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Summary: Is your law school good enough to make this list of the Top 50 law schools for 2020.
Your undergraduate work is complete and you’ve been awarded your degree.
Now it’s on to the next part of your plans, which is to attend law school.
The one caveat is you aren’t sure where the law schools you applied to – or may already be attending – rank in the U.S. News’ list of the Top 50 law schools in the country.
Well, in case you missed it, or aren’t sure when and where the law school rankings will be released, here is a sneak peek of where the Top 50 stand.
Prelude to a Law School Ranking
Any law school worth its weight fears the name Bob Morse. This is because Bob Morse is the brain and brawn behind the ranking of America’s Top 50 law schools.
In short, that Top 50 listing can either help or tremendously hurt a law school, its prestige and its importance within BigLaw.
Ultimately, Morse’s decisions as to who ranks where in his Top 50 list, can greatly bolster one school’s attendance, while severely hampering another school’s expected enrollment.
As followers of U.S. News’ law school ranking will attest to, Bob Morse is the so-called “guru” that law school deans can fear one year and celebrate the next year.
And in an indirect way, the same can be said for perspective and continuing law students who feel that their ability to get a lucrative position within a Top-tier law firm might either be in jeopardy or in the cat bird’s seat depending upon which direction Mr. Morse’s thumb points – up or down.
To make matters even more convoluted for both law school deans and law school students is the fact that for 2020, more law schools ended in a tie than in Morse’s past rankings, which can leave a law school in an even deeper fog as to whether it ranks better or worse than last year.
To that end, and without further ado, here is a list of the Top 50 law schools in the country.
Law School Ranking (1-14)
We begin with the Top 14 law schools in the nation. Take particular note of the three-way tie.
1. Yale University
2. Stanford University
3. Harvard University
4. University of Chicago
5. Columbia University
6. New York University
7. University of Pennsylvania
8. University of Virginia (+1)
9. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (-1)
10. University of California–Berkeley (-1)
10. Duke University (+1)
10. Northwestern University (+1)
13. Cornell University
14. Georgetown University
As you’ll see, UVA and Michigan swapped positions, while Duke and Northwestern have both clawed themselves back into the Top 10. Many will see that nothing terribly exciting happened in this portion of the 2020 ranking.
Next up, are the law schools that are ranked outside of the Top 14. As you will see this portion of the Top 50 list is wrought with ties in the midst of other schools rising up one or more notches while others fell.
Law School Ranking 15-31
15. University of California–Los Angeles (+1)
16. University of Texas–Austin (-1)
17. University of Southern California (Gould) (+2)
18. Vanderbilt University (-1)
18. Washington University in St. Louis
20. University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
21. University of Notre Dame (+3)
22. George Washington University (+2)
23. Boston University (-1)
23. University of California–Irvine (-2)
25. University of Alabama (+2)
26. Emory University (-4)
27. Boston College
27. University of Georgia (+5)
27. University of Iowa
27. Arizona State University (O’Connor)
31. University of California–Davis (+6)
31. University of Florida (Levin) (+10)
31. Wake Forest University (+1)
The ties are everywhere in this list of 15 to 31, with some ties ranging from the usual two-way tie upward to a four-way tie. Of note and worth mentioning are the big movers among this list such as University of Florida who ascended its last year’s spot up 10 rungs to a three-way tie of 31. Not bad for The Gators.
Other notable risers are UC Davis which is up six spots and University of Georgia which has climbed five spots.
Meanwhile, the biggest plummet of this grouping for 2020 is Emory University, in which the Atlanta-based law school fell four rungs to finish at 26, which isn’t bad.
Now it’s on to the last third of our list, where yet again there are more ties to contend with. Of particular note are the multitude of pluses and minuses, as many schools in this portion of the Top 50 either ascended triumphantly or fell a bit downward in Mr. Morse’s estimation.
Law School Ranking 32-48
34. University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (+11)
34. Indiana University–Bloomington (Maurer) (-2)
34. Ohio State University (Moritz) (-2)
34. University of Wisconsin–Madison (-7)
34. Washington and Lee University (-8)
39. College of William and Mary (Marshall-Wythe) (-2)
39. Fordham University (-2)
39. University of Arizona (Rogers) (+2)
39. University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (-2)
39. Brigham Young University (Clark) (+2)
44. University of Washington (-12)
45. University of Colorado–Boulder (+1)
45. George Mason University (-4)
47. University of Utah (Quinney) (+7)
48. Florida State University (-1)
48. Temple University (Beasley) (-1)
48. Baylor University (+2)
In the practice of law, a lawyer’s reputation is based upon whether that person is a winner or a loser.
The same can be said for law schools, in which by the plethora of pluses and minuses, it’s easy for a law student to understand if they made a smart move in picking his or her preferred school, or a horrible mistake.
As is, the biggest winners in this grouping were Utah and UNC, the latter moving up 11 rungs while the former rose seven.
Wisconsin, Washington and Lee, and the University of Washington didn’t do so well on Mr. Morse’s list.
The University of Wisconsin fell seven spots at the same time that Washington and Lee dipped eight, while the University of Washington plunged 12 spots.
While lists like these that rank a law students’ program may seem unfair, honestly, they will still be created and used for 2021 and beyond.
And yes, this sort of list can have a positive or negative impact on a young lawyer’s career as well as the future enrollment of a law school.
All in all, the law school ranking reflects itself as a crap shoot that can entail severe consequences, both good and bad, on law students and law schools.
Sure, a future or continuing law student can be told they should have gone to a top law school like Yale or Stanford, to if anything, avoid the fluctuating rankings of less prestigious schools, but scholastically or financially that may not be possible for everyone.
And who is to say of the 50 law schools which will enjoy the same ranking or rank even higher or fall farther in 2021.