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Which US University Should I Study at to Be a Judge?

Which US University Should I Study at to Be a Judge? main image

If you dream of a career as a judge in the United States, be prepared to work hard. It takes a lot of perseverance and training, as well as a minimum of seven years’ post-qualification experience.


First, you must gain a law degree, pass your Bar exam, work as an attorney, obtain a judgeship and then complete your training. Many graduates also choose to undertake a clerkship after graduation. Clerkships offer additional training, experience and professional connections, which will be highly valued – and sometimes even required – to gain top attorney positions.  

If you’re looking to start this process, you might be wondering which US law school you should attend. Read on to find out which of the US’ 48 ranked universities will give you the best chance at becoming a judge.

Top 10 Schools for the Law Subject Area in the US

Based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020

US Ranking

World Ranking




Cambridge (MA)


New Haven (CT_


Stanford (CA)


Berkley (CA)



New York City (NY)



Chicago (IL)





Michigan (MI)



Durham (NC)


10. Duke University

Duke University

Topping off our list in 10th place is Duke University, ranking 32nd in the world in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020. Duke University prides itself on its forward-thinking and innovative approach to learning.

The university has an extremely strong employment record, with 94.1 percent of the class of 2019 employed in a long-term, full-time position that required bar passage and was not school funded, by March 2020.

The school boosts students’ employment prospects by offering a range of summer opportunities, such as a series of programs with the school’s faculty in The Hague, Washington DC and Durham. Duke Law graduates have clerked on courts in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, including all 13 circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals. In the last nine years, 10 Duke Law graduates have been awarded US Supreme Court clerkships.

9. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ninth in the US is the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, which places 29th in the world for law. Michigan Law School is a partner in the Overseas-Trained LLM Student Interview Program in New York, where employers from around the world are invited to interview students for foreign associates and six to 18-month internship positions. 

Michigan Law also helps students individually to develop a professional resume and cover letter. The university then then compiles and distributes a set of these resumes to American legal employers. The Office of Career Planning will assist graduate students in networking and establishing professional relationships with other Michigan Law students around the world. There are also opportunities for graduates to gain a prestigious clerkship. Since 1991 Michigan Law has placed 36 graduates in the United States Supreme Court Clerkship.

8. Georgetown University

Georgetown University

Flickr: simon.hagemann

Law students at Georgetown University get to study in the nation’s capital, Washington DC. Between 2018 and 2019, 99 percent of Supreme courses were conducted in Georgetown, meaning that Georgetown University law students can fully immerse themselves in the practice of law. The university itself places eighth in the US and 18th in the world for law this year.

Georgetown University has a fully immersive teaching style, with in-house legal simulations, externships and clinical courses. Clinical courses enable students to represent real clients facing real legal challenges, with students responsible for all aspects of their case, while collaborating closely with clinical faculty. These practical ways of teaching prepare students for real-world work in a law firm. 

7. University of Chicago

University of Chicago

Seventh in the US and 11th in the world for law, according to the most recent subject rankings, is the University of Chicago. The school has excellent employment prospects, with 98 percent of the class of 2018 employed 10 months after graduation. 

The University of Chicago’s students are encouraged to pursue a judicial clerkship after graduation. Over the past few years, approximately 28 to 38 percent of each graduating class obtained a judicial clerkship, with 22 alumni placed in Supreme Court clerkships between October 2009 to October 2019.

6. New York University (NYU)


Ninth in the world for law and sixth in the US is New York University (NYU). NYU’s law school is often regarded as a leader in international law, home to the Hauser Global Law School Program and the Guarini Institute for Global Leaders Studies. NYU students can study abroad in Buenos Aires and Paris, helping graduates stand out to future employers.

The school’s Office of Career Services, together with the Public Interest Law Centre, organize recruiting programs, panels, workshops and practice interview programs to help students boost their employment prospects. NYU Law School offers more than 40 clinics and guarantees summer funding for first years and second years working in government and non-profit organizations. 

5. Columbia University

Columbia University

Eighth in the world for law, and fifth in the US, is Columbia University in New York City, Columbia Law School has been teaching students for more than 160 years. The institution has a hands-on approach to education, with students regularly participating in clinics, externships, simulations, and moot court programs, enabling them to work with real clients on real cases.

The school has longstanding relationships with top employers around the world, and the career center offers a range of resources to boost students’ career options, including counseling, peer mentoring and mock interview programs.

In 2019, 103 students earned clerkship placements, with two of these in the US Supreme court and 36 in the US Court of Appeals.

4. University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

The University of California, Berkley (UCB) ranks seventh in the world and fourth in the US for law this year. The law school has some extremely successful alumni, including California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.

Students can gain experience, academic credit and key connections in the school’s Field Placement Program, where they act as judicial externs or assist supervising lawyers in public interest organizations and government agencies.

Berkley Law’s employment center offers a range of services, including individual appointments, professional development programs, job fair preparation, resume review and mock interviews. As a result, 97 percent of the class of 2017 found employment nine months after graduation, with 59 percent working at law firms. 

3. Stanford University 

Stanford University

Fifth in the world and third in the US is Stanford University. The law school has an exceptionally high graduate success rate: 99.5 percent of law students had found employment within nine months of graduation, with a median salary of US$190,000.

Stanford Law’s Office of Career Services helps students with career planning skills and job search strategies, as well as providing employment information and offering career-related resources and services. On-campus interviews are also held during the fall and winter terms. 

Stanford claims that 36 percent of their student population clerk at some point after graduation and that the school’s graduates have clerked in the US Supreme Court for 45 consecutive years.

2. Yale University

Yale University

Yale Law School benefits students with the knowledge of its world-renowned faculty, small classes, opportunities for clinical training and a strong encouragement of public service. Placing fourth in the world for law, Yale University counts 11 supreme court justices and 44 federal court judges amongst their successful alumni.

Of the 217 graduates of 2019, 172 are working in full-time employment which requires passage of the bar exam, and 19 are working in a university-funded position. Yale Law offers one-on-one counseling, resources and programs on career paths, as well as the chance to network with employers through on-campus recruiting events.

1. Harvard University

Harvard University

Harvard Law School (HLS) is the top university in the world to study law according to the recently released subject rankings. Founded in 1817, HLS is the oldest continuously operating law school in the United States and contains the largest academic law library in the world.

Over 500 employers recruit on campus every year. After graduation, around 60 to 65 percent of graduates enter private practice, 20 percent enter judicial clerkships and 10 to 15 percent enter public interest or government work or other pursuits.

According to Harvard Law School’s website, one-quarter of all Supreme Court clerks over the last decade were HLS graduates.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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