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Top Law Colleges in USA

Sonal Vaid Sonal Vaid
Study Abroad Expert

Law studies in USA is a professional graduate entry degree. This means that the law programs offered are usually equivalent to a graduate degree in other parts of the world. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), there are a total of 202 ABA approved law colleges in USA. 

Law Enrollment in USA (Fall 2016- Fall 2019)
  • According to QS Law Rankings 2020, there are a total of 50 top American universities that are among the top 100 law colleges in the world. 
  • According to ABA, for Fall 2019, there has been an increase of 2.0% in student enrollment at law colleges in USA.
  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), the employment estimate for legal occupations in USA is 1,150,780 with an annual mean wage of 109,630 USD. 
  • The entry level annual salaries of law graduates in legal firms in USA range between 58,000- 70,000 USD.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth in the American job market for lawyers is expected to grow by 8% through 2026.

Top Law Colleges in USA

With a number of universities ranking among best law colleges of the world, the table below shows the top law colleges according to QS Rankings 2020 for world class higher education in America:

QS Law Rankings 2020University NameLaw SchoolPrograms Offered
1Harvard UniversityHarvard Law SchoolJD
LLM
SJD
Joint Programs
4Yale UniversityYale Law SchoolJD
LLM
JSD
Master of Studies in Law (MSL)
Ph.D. in Law
Joint Degrees
5Stanford UniversityStanford Law SchoolJD
LLM
JSD
Stanford Program in International Legal Studies (SPILS)
Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
8University of California, BerkeleyUC Berkeley School of LawJD
LLM
JSD
Ph.D. (Jurisprudence & Social Policy- JSP Program)
Executive Education Program
9Columbia UniversityColumbia Law SchoolJD
LLM
Executive LLM in Global Business Law
JSD
10New York University (NYU)NYU School of LawJD
LLM
JSD
Executive LLM in Taxation
MSL in Taxation
Advanced Professional Certificate in Taxation
Advanced Professional Certificate in Law & Business

Top Law Colleges in USA: Degree Types and Areas of Study

Law colleges in USA generally offer three types of degree programs. However there are other law degrees as well offered at various top colleges. The US law college applications can be made for:

  • Juris Doctor J.D.-Usually a three year full-time program offered at universities. This degree allows a candidate to practice law within USA.
  • Master of Laws (LLM)- LLM in USA is usually a one year program offered to people who already have a JD or equivalent degree. Offered with various specializations, LLM helps to specialize in a specific area of legal study.
  • Master’s Degree- Include degrees such as Master of Legal Studies (MLS), Master of Studies in Law etc. These degree programs are for people who want to study law but aren't looking to become lawyers.
  • Doctor of Juridical Science J.S.D./ S.J.D.- Also referred to as Doctor of the Science of Law is an advanced and highest law degree offered in USA. A JSD/ SJD degree can be completed in three years of full-time study. This program is open only to students of respective law schools and hardly accept applications from international students. 
  • Ph.D. in Law- A three year duration program that does not always require a JD degree. Available for international students as well who want to complete a degree with required coursework and academic research.
  • Legal Certificate- Can be completed in as little as three months with online options available. 

Apart from these above mentioned programs, various law colleges in USA such as NYU School of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, University of Colorado Boulder, etc. also offer executive programs in law for professionals. 

Legal studies at top law colleges in USA follow the Socrates Method for teaching. Under this teaching method, the professor cold calls on a student to state a case and respond to case-based questions. This helps in the improvement of argumentative dialogue among students usually helpful during legal practice.

The academics for law programs are more than just coursework and include interdisciplinary intellectual dialogue, clinical experiences, first-hand lawyering, etc. There are various areas of study offering students with a wide choice of academic specializations. 

