Lawyer Salary – Top 10 Law Careers

The field of law is as broad as it is diverse – as are the related earnings. As one might expect, lawyers working in state government earn significantly less than their counterparts in the private sector. According to PayScale.com’s data for 2014, the median annual salary of lawyers in the United States is $75,803.

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This article breaks down the numbers by specialty to give you a general idea of what lawyers who practice in a variety of settings can expect to bring in.

1. Corporate Lawyer Salary

A primary role of corporate lawyers is to ensure the legality of company transactions. These attorneys act as advisers to a corporation on a range of issues, such as gathering and analyzing evidence for legal proceedings, formulating contracts, advising companies on their legal rights and obligations in business transactions, and providing advice on issues related to taxation.

Such broad job requirements mean that corporate lawyers must specialize in many different aspects of the law. Major specialties that relate to corporate law include tax law, contract law, accounting law, and securities law. The main focus of many corporate lawyers is therefore to understand how these different aspects of the law relate to the companies who employ them.

Starting Salary

In most cases, a corporate lawyer’s salary will start somewhere between $30,000 and $100,000 a year, depending on the size, location and financial condition of the employer. The best graduates of top law schools can expect much higher salaries and lucrative careers right after they graduate if they have the right skill set and have performed well during their internships. The Forbes website lists several first rate programs, such as Columbia Law School, whose graduates can expect an average starting salary of $165,000.

Other institutions that produce top earners in the field include Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the University of Virginia. Most graduates of US law schools, however, will have to settle for a more modest pay check, even if they land a job in the relatively profitable field of corporate law.

Average Salary

According to PayScale, the average annual salary of a corporate lawyer in 2014 was $98,823. Corporate lawyers are paid for their knowledge and experience, both of which have a strong effect on salary. Lawyers who find their niche in corporate law and remain with the same company can expect to see their paychecks to increase every year.

As a rule of thumb, in-house business lawyers get paid less than attorneys employed by large law firms that charge exorbitant fees. This is somewhat of a generalization, and although it is true that the highest earning individuals in the legal field tend to be the partners in big law firms, for the most part, in-house lawyers aren’t worse off financially than their peers.

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2. Patent Lawyer Salary

In a nutshell, patent attorneys are tasked with assessing and analyzing whether an invention is eligible for a patent or not. They guide and advise individual private inventors as well as corporations that are in the process of securing a patent. After the patent is obtained, patent attorneys protect patents in case of infringement. Some of a patent attorney’s tasks include describing inventions in clear and indisputable legal terms, researching and assessing existing patents, and litigating in court in infringement cases.

Patent Lawyers are also highly trained in different aspects of intellectual property rights and advise clients and employers with respect to related issues, such as designs and trademarks. In 2014 the median annual salary of patent attorneys was $129,500, according to PayScale.com. The size of a patent lawyer’s pay check depends on several factors, including the industry they work