Top Law Schools for 2012

The ranking for this year’s Best Law Schools by US News remained very similar to last year’s ranking, as the top 5 schools held their spot for the second consecutive year.

Top 20 Law Schools

1. Yale
2. Harvard
3. Stanford
4. Columbia
5. University of Chicago
6. NYU
7. University of Michigan
8. Penn
9. UC Berkeley
9. University of Virginia
11. Duke
12. Northwestern
13. Cornell
14. Georgetown
14. University of Texas - Austin
16. UCLA
16. Vanderbilt
18. USC
18. Washington University in St. Louis
20. George Washington University
20. University of Minnesota
See more at US News

Top Law Schools based on Specialty

Best Law School for Clinical Training: Georgetown University
Best Law School for Dispute Resolution: Pepperdine University
Best Law School for Environmental Law: Vermont Law School
Best Law School for Healthcare Law: St. Louis University
Best Law School for Intellectual Property Law: UC Berkeley
Best Law School for International Law: NYU
Best Law School for Legal Writing: Mercer University
Best Law School for Part-time Law: Georgetown
Best Law School for Tax Law: NYU
Best Law School for Trial Advocacy: Stetson University

Methodology
Rankings are based on a weighted average of 12 different measures of data collected in fall 2010 and early 2011. View methodology at US News.

Considering Law School?

With a tough job market and law school applications at an all-time high, one has to ask…Is going to law school worth it?

About 45,000 students graduate from law school every year, yet only 30,000 legal jobs are available.

It's numbers like these that are making some people question the whole law school thing. Like the Boston College law student who wants his money back, who believes a J.D. in today’s job market is "more of a liability than an asset".

What makes the degree such a liability is the huge amount of debt that typically comes with the degree.

Law School Debt

Law school debt is no joke. It is a burden that typically requires a four-figure monthly student loan payment. This financial burden can be so overwhelming that it can rip apart families and even prevent grads from practicing law.

The average indebtedness of law school graduates typically surpasses $100k. The US News survey also looked at the average debt of each school’s law grads.

A Few Notable Rankings:

SchoolAvg. Debt% with Debt
1. California Western School of Law $145,621 88%
7. Northwestern University $132,685 69%
11. University of Chicago $127,997 84%
13. Columbia University $126,945 77%
14. Cornell University $126,000 80%
17. NYU $125,169 80%
24. Georgetown $122,319 86%
45. Harvard $114,720 79%
77. Stanford$104,424 81%
92. Yale$98,796 73%

See full list at US News.

Getting Paid

Looking at salary numbers only, the best school if you want to get paid well is Stanford Law School, which topped the Forbes list with mid-career median pay of $236,000, followed by Duke University with $221,000. Yale Law School, which topped the US News best overall ranking, tied at #33 with pay of $159,000. Read more at Forbes or check out PayScale for additional salary numbers.

Other Law School Rankings