The table below shows the various areas of specialization at top law colleges in USA: 

Law SchoolAreas of Study
Harvard Law SchoolLaw & Business; Law, Science & Technology; Criminal Justice; International & Comparative Law; Law & Government; Law & History; Law & Social Change
Yale Law SchoolAdministrative; Constitutional; Corporate & Commercial; Criminal Justice; Environmental; Human Rights; International; IT & Media; Law & Health; Public Interest
Stanford Law SchoolEnvironmental Law & Policy; International Economic Law, Business & Policy; Law, Science & Technology; Corporate Governance & Practice
UC Berkeley School of LawSocial Justice/ Public Interest; Business & Start-ups; Tech/IP/Privacy; Environment + Energy; Criminal Justice; Constitutional/ Regulatory; International + Comparative
Columbia Law SchoolGender & Sexuality, Human Rights; Environment; Criminal Law; International & Comparative Law, etc.
NYU School of LawTaxation; International Law; Human Rights; Immigration Law; Criminal Law & Administration; Environmental & Energy, etc.

Top Law Colleges in USA offering Juris Doctor (J.D.)

A Juris Doctor (J.D.) in USA is a three year program offering students with the intellectual foundation for legal studies. A J.D. degree enables a graduate to practice law in USA. 

Around 202 American colleges offer Juris Doctor program. The table below shows the top US universities offering the degree:

University NameAnnual Fee (in USD)
Harvard University65875
Yale University66128
Stanford University62175
University of California, Berkeley57516
Columbia University69896
New York University (NYU)33018

Juris Doctor: Eligibility

Admissions for the Juris Doctor (JD) degree is open for the fall semester. To be eligible for Juris Doctor degree, an applicant must meet the following admission requirements:

  • bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a recognized university
  • Standardized test scores such as Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
  • Scores of English language proficiency such as TOEFL IELTS, etc. 

Documents Required:

  • Completed application form submitted through Law School Admission Council (LSAC)
  • Non-refundable application fee
  • Academic transcripts from all educational institutions attended
  • LAST or GRE scores
  • English language proficiency scores
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal Statement
  • Essay
  • LSAC Credential Assembly Service (CAS) Report sent to law school

The LSAC application is available from September 1. Although international students are advised to submit their applications early to allow enough time to apply for a student visa to USA. The LSAC applications are available till February 15.

Fees & Funding for Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree

The tuition fees for Juris Doctor degree range from 30,000- 70,000 USD per year depending on the university. Regardless of the citizenship of the student, law colleges in USA offer various financial aid options to help students finance their studies. There are various international scholarships to study in USA that are awarded by the universities, private agencies or organizations, etc. 

Top Law Colleges in USA offering Masters in Law

There are various masters in law programs offered. These include LLM (Master of Law), Master of Legal Studies, Master of Studies in Law, etc. The top law colleges in USA offering masters in law are tabulated below:

University NamePrograms OfferedDurationAnnual Fee (in USD)
Harvard UniversityLLM1 year68150
Yale UniversityLLM1 year65792
Master of Studies in Law (MSL)
Stanford UniversityLLM9 months62175
Stanford Program in International Legal Studies (SPILS)
Master of Legal Studies (MLS)1 year62175
University of California, BerkeleyLLM9 months63362
Columbia UniversityLLM2 years69896
Executive LLM in Global Business Law5 years59558
New York University (NYU)LLMUp to 5 years55040
Executive LLM in TaxationUp to 5 years59558
MSL in Taxation5 years66036

Eligibility for Masters in Law

To be eligible for LLM in USA, an applicant must meet the following admission requirements:

  • Have a recognized professional first law degree from a recognized college. These include degrees such as:
    • Juris Doctor (J.D.)
    • Bachelor of Law 
    • LLB
    • Integrated five year Bachelor of Law, or equivalent
  • Proof of English proficiency through one of the test scores of:

Documents Required:

  • Completed admission application through LSAC
  • Academic transcripts from all educational institutions attended
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Financial aid application
  • Payment of non-refundable admission application fee

NOTE- For other master programs, students need not submit a law degree. A bachelor's degree from a recognized university is acceptable. For executive master programs, an applicant might be required to provide proof of professional work experience. 

Fees & Funding for Masters in Law

The tuition fees for masters in law range from 55,000- 70,000 USD annually based on the program and university. There are a number of scholarships to study masters degree in USA that can be undertaken by a student. 

