Every year, U.S. News and World Report releases law school rankings of the nation’s top law schools – and its rankings are arguably the most popular and influential in the education sphere. Although U.S. News and World Report rankings are not the only authority on law schools, they are the determinant of the famous “top 14” law schools in the U.S., so we’ll be referencing them for this post.
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T14 Law Schools
The top 14 law schools are often abbreviated as the T14. Each year, individual schools usually shift up or down the law school rankings, and there can be significant differences in a school’s ranking from one year to the next. But in general, the pack running in the T14 remains the same.
The top 14 law schools share a number of common characteristics; notably, they have the most competitive admissions standards, offer the most reputable “brand names,” and place graduates nationally—rather than just locally—at law firms, nonprofits, and government agencies. Consequently, students vie for spots in the T14 because of the competitive advantage these schools offer to graduates entering the job market.
Of course, even within the T14, there are sub-rankings. The three top law schools (Yale, Harvard, and Stanford) are often referenced together. Schools ranked #4 through #6 (Chicago, Columbia, and New York) tend to fall in their own group, too. In contrast, schools ranked outside of these circles tend to trade spots with more regularity, so they aren’t typically grouped beyond their T14 designation.
Top 14 Law School Rankings
For a quick glance, here are the T14 schools for 2021. Click on the links in the table below to jump to the details for each school.
|4 (tie)||Columbia University|
|4 (tie)||University of Chicago|
|6||New York University|
|7||University of Pennsylvania|
|8||University of Virginia|
|9 (tie)||Northwestern University|
|9 (tie)||University of California--Berkeley|
|9 (tie)||University of Michigan--Ann Arbor|
Now, let’s take a closer look at what these top law schools have to offer and what you need to get accepted.
1. Yale University
Law students like Yale Law for its small class sizes, wide variety of student organizations, and the fact that they don’t receive traditional grades! Moreover, Yale Law boasts more than 20 clinics where students can get hands-on legal experience prior to graduation.
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Tuition and fees: $66,128 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 8.2%
2. Stanford University
Located in beautiful Palo Alto, Stanford Law is tied for number 1 for intellectual property law. Featuring a superb student to faculty ratio of 4:1, Stanford is an excellent choice for students looking for individual attention at a top 14 law school.
Location: Palo Alto, California
Tuition and fees: $64,554 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 9.7%
3. Harvard University
On the whole, Harvard Law graduates (and their LSAT scores) tend to be pretty impressive. (We’re looking at you, President Obama!) But with its non-traditional grading structure and innovative approach to getting students hands-on experience early through Student Practice Organizations, it’s no surprise that Harvard Law students are an awe-inspiring bunch.
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Tuition and fees: $67,081 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 12.5%
4. Columbia University (tie)
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in international law, then Columbia Law School should be at the top of your list. Columbia Law ranks third for international law, offers a variety of chances to study and work abroad, and even earn an international dual degree.
Location: New York, New York
Tuition and fees: $72,465 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 15.9%
4. University of Chicago (tie)
Near the shores of Lake Michigan in the Hyde Park neighborhood, the University of Chicago Law School prides itself on educating socially conscious lawyers. With its unique setting in one of the largest cities in America, this top 14 law school offers a chance for law students to study at a top school in an urban setting.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Tuition and fees: $66,651 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 18.6%
6. New York University
Located in New York City, New York University School of Law is ranked #1 for tax law. If tax law strikes your fancy, or if the Big Apple is calling your name, NYU is the perfect spot for you.
Location: New York, New York
Tuition and fees: $68,934 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 21.6%
7. University of Pennsylvania
With a focus on pro bono hours (70 hours are required prior to graduation), the University of Pennsylvania offers a well-rounded, service-minded legal education. Students have the option to complete dual degrees with other reputable schools, like Penn’s Wharton School.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tuition and fees: $67,998 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 14.5%
8. University of Virginia
As the second oldest, continuously open law school in the U.S., the University of Virginia is steeped in tradition, but this long history does not mean the school’s focus is solely on traditional areas of law. For example, the school offers a variety of legal clinics and programs focused on current legal topics, such as the Center for Oceans Law and Policy.
