LawCrossing, an online legal job board, has released a list of the top law schools in America according to Harrison Barnes, a prominent legal recruiter and attorney of 20 years. Barnes’ list consists of 11 legal institutions that are considered to be the best law schools in the United States. However, rather than ranking the schools based on the usual metrics of hiring percentage, like the lists of U.S. News, National Jurist, and others, Barnes bases his ranking on long-term employability.


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While Barnes sees the importance of graduating from a top law school, he believes that law firms do not hire graduates based exclusively on their academic achievements or ranking of law school. Instead, the list incorporates the concept of how well a law school graduate assimilates into his or her law firm environment and if he or she can produce high quality work when working collaboratively with others. The schools that rank the highest produce graduates who not only work hard but also who can work the best in a law firm’s environment in the long-run. On the other hand, the schools that ranked on the lower end of the list harvest graduates that are less prepared for long-term productivity in a firm environment.

Here is Barnes’ list:

  1. Stanford
  2. Harvard
  3. University of Virginia
  4. New York University
  5. Columbia
  6. University of Chicago
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. Yale
  9. University of Michigan
  10. University of California Berkeley
  11. Duke

Barnes sees that these schools possess their own individual cultures that manifest into certain personality traits in their graduates. These personality traits, in Barnes’ opinion, usually determine how well a graduate can adapt to his or her work atmosphere.

For example, Stanford tops the list because Barnes states, “It is a small law school like Yale, selective like Yale and seems to basically attract the same quality of student but without an extreme level of inquisitiveness. The thing that is so nice about Stanford Law School is the complete absence of ‘pretension’ that graduates of schools like Yale and Harvard seem to carry around.”

Harvard ranks second on the list because the students that emerge from the school are well-suited to practice law and typically strive in the legal world. More importantly, Barnes highlights how the diversity of types of students makes the school unique to others. However, he does mention that the culture of the school tends to foster character traits of self-importance.

Law schools based in urban centers such as the University of Pennsylvania (no. 7), New York University (no. 4), and the University of Chicago (no. 6) are highly ranked due to academic excellence as well as their strategic locations that provide immediate access to the most prestigious law firms.

What Barnes incorporates in his list are the questions: “Will the person do well if they are employed at a law firm and will they stay?” and “will the person do the job long term?” He assesses and answers these questions by evaluating the culture of each individual institution and its parallel personality traits found in each of its graduates.