The best law schools in the country are generally measured by rankings that take into account a variety of factors including: size, faculty to student ratio, tuition, money spent on facilities, and reputation in the legal community. The most highly regarded source of ranking is the US News and World Report rankings, which are published once a year. The top thirteen schools have remained nearly the exact same for the past decade. As of 2013, they were as follows:
1. Yale University
2. Harvard University
2. Stanford University
4. Columbia University
4. University of Chicago
6. New York University
7. University of Pennsylvania
7. University of Virginia
9. University of California-Berkeley
9. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
11. Duke University
12. Northwestern University
13. Cornell University
14. Georgetown University
As is apparent, the top law schools generally track the top undergraduate schools and top overall universities in the country. This is unsurprising, since the top universities are able to attack top professors, personal, and house the best facilities. This contributes to a law schools rank under the US New criteria.
The US News rankings have been criticized heavily for their methodology. Perhaps for this reason, other sources have attempted to rank schools. Of note are the Above the Law Rankings and rankings produced by the Thomas Cooley School of Law. These rankings do not deviate significantly from the US News rankings, at least in terms of the top 14 schools (with the exception of the Thomas Cooley rankings which, perhaps unsurprisingly, rank their school number one). Therefore, at least for the top schools in the country, there seems mostly uniform consensus.
The rankings of course do not make a school the “best” in terms of education. No doubt, some students are happier at smaller, less prestigious, lower ranked schools. And, students at the top schools frequently comment on the displeasing adversarial nature of those schools. However, the rankings are good predictors of the type of employment one may be able to obtain following law school. Students from high ranked schools are more likely to be recruited by top law firms and more likely to secure valuable judicial clerkships. Similarly, top ranked schools are often able to attract the top law school professors in the country, increasing the overall quality of the educational experience. Thus, the top ranked schools are also a fair assessment on what are also the “best” schools.