Though one of New York’s smallest law schools with a total student body of 380 in the state capitol, Albany Law School packs a punch. It claims to be the oldest independent law school in the U.S., has produced a president, two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, numerous members of New York’s highest appellate court – and let’s not forget Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Megyn Kelly.
Our Law School Road Trip
We're visiting law schools across the U.S. and documenting our journey
The point is to remember the journey students take when they dare to dream of becoming a lawyer.
Lawdragon CEO Katrina Dewey is visiting all 200-plus law schools in the U.S., with insights, anecdotes and reviews. We’ve visited close to 100 schools so far, starting in Malibu, Calif., at Pepperdine, and traveling to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. So Far.
About 30 miles north of Manhattan, you arrive at an American Revolutionary War battlefield in White Plains. It’s always astounding how quickly after leaving the city you can find leaves and history, traffic permitting. There, you’ll find Pace Law School (now the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace) in a mishmash of buildings in a residential neighborhood. It’s an interesting school that clearly tries harder.
It’s hard to fault Touro for wanting to provide legal education in Suffolk County, just an hour or so outside of the global center of lawyering. And there are many positives about the school, including the opportunity to attend law school adjacent to Suffolk County’s center of law and government. The school is one of the newer New York law schools, and offers a more cost-effective alternative to Manhattan schools.
Founded in 1970, Hofstra Law School is a strong suburban alternative to the hectic pace and living expense of attending school in the City. The 30 miles down Grand Central Parkway from Brooklyn Law School are night and day, and offer a pipeline to Long Island law practice that is second to none.
St. John’s Law in Jamaica, Queens, is a surprisingly strong competitor in the fierce New York market. It offers the only Master’s in Bankruptcy Law in the U.S., a noted part-time program and a heavyweight roster of alums.
There is exactly one law school in the U.S. with tuition under $15,000 a year that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has called “An institution of incomparable value” – and it is CUNY Law School in Long Island City, Queens.
Brooklyn Law School is, as you’d expect, about as edgy and urbane as they come, and a consummate “it is what you make of it” choice. It has graduated many successful business and government professionals, judges, prosecutors, criminal defenders and law firm leaders since it was founded in 1901.
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University is one of Manhattan’s six law schools, and by far the youngest, with its first graduating class in 1979. Since then, it has built pathways to careers for more than 13,000 graduates who work in big firms, public interest, legal aid, financial services and government. One of its signature achievements is The Innocence Project, which has helped more than 350 wrongfully convicted men and women win release.
New York Law School makes the most of its downtown location, which opens doors to government, financial industry and law firm jobs. To endure the test of time, the school is highly focused on its role in this competitive market, calling itself “New York’s Law School,” with good reason.
If you’re going to be the #3 law school in a city, let it be New York City. We’ll leave outright rankings to others, but let’s just say that Fordham has been well known as a strong school among the legal industry for a very long time.
If there’s an epicenter of legal education in the U.S., it’s New York City, and likely near Washington Square Park. Walk across the street to New York University School of Law, and gaze at the institution that has launched centuries of the most fabled names in New York politics and law.
Columbia University Law School in New York City is one of the iconic law schools of the United States, and one with a claim to being the preeminent feeder school to the elite Manhattan firms. But its cred doesn’t stop there.
Marquette University Law School offers a strong private option for Wisconsin students. Based near downtown Milwaukee, it has a long history of providing strong legal education within the Jesuit tradition of service. Its alumni include top private corporate firm lawyers, leading plaintiff advocates, corporate counsel, judges and politicians.
The University of Wisconsin Law School is a terrific state school. Located on the historic Madison campus, it blends history, a future focus and practical foundation just steps from the state’s government and judicial leadership. The alumni roster is 14,000 strong and includes standouts in government and law from throughout the U.S.
The University of Chicago School of Law is an enormously influential and fabulous law school. To a perfectly objective prospective law student, if you get in, you should really consider going here.* The school has the highest job placement metric – 98 percent – of any law school, and is the second-smallest of the nation’s elite schools.
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law is a gem – and not some crusty big diamond hidden in a vault. True to its Chicago roots, it’s big and brash from its Streeterville locale on the shores of Lake Michigan. The school’s alums are a jaw-dropping roster of power in law firms, business, sports and politics.
DePaul University College of Law is impressive for many reasons, including launching Chicago’s two longest-serving mayors, both named Daley. Specializing in IP and health law, the school is also notable today for having one of the highest percentage of women students among all law schools.
At a whopping 938 students (at last count) John Marshall Law School Chicago is roughly 200 students larger than the state’s second-largest (IIT Chicago Kent). And that tells you almost everything you need to know about this sprawling downtown Chicago law school that enrolls huge classes from which a large number fail or transfer.
Loyola University Chicago School of Law has a lot going for it. Named in honor of legendary Chicago trial lawyer Philip H. Corboy, it packs a heavyweight alumni punch with judges and politicians including Attorney General Lisa Madigan and her dad, longtime speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Mike Madigan, as well as elite trial lawyers.
Chicago offers some of the best law schools in the country, and IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law boxes well above its weight here. It offers a rich history and an impressive array of leadership from its graduates, programs and innovations like an in-house legal clinic that operates as a law firm, and an early focus on technology and innovation.
The third of Illinois’ public law schools and the youngest is Northern Illinois University College of Law in DeKalb. It’s one of the smallest law schools in the U.S., with a total enrollment of 265. Its attributes are a very low resident tuition of $22,130 and proximity to Chicago and its suburbs, while offering students a small-town rural setting to learn.
