We have just released the 11th annual ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings.
As always, Above the Law’s rankings prioritize outcomes above all other factors, as we believe that the relative quality of schools is a function of how they deliver on the promise of gainful legal employment. Ours are also the only rankings that incorporate the latest ABA employment data for the class of 2022.
If you followed the herky-jerky, hokey-pokey rollout of the U.S. News rankings this spring, you may have noticed that the version ultimately released has actually moved closer to the ATL premise in that USN increased the weight given to employment outcomes, though job placement still represents just one-third of the total score.
In our rankings, employment represents the bulk of a school’s overall score. We also account for law school cost and debt, since how much you pay — and borrow — for an education affects the return on your investment. Criteria such as test scores or library size or deans’ opinions play no role. This year, we adjusted the relative weights for cost and employment to give more credit specifically to placement in “quality jobs” — i.e., positions at the largest and best-paying law firms or in federal judicial clerkships. We also modified the debt score to use a three-year average, rather than the figure for a single class year.
Here are the Top 10 law schools for 2023:
- Duke (no change from 2022)
- Cornell (+1)
- University of Virginia (-1)
- University of Chicago (no change)
- University of Michigan (+2)
- Columbia (+2)
- Vanderbilt (-2)
- Northwestern (+1)
- Penn (+1)
- Notre Dame (+4)
Duke is once again the No. 1 law school. Cornell, UVA, and Chicago also remain in the top five. There were some shifts further down the list, most notably Notre Dame moving into the top 10 for the first time.
Because our methodology rewards schools that are particularly effective in placing students in “real” lawyer jobs while also balancing costs and debt, some of the usual suspects don’t appear at the top of our rankings. We are not suggesting that Yale, Harvard, NYU, and Stanford aren’t among the most elite, prestigious, awesome, exceptional, etc. law schools. (Pro tip: if you can get into and afford one of those institutions, by all means, GO.) That they are ranked lower than some other schools in our list is less a reflection of those schools’ relative place in the legal educational pecking order than part of the compromises and choices inherent in devising a ranking methodology. By prioritizing certain, concrete employment outcomes, ours is bound to neglect some intangibles. We are confident that YLS et al. will be OK.
Thanks to stronger employment outcomes, several schools beyond the top 10 made impressive gains this year. For example, Howard University, which placed more 2022 graduates at large law firms than the majority of law schools, climbed dozens of spots to break into the Top 50. Northeastern’s improved employment scores also propelled it into the Top 50. On the other hand, UC Berkeley, whose employment score fell even as its projected costs rose substantially, dropped eight spots, to No. 20.
Our rankings also feature a number of schools, such as Washington University, University of Georgia, and University of Utah, which cost far less than some of the coastal elites, but which successfully placed more than 90% of graduates in real lawyer jobs.
We encourage you to review the rankings, use them wisely and in conjunction with other resources, to help find the law school that is the best fit for your career goals.