146,806 $170,500
#6 #6 Cambridge (MA) Cambridge (MA) $52,170 $133,617 $158,200
#7 #7 Stanford (CA) Stanford (CA) $55,011 $120,410 $156,700
#8 #8 Charlottesville (VA) Charlottesville (VA) $33,520 $158,376 $151,500
#9 #9 Berkeley (CA) Berkeley (CA) $29,262 $151,136 $135,400
#10 #10 Ann Arbor (MI) Ann Arbor (MI) $50,464 $145,182 $126,800
#11 #11 Nashville (TN) Nashville (TN) $52,162 $129,030 $108,800
#12 #12 Washington D.C. Washington D.C. $55,128 $163,688 $105,000
#13 #13 Bronx (NY) Bronx (NY) $23,846 $151,250 $99,000
#14 #14 Los Angeles (CA) Los Angeles (CA) $28,138 $121,453 $96,600
#15 #15 Austin (TX) Austin (TX) $22,944 $106,598 $90,100
#16 #16 Los Angeles (CA) Los Angeles (CA) $61,396 $129,223 $89,300
#17 #17 Chestnut Hill (MA) Chestnut Hill (MA) $32,722 $100,594 $88,300
#18 #18 Boston (MA) Boston (MA) $59,418 $110,891 $81,200
#19 #19 St. Louis (MO) St. Louis (MO) $58,288 $81,500 $79,800
#20 #20 Dallas (TX) Dallas (TX) $35,802 $134,484 $75,600
#21 #21 Notre Dame (IN) Notre Dame (IN) $58,662 $130,589 $75,500
#22 #22 Washington D.C. Washington D.C. $32,904 $163,300 $74,300
#23 #23 Irvine (CA) Irvine (CA) $28,458 $119,986 $68,700
#24 #24 Storrs (CT) Storrs (CT) $42,237 $69,085 $68,600
#25 #25 Houston (TX) Houston (TX) $18,871 $92,067 $67,600

2020 Best Colleges Highlights

Median Salary $180,300
Median Debt $165,314
Annual Tuition $52,924

Columbia Law School’s JD degree program emphasizes a diverse community and high intellectual standards. Accepted students will experience a commitment to teaching and training with opportunities in clinics, simulations, policy labs, international partnerships, and dual and joint degree options. Externships, which provide experiential learning, present students with actual clients for whom they tackle real legal problems. Externships include arts and entertainment law, criminal appeals, immigrant youth advocacy, and the United Nations.

Students begin their three years of study with foundation courses such as Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Law; students can take an elective course in the spring semester, with nearly a dozen course options. The second- and third-year curricula emphasize professional responsibility, writing, experiential practice, and a minimum of 40 hours of mandatory pro bono service. Advanced course options are extensive so as to provide for the various specialties in the legal field such as Environmental Law, Gender and Sexuality Law, and Taxation. Interested applicants are required to submit scores for either the LSAT or the GRE. Candidates should demonstrate strong leadership, initiative, and motivation.

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#2
New York (NY)
Median Salary $175,800
Median Debt $183,857
Annual Tuition $38,206

The New York University School of Law’s JD degree prepares students for a career in global and international law, business law, or public interest law, and provides real-world experience through its clinics and study abroad opportunities. Students participate in a colloquium, which is a series of free-flowing workshops on a given subject. Students also interact with faculty and invited guests both in and outside of the classroom. NYU’s School of Law hosts 32 institutes, where students may network and find conference and fellowship opportunities. Institutes include specialty areas like cybersecurity, human rights, economics, and migration policy. In addition to the unique coursework, students can seek funded summer internships working with government and nonprofit organizations. JD students experience faculty mentorship and personalized career services.

Those interested in a dual degree option may earn a master’s degree and JD in four years or pursue a dual PhD. Options for dual degrees include international law, French studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, and partner programs through Harvard Kennedy School or Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Applicants are required to submit LSAT scores.

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#3
Philadelphia (PA)
Median Salary $175,100
Median Debt $149,729
Annual Tuition $42,932

Philadelphia is home to the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School—otherwise known as Penn Law. Students will enter a collaborative community that values cross-disciplinary study and practical skills. Each student’s academic experience will include pro bono work through the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC), including practical learning with over 350 clients representing various specialty areas.

With 11 centers and institutes, accepted JD candidates have opportunities to study abroad, participate in live-client clinics and field placements, and interact in simulated legal situations. They work in externships at various nonprofits and government agencies. Classes include a mix of discussion and research with guest speakers from top universities, and even the United Nations and World Bank. Dozens of dual degree options are also available; Penn Law partners with several campus graduate schools, including Penn Engineering, the Perelman School of Medicine, and the Fels Institute of Government. Students are required to submit a GRE, GMAT, or LSAT score.

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#4
Evanston (IL)
Median Salary $171,900
Median Debt $156,418
Annual Tuition $56,567

Students pursuing a JD degree at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law must earn 85 semester credit hours in six to seven semesters. Candidates may choose the traditional degree or a dual degree with a master’s in business, taxation, international human rights, or a PhD program for those interested in a career in research or academia. Students seeking to work abroad post-graduation will find Northwestern JD programs in Madrid and Paris.

Beginning classes cover basic foundations, including civil procedure, constitutional law, and contracts. Required classes, such as Communication and Legal Reasoning, emphasize teamwork and collaboration. Coursework includes classes in research writing, independent study, and professional writing. Students will have the opportunity to publish in the law school’s scholarly journals, participate in court simulations, pursue a practicum, and choose from an extensive list of elective courses such as Estates and Trusts, First Amendment, or Constitutional Criminal Procedure. Upperclassmen may choose a concentration in Appellate Law, Business Enterprise, Civil Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Environmental Law, International Law, or Law and Social Policy.

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#5
Chicago (IL)
Median Salary $170,500
Median Debt $146,806
Annual Tuition $63,936

The University of Chicago’s School of Law is dedicated to in-depth learning, diverse ideas, and small classes that encourage frequent interaction and mentorship between students and faculty. Students are encouraged to network within a global alumni association, participate in student organizations and complete hands-on practice in the field of law. All students are required to complete eight credits of experiential learning, which includes seminars, a faculty-led practicum, and law clinics.

First-year students take five fundamental courses covering the legal areas of property, criminal law, civil procedure, contracts, and torts. Furthermore, JD students will take a course called Elements of Law, a unique class that emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of law; students will learn how the law intersects with philosophy, economics, psychology, and political theory. Every first-year student prepares an appellate brief and must argue their case before a court of faculty judges. Upper-level courses focus on specialized areas, including health law, labor law, and equality and human rights. Interested candidates must submit their LSAT, GRE, or GMAT score.

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