Here is the top 20 from this year’s US News and World Report Best Law Schools (i.e. the only rankings that matter):

1. Yale
2. Harvard
2. Stanford (+1)
4. Columbia
4. Chicago
6. NYU
7. Penn
8. UVA
8. Berkeley (+1)
8. Duke (+2)
11. Michigan (-1)
12. Northwestern
13. Cornell
14. GULC (-1)
15. Texas
16. UCLA
17. Vanderbilt (-1)
18. Wash U
19. Emory
20. USC
20. Minnesota 

We’ll be updating this list to cover the whole top 100 and add comparison with last years rankings, so check back throughout the day!

The Top 14

At the very top, Stanford popped up to tie with Harvard. Historians of the rankings know that Harvard and Stanford trade the two and three spot or tie there, so this is hardly news.

Chicago, Columbia, and NYU, the next tier, stayed stable. If my memory serves, NYU has been consistently placed in the six spot since the recession.

The bigger news is Michigan dropping out of the top 10 while Duke sails up. Michigan, while it may have lost a little of it’s luster, has still always made the top ten. Michigan, while still a powerhouse, has been just a little behind its peers in terms of employment stats, and you have to imagine that is the explanation for it’s slightly weakened position.

The Big Story…

The big story in these 2016 Best Law School Rankings is UC Irvine. This is the first year they’ve been ranked, and there was a lot of speculation as to where they would land. A lot of people were saying they could come out as a top 25 or even top 20 school…


… but, they land on the list at #30:

15. Texas 
16. UCLA 
17. Vanderbilt (-1)
18. Washington University in St. Louis
19. Emory 
20. Minnesota
20. USC 
22. GWU (-2)
22. Alabama (+1)
22. Iowa (+5)
22. Notre Dame (+4)
26. Arizona State (+5)
26. Boston University (+1)
28. University of Washington (-4)
29. William & Mary (-5)
30. UC Irvine (first time ranked)

Impressive debut? Yes, but certainly not where they hoped to be. Dean Chemerinsky is on record numerous times stating that his aim was to debut in the top 20.

What happened?

Well, UC Irvine’s place in the ranking about matches the quality of students they’ve been bringing in:

75th percentile 3.70 166
Median 3.53 164
25th percentile 3.27 162


Compare that with the class of 2017 at William and Mary, where the median undergraduate GPA was 3.79 and the median LSAT score was 163, or University of Washington, with a median GPA of 3.67 and a median LSAT of 164. Compare this with solidly top 20 schools USC (166 and 3.76) or UCLA (167 and 3.79) . On just these metrics, looks like UCI landed roughly where you might expect.

Despite doing a fantastic job getting great students in the door, UC Irvine had some major obstacles, namely, a recession that perhaps made top students less willing to gamble on a new school, and fast-rising tuition in the UC system.

To counteract this, Irvine has admitted small classes and provided major scholarship assistance with help from the school’s generous donors. It may not have been enough.

The outlook for UC Irvine, however, remains strong. They’ve got a great faculty and I would expect their reputational scores (still a huge part of these rankings) to go up as time moves on. If the state of California loosens it’s coffers and helps control tuition, I would expect a fast rise. Even without that, expect UCI to join USC and UCLA as a top west coast school.

In general, making the top 30 was great work on UCIs part!


I’ll be updating shortly with big winners and losers from the rest of the rankings…




University of Chicago, J.D., 2012 Ready to Kickstart your LSAT Prep? Join the LSAT Mastermind Study Group


  1. Hi,
    I’m a freshman in college and I honestly have no idea what direction I’m headed in as far as law school. I got a perfect score on the reading comprehension portion of the SAT in high school so I assumed I’d do well on the LSAT. I took a proctored practice test the other day (I think it was the 2008 October exam) and scored a 162. I was a bit disappointed but I really was fatigued by the end and did most poorly on the reading section which I thought I’d do best on. I have yet to study for the LSAT but I really would like to attend a T6 school. I’m at a 3.81 and a conservative estimate would be a 3.75 by the time I graduate. Also, my university offers a plan where I can get my masters degree in one year after obtaining my bachelors, should I take advantage of this opportunity and delay my application or should I apply during my senior year or should I do both? Your advice is greatly appreciated.

  2. Hi,

    I’m looking into the part-time program at Georgetown – starting Fall of 2016 – and will be applying early action.
    I graduated with a low GPA 3.248, but have two years of work experience since graduation and a lot more experience from working all through college to pay myself through. I took the June LSAT yesterday and Im expecting a score in the 165 -168 range. If my score is in the range I am expecting what do you think of my chances of getting accepted? or should I take the LSAT again in October and aim for 170+? Do you think applying early action/part-time a great personal statement and work experience would give me a boost despite my low GPA?

  3. Hi, I just recently decided that I want to go to law school. I have become obsessed with the idea and have this burning desire to make it come true. I’ve been a student athlete my whole life went to online high school and then got a full ride to play for University of Miami. At UM I had a 3.5 GPA majoring in economics. Athletics for me always came first so I never really fully dedicated myself to school. I was kind of cruising by. Fast forward two years and I decide to transfer to Purdue. Purdue academics were a huge surprise for me. Academics at Purdue are 10x tougher than that Miami. My first semester I did awful. Failed a class and got 3 B’s. (first time I fail a class). I had to change majors to remain eligible so I switched to Tourism management. I’m still considering my minor but it will probably be economics since I read that it helps have better performance on the LSAT. My second semester I had to take 6 classes, getting four high B’s and two C’s. I plan on retaking the class I failed so it doesn’t stay on my transcript. Without that class I stand at a 3.0 GPA. I know it is very low, but I still have 2 more years of school left. I have decided that academics will come first as it always should have. Do you think I have a chance to get into law school if I work my butt of for the next two years? Purdue is so rigorous its even ranked eight hardest school to receive an A in. By the way I know that a top tier school is most likely not possible. Will law schools take into consideration that I’ve been a student athlete at top division one schools? Please give me any thoughts or advice you may have. Thank you very much. I really appreciate any advice you have to give me.

  4. If the higher ranked schools students are not as proficient at passing the bar what good is it to go to a higher ranked school?

  5. I graduated Dec. 2014 with GPA 2.58 from a top 10 school (2.9 GPA with community college classes I have taken) and my LSAT score is 167. I am planning to take LSAT one more time this fall and work full time now. I also want to take summer classes next year at Stanford to boost my weakness even though it wouldn’t count toward my GPA. I am planning to apply next year, early admission cycle. I have pretty good soft factors and love law. What else would you recommend me to try to gain admission at the top 20 law schools? Or is it too far off? Thank you for your advice.

  6. I am planning to go to law school in 2018. By the time I do my applications in 2017 I will have been out of the regular workforce for five years. During that five years I was an at-home parent and part-time freelance editor and proofreader. Before leaving regular work, I got my masters in library and information science and worked in education. I can probably get good LORs from a teacher I worked with at a school full-time for a semester and a couple of my grad school professors, but they would both come from things I completed (and left) in 2011. Will this be too old to be valuable/valid? I currently do some volunteering, but it’s all physical labor and no one there would be able to comment on my research, writing, analytical skills, or other relevant things. There’s a lot more to my story, and maybe I could explain away the age of my recommenders in my personal statement? Do you have any advice?

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