Top Law Colleges in USA offering Ph.D. in Law

Ph.D. in Law in USA is available for students who want to have a career as legal scholars and teachers. According to QS Law Rankings 2020, there are only two US law colleges among top 10 in the world that offer a Ph.D. in Law.

University NamePrograms OfferedProgram Duration
Yale UniversityPh.D. in Law3 years
University of California, BerkeleyPh.D. (Jurisprudence & Social Policy- JSP Program)5 years

Yale University: Eligibility for Ph.D. in Law

To be eligible for admissions, an applicant is required to have a J.D. degree from a US law school. Practicing experience is not required but can be useful in qualifying the admission process. 

To apply for the program, applicant must submit the following documents for admission:

  • Personal Statement
  • Research Proposal
  • Writing Sample
  • Letter of Recommendation
  • Test scores of LSAT exam
  • Academic transcripts from all educational institutions attended
  • CV
  • Payment of non-refundable application fee

UC Berkeley: Eligibility for Ph.D.

UC Berkeley offers Jurisprudence & Social Policy- JSP Program, commonly referred to as Ph.D. in Law. To be eligible for the program, an applicant is required to have an academic degree acceptable at UC Berkeley (it need not be in law). 

As part of the admission application, an applicant must submit-

  • Completed admission application
  • Academic transcripts from all educational institutions attended
  •  Scores of GRE aptitude test 
  • Letters of recommendation
  •  Statement of purpose
  • Personal statement
  • Sample of past written work
  • Scores of English language proficiency

Fee & Funding for Ph.D. in Law

The tuition fee for Ph.D. in Law ranges from 28,000- 40,000 USD per year. However, students are advised to check with the university regarding the exact tuition expenses. The candidates of Ph.D. programs at law colleges in USA usually receive a fellowship from the university to financially support their doctoral studies.

Scholarships to pursue Law in USA

Studying abroad in USA can cost a fortune as America is much more costly compared to other overseas destinations. Therefore to help students, there are a number of financial options. 

A few of the scholarships for international students available at top law colleges are:

ScholarshipUniversityScholarship Details
Jagdish Bhagwati FellowshipColumbia Law SchoolAwarded to graduate students; Awarding partial or fill funding
Employment Law ScholarshipHarvard UniversityAmount of 1,000 USD awarded to students enrolled in J.D. program
Knight-Hennessy Scholars ProgramStanford UniversityFull funding to Stanford graduate students
Asia Pacific ScholarshipUC Berkeley10,000 USD from Asian/Pacific countries (India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, etc.) enrolled in LLM program
Arthur T. Vanderbilt ScholarshipsNew York UniversityMerit-based covering full-tuition fee for master’s degree program
Podell Global Graduate Legal ScholarshipNewYork UniversityAwarded to international LLM student covering full tuition, reasonable living expenses and airfare for one round-trip to and from New York

Law Colleges in USA: Jobs and Salaries

After a law program, a graduate working in the legal sector in USA can earn around 96,200 USD per year. Salaries in the legal sector range from 52,800 USD- 149,000 USD per year. According to reports by salaryexplorer, a legal studies graduate in USA can earn 10% more than graduates working in other sectors.

The salary after graduating from top law colleges in USA differ based on the city and state of occupation. The chart below shows the average salary by American states after a law degree.

Average Salary of Law Graduates in USA

A law graduate can look for a number of jobs in USA. The table below shows a few of the jobs taken by law graduates in USA:

OccupationAverage Annual Salary (in USD)
Lawyer84,000- 126,000
Associate Attorney73,000- 94,000
General Counsel90,000- 254,000
Tax Manager71,000- 128,000
Tax Attorney59,000- 195,000
Federal Judge175,000- 203,000
Corporate Lawyer60,000- 241,000
Associate Professor of Law78,000- 128,000
Criminal Defense Lawyer48,000- 173,000
Government Attorney51,000- 151,000

Legal professionals in USA are likely to observe a salary increment of 10% every 14 months. According to the recent reports, there is a slow yet continuous increase in the salary for legal professionals. The legal sector saw an increase of 1% salary in 2019 as compared to 2018. 

This concludes that the law colleges in USA not only provide quality education but also train international students to earn attractive incomes during their careers.

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