The University of Illinois College of Law in Urbana Champaign is one of the best public law schools in America, and easily the best option in Illinois. Established in 1897, the “downstate” school offers strong academics, an excellent network of 11,000 alums and leadership dedicated to making the school’s future as strong as its past.
Heading to Carbondale, Ill., was a turn home during the Law School Road Trip. Growing up near Champaign-Urbana, SIU was always known as a party school, and for its proximity to Marion prison. The intervening years have not been kind to the region, which is resolutely hardscrabble.
Each of Louisiana’s four law schools is incredibly connected, but Tulane is tops. That’s partly why it places vastly more graduates in Big Law jobs, while having the edge in most employment categories.
Loyola University New Orleans – College of Law is in challenging times, facing shrinking class size and tight budgets from its parent University. The school has – like other Louisiana law schools – produced its share of power brokers, including from the Landrieu family, one of whom – Judge Madeleine Landrieu ’87 – was recently announced as the next Dean.
For students applying to law school today, the history of a law school may or may not be instructive. But sometimes looking to the past can tell us a bit about today. Take the Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, for example.
Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center produces Southern politicians, judges and lawyers by the bushel – not to mention James Carville, Russell Long and current governor John Bel Edwards. And its grandeur beckons.
The mission and achievements of Thurgood Marshall are impressive: It has produced 40 percent of practicing African-American lawyers in Texas, 17 percent of African-American lawyers in the U.S., and has graduated more than 1,000 Hispanic lawyers.
The University of Houston Law Center has a great student-to faculty ratio, offers a great alumni network (hello Star Jones!), has strong employment stats and a deep sense of mission.
If South Texas College of Law Houston stopped tripping over itself, it would promote its excellent award-winning advocacy program, its downtown Houston location and its very reasonable tuition of $30,600.
The University of North Texas Dallas College of Law is something the profession – and especially Texas – needs. It offers night and other options that are helpful for older students, those with jobs and from diverse backgrounds.
If you’re going to the Big (Law) D, as in Dallas, strongly consider attending SMU Law School if you can win admittance. It’s a very good law school – probably second best all around in Texas – and has an incredible group of alumni within the upper ranks of Dallas law firms.
Go to Baylor Law School if you are attracted to its quarterly system, allowing a student to graduate in 27 months. Though you will pay high tuition, scholarships are abundant, you will have a very good shot at passing the bar, top practical skills training and a strong likelihood of employment in a small to midsize Texas law firm.
Lawdragon Campus hit the road in 2016 to visit all the nation’s law schools. Our goal was to get a real perspective on legal education – beyond the headlines and folks writing about law school who’ve never set foot in Kansas. We were inspired, amused, sad and joyful at what we found.
St. Mary’s School of Law makes one of the more compelling cases for not measuring all schools by the same yardstick. A deeply Catholic school, it caters to the large Hispanic and military population in San Antonio Southward, many of whom attend law school here to return to the Border and help immigrant families or join the judiciary or power base of South Texas.
They do things big in Texas. So when the state’s largest public university decided to enter the legal education fray, it did so on a scale intended to succeed. It acquired the former Texas Wesleyan Law School for $73M in 2013, and has invested tremendous resources in the Ft. Worth-based school since, peeling back the typically diffuse law school focus and lasering instead on international law, intellectual property and dispute resolution.
The University of Texas Law School at Austin should be on every prospective student’s ‘consider’ list. The school is head and shoulders the best for more than 1,000 miles in every direction, with a passionate alumni base, academics, leadership, cost-effectiveness and job pipeline that are second to none. It also happens to be in a state that is #2 in corporate headquarters and a city that is booming like almost nowhere else. We’re hooked.
Texas Tech Law School was the dream of a country lawyer who had to apprentice for the bar because he couldn’t afford the high-falutin’ city schools in Texas approved by the ABA. The school has remained true to that philosophy, offering more affordable education…
University of Arizona Law School in Tucson is one of the best choices in legal education in the Southwest. It’s in a wonderful city, is smaller and cheaper than its main rival, and offers a top-flight education and clinical opportunities. The school has also turned out some of the leading lights of Arizona law and politics…
Arizona Summit Law School in downtown Phoenix is an embarrassment of a law school wrapped in a paean to diversity and opportunity. But the nearby trash-strewn alley of graffiti is pretty cool.
The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, aka Arizona State University College of Law, is one of two great public law schools in this booming state. ASU tends to edge University of Arizona in rankings, but both offer strong…
The California Desert Trial Academy in Indio is an only-in-California law school type we’ll call the In-N-Out. Drive to the outer fringe of Indio and you will find the Dolan Law Office. If you go around the back of the building…
The University of San Diego School of Law is easily the premier law school in San Diego – and with good reason. Led by Dean Stephen Ferruolo, a former Biglaw partner, the school takes seriously its mission of educating future leaders of San Diego’s legal and business communities, as well as its judiciary and government.
Thomas Jefferson School of Law in downtown San Diego would be stellar if it were an unaccredited correspondence law school in Barstow. Trouble is, it’s an ABA-accredited institution in a gleaming $90 million eight-story tower in downtown San Diego with a stunningly horrible 30 percent employment rate…
We can say this about Western Sierra Law School: It has an address. It does not have a correct address in the office park where it sits adjacent to a run-down airstrip, sharing space with credit collectors, but it does have an address.
There is at least one thing Loyola Law School Los Angeles does better than anyone else – produce first-rate trial lawyers who clean up in court. That’s not to say it doesn’t produce Biglaw partners, local politicos and judges.
The fifth law school in the University of California system, UC Irvine is a terrific law school. Helmed by the wonderful Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, the school attracted a top-rate faculty, a great inaugural class and rounded every base to win accreditation and elite national ranking in record time.