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Tuition and fees: $63,200 (in-state, full-time) / $66,200 per year (out-of-state, full time)
Acceptance rate: 14.7%
9. Northwestern University (tie)
Three years of law school sound too long? Then Northwestern University should be your first choice among the top 14 law schools. Northwestern Law offers an accelerated, two-year program, so you can minimize your student loans and get into the courtroom sooner.
Location: Chicago, IL
Tuition and fees: $66,806 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 18%
9. University of California – Berkeley (tie)
If beautiful beaches and intellectual property are your passions, then UC Berkeley is the law school for you. And even if you’re more public service-minded, the University of California – Berkeley is worth considering as it contains the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice and boasts a robust pro bono program.
Location: Berkeley, California
Tuition and fees: $52,017 per year (in-state, full-time) / $55,346 per year (out-of-state, full time)
Acceptance rate: 20%
9. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (tie)
Ranked #6 in the country for clinical training, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor law school makes experiential learning a top priority. In addition to the wide range of clinics available, there are a number of journals and clubs for students to join and feel a part of the community.
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Tuition and fees: $64,944 per year (in-state, full-time) / $62,762 per year (out-of-state, full time)
Acceptance rate: 16.6%
12. Duke University
Located in beautiful Durham, North Carolina, it’s easy to see why Duke Law is a competitive school to get into. However, its easy access to the mountains and beach might make it difficult to study! If you’re interested in a career in public service, check out the Duke in D.C. program, which allows students to spend a semester in the nation’s political center.
Location: Durham, North Carolina
Tuition and fees: $67,358 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 18.9%
13. Cornell University
Cornell University offers a unique approach to educating law students on not only the theory of law, but also the practical side of being a lawyer. For instance, all first-year law students participate in small groups in the Lawyering Program, which incorporates skills like client counseling and interviewing into the 1L curriculum. In sum, if you’re hoping to graduate with lots of practical experience (and maybe even hang your own shingle!), you should strongly consider Cornell University.
Location: Ithaca, New York
Tuition and fees: $67,833 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 21.3%
14. Georgetown University
Georgetown Law offers a unique opportunity to study where all federal laws are created. With loads of clinical opportunities, in addition to countless options to work on the hill, Georgetown Law is an obvious choice for any student interested in a legal career with the government.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Tuition and fees: $64,548 per year (full-time)
Acceptance rate: 19.5%
Now that you’ve got an idea of who makes up the T14 schools for 2021, let’s dig in a little more into how you can make yourself competitive for a spot at these schools.
Getting into a T14 School
When choosing a law school to apply to, it’s helpful to know your chances of getting in ahead of time. As with undergrad, you’ll want to have a few reach schools and some safety schools.
Review the LSAT scores for the top 100 law schools to help determine your chances of getting into the T14 and other law schools. While your LSAT score is one of the most important pieces of your application, it’s not all.
In fact, admissions committees hone in on the other parts of applications as a way of learning more about the whole student. For example, the Faculty Chair of the Admissions Committee for Stanford Law, Robert Rabin, pointed out in an interview for the Stanford Lawyer that reviewing law school applicants is “very interesting because it gives [him] a sense of the applicants…the personal statements, the range of activities, and the experiences that they’ve had.”
To sum up, don’t overlook these parts of your application, especially at the T14 schools. In fact, you need to spend extra time on these elements to demonstrate what makes you stand out from the pack. And if you’re still unsure, carefully review which majors are best for law school and get the best grades you can. Everything you can do now will help increase your chances of getting into a top school.
In short, competition is steep to get into the top 14 law schools. However, these schools have superb academic programs, including the top clinical programs, and strong records of job placement after law school. Therefore, be sure to get your LSAT score as high as possible to increase your chances of admittance to the T14.