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Top Law Schools in 2018: US and UK

By Craig O

Updated March 26, 2020 Updated March 26, 2020

Featuring 48 subjects in total, the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018 are one of the most comprehensive assessments of the best universities in the world. One of those 48 subjects is law, with 300 institutions from 42 different countries featured this year.

Dominating this year’s rankings, as they have done in previous years, are universities from two particular countries: the UK and the US. Of the 300 institutions, 95 come from just those two countries. Here’s a closer look at the top law schools from both of these countries.

United States

Harvard University

Ivy League institution Harvard University makes it six years as the top law school in the world, with a nearly perfect score across the different indicators used to compile the rankings (more information available here).

Harvard’s law school offers three distinct degree programs: the J.D. Program (Juris Doctor), the LL.M. Program (Master of Laws) and the S.J.D. Program (Doctor of Juridical Science). Students in their first year of law school will study a curriculum which provides fantastic preparation for working in law in the 21st century, covering such areas as civil procedure, criminal law, property law and torts.

Yale University

A non-mover at fourth place in this year’s ranking of top law schools, Yale University scores a perfect mark for the number of research citations per paper. This strong focus on research makes Yale a fantastic choice of study destination for particularly diligent and bookish students.

Admissions here are extremely competitive, with less than one in 10 applicants offered a place to study. Each class in Yale’s three-year J.D. Program enrolls approximately 200 students.

On a lighter note, Yale Law School is well-known for being where Bill and Hillary Clinton first met and started dating, while they were students in 1971.

Stanford University

The third of five American universities in the top five, Stanford University is another non-mover this year. If the sunny environs of California sound more appealing than Massachusetts or Connecticut, you couldn’t do better than apply to study at Stanford’s law school. 180 students are currently enrolled on the school’s J.D. Program.

As well as the school’s J.D. Program, four advanced legal degrees are offered by Stanford: a Master of Laws (LL.M.), a Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.), a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), and a Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.).

New York University (NYU)

Another non-mover, New York University (NYU) is ranked sixth again this year. The oldest law school in New York City, NYU has an enviable reputation and a fantastic employability record for its graduates. According to the university, 93.7 percent of the class of 2013 obtained full-time, long-term, J.D.-required employment nine months after graduation.

The law school receives over 7,000 applicants every year for just 450 places, making it one of the most competitive in both the US and the world. If you’re fortunate enough to be admitted, you’ll be following in the footsteps of such luminaries as John F. Kennedy Jr, journalist Glenn Greenwald and former New York City mayor Ed Koch.

University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

Up one place to seventh this year, the University of California, Berkeley is the second Californian institution to be featured in this list of top law schools. UC Berkeley School of Law will celebrate its 125th year in 2019, having originally been founded as the Department of Jurisprudence.

With approximately 850 J.D. students and 245 studying at a postgraduate level, the school is highly selective in its admissions process, something it has in common with the other law schools on this list. The school places particular importance at undergraduate level on GPA scores, which means Berkeley has the 9th highest 75th percentile GPA in the US.

Columbia University

Columbia University drops one place in this year’s law ranking but retains its place in the top 10 overall. Fans of the hit musical Hamilton might be particularly keen to study here, as doing so will allow them to follow in the footsteps of that show’s protagonist, as well as John Jay, the co-author of the Federalist Papers.

Columbia Law School has also produced two US presidents (Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and more members of the Forbes 400 than any other law school in the world. Studying here doesn’t come cheap though, with tuition costing over $65,000 dollars in 2017/18.

Also in the top 20: University of Chicago (11th), Georgetown University (17th)

United Kingdom

University of Cambridge

Shifting focus to the other side of the Atlantic, the University of Cambridge has over-taken rival institution Oxford to be the top law school in the UK this year. Six different law degrees are available at Cambridge, including a BA at undergraduate level and a LL.M. and Masters of Corporate Law (MCL) at postgraduate level.

Undergraduate students have the option of spending some of their studies abroad, as part of the Erasmus+ scheme. Four different law faculties across Europe have an exchange partnership with Cambridge. They are: Poitiers (France), Utrecht (The Netherlands), Regensburg (Germany), and the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Spain). Choosing to do this adds an extra year to the length of your undergraduate degree (four years instead of three).

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford may have slipped behind Cambridge into third place this year but it can at least boast that it continues to out-score its rival for its academic reputation. Studying law here means following in the footsteps of the likes of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as 22 different law lords.

Oxford offers the largest doctoral law program in the entire English-speaking world, so it’s no surprise to see it so highly ranked. Its graduate law program is also particularly unique, as it incorporates tutorials as well as seminars as lectures. According to the university, this is something no other institution in the world does.

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

While its name might suggest LSE’s primary specialties are economics and political science, the university actually features in 17 different subject rankings this year including this one of top law schools. Although LSE has fallen two places this year, it remains in the top 10 overall and continues to be the best university in London for law.

At undergraduate level, as part of the university’s LLB Bachelor of Laws program, you can choose to participate in a double degree program if you so choose. After two years of studying in London, this program enables you to transfer to Columbia Law School in the US to continue your studies for two more years.

Also in the top 20: UCL (University College London) (=12th), King’s College London (KCL) (20th)

Also worth mentioning

Although these two countries dominate the rankings, there are universities from the other 40 countries which deserve a special mention. Australia has four institutions in the top 20 this year, including the University of Melbourne which is up three places to eighth. The Australian National University has also moved up the rankings this year (up four places to joint 12th), while the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have both dropped slightly to 14th and 16th respectively.

Three other countries feature in the top 20. The National University of Singapore (NUS) is one of three institutions from that country to be ranked this year but is the only one in the top 100 (it’s ranked 15th).

Both Canada’s University of Toronto and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) have dropped one place this year, to 18th and 19th respectively.

This article was originally published in February 2018 . It was last updated in March 2020

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Written by

As Head of Content, Craig is responsible for all articles and guides published across TopUniversities and TopMBA. He has nearly 10 years of experience writing for a student audience and extensive knowledge of universities and study programs around the world.

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