Becoming A Lawyer In The Windy City: Your Top Five Options
Thinking about applying to law school? Moving forward with your education can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful. There are many factors to consider as you decide which law school is the best fit for your career goals. You’ll want to be sure you choose a school that offers opportunities that are specific to your areas of interest but still provide a broad enough curriculum to allow you to approach your bar exam with confidence at the end of three years of study.
You’ll also want to consider school size and the type of atmosphere that a school provides. An area like Chicago can provide the best of both worlds for students – schools that offer the chance to work closely with faculty and peers, and the chance to enjoy all that a large metropolitan area has to offer. You may also want to consider going to law school in an area where you can see yourself living long-term. Some schools teach law that’s specific to the school’s region, while others provide a more broad curriculum that prepares you to practices elsewhere. Regardless of the specificity of your school’s curriculum to the school’s locale, you’ll become closely tied to faculty and others in your school’s location, and it makes sense to consider choosing a school in an area that you can see yourself enjoying long-term. Many residents of Chicago fall in love with the Windy City, and you may find that you feel the same way as you go through your law school studies.
Here, we’ll take a look at the best law schools that Chicago has to offer, helping you to narrow down your search to decide which option is the best fit for your needs.
Best 5 Law Schools in Chicago
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law
Pritzker School of Law has a well-respected tradition of excellence, and students graduate fully prepared to take on the challenges of the Bar. Many students at Pritzker choose to participate in the Senior Research Program, which pairs students with faculty scholars. Other students participate in the Clinical Program, where they get the hands-on experience they need to represent clients successfully. No matter where a student wants to take their legal career, Pritzker allows them to design a program that will have them well-prepared for the professional world.
Location is an important part of the law school experience, and Pritzker’s downtown Chicago campus provides students with an incredible amount of resources. The campus provides a fantastic opportunity for research and connection and positions students to network with world-renowned professionals. Students don’t just have access to top-notch law firms – they also can connect with large corporations, government agencies, courts, and non-profits, allowing them to get a head start in the scope of legal practice that interests them. Students also get an excellent value, and the Northwestern name is one of the most recognizable in the country when it comes to excellence and prestige.
University of Chicago – The Law School
The University of Chicago Law School is consistently ranked as one of the top legal education institutions in the world. While the cost of an education at The Law School is expensive, many full scholarships are available to deserving graduate students. In addition to getting a cut on tuition through full or partial scholarships, the vast majority of students find themselves gainfully employed soon after finishing their law degree. In 2019, 98.5% of The Law School’s graduates were employed within 10 months of program completion.
The curriculum at The Law School isn’t static – faculty work constantly to tailor their instruction to meet the ever-changing needs of their students. Electives change from year to year and are developed to fully prepare students for their careers practicing law. All first-year students are required to take part in a legal writing program, allowing them to hone their communication skills so that they advance to their second and third years of law school fully prepared to network and communicate with peers and professionals.
University of Illinois at Chicago John Marshall Law School
The only public law school in Chicago, John Marshall Law School prides itself on not just preparing students to practice law after they graduate. Students emerge prepared to create social change, positively impact lives, and make a lasting difference in their communities. Accolades abound for John Marshall: in 2020, the school was ranked as one of the best law schools for intellectual property law, in 2019, one of the best law schools for alternative dispute resolution, and in 2018, one of the best law schools for international law.
Students at John Marshall have the chance to tailor their education to their future goals. Whether they choose a concentration on which to focus their studies, a study abroad opportunity, or participation in an honors program, students have many chances to stand out from the crowd. Students also get to work at Community Legal Clinics, where they provide pro bono legal advice to Chicago citizens while under the guidance of licensed attorneys. This means that students graduate with hands-on experience that can give them a leg up when it comes to scoring a job at a law firm, non-profit, or corporate organization.
Chicago-Kent College of Law
Students at the Chicago-Kent College of Law have options when it comes to curriculum design. For students who start law school with a clear career path in mind, specialization options are available in year one. For students who are more open to exploring several areas of law before choosing a specialty, there’s the option to rotate through several areas of practice, helping them to decide what specialization makes the most sense for them.
Known as the 1L Your Way Program, this curriculum caters to all types of students, even those who may have only recently begun to consider working in the legal field and may need some more time to find their way. About 50 students each year can work their way through the rotation through different scopes of the law. Practice areas include tax law, immigration law, criminal defense, entrepreneurial law, employment litigation, civil litigation, and mediation.
University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Law School
The Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois provides students with both the resources of Chicago and a more relaxed pace, which can be a great fit for students who want the amenities of the big city with the feel of a smaller campus. Students at Champaign-Urbana can join up to 30 student organizations, and get to enjoy a one-on-one alumni mentoring program. 94% of graduates of the program pass the bar on the first try, a testament to how well prepared students are to enter the legal field upon program completion.
94% of 2019 graduates were employed after graduation, and most graduates gained employment at large law firms in Illinois. The close-knit community of Champaign-Urbana allows students to develop close networking relationships with peers and faculty, increasing the likelihood of gaining employment at top-notch firms.
We considered several factors when ranking the above schools, including value, school name recognition, faculty prestige, areas of legal expertise within faculty, location, school size, student to faculty ratio, and more. All of the schools listed here are excellent options and will provide you with a solid education as you begin to pursue a legal career.
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If you’re an academic or admissions professional and you want to see your higher education institution included on one of our future lists, please reach out. While we can’t guarantee inclusion, we’re happy to take a look at what your school has to offer to see if your institution would be a good fit for our rankings. If your school is listed above and you’d like to provide us with updated information, please reach out to us and to detail the changes that need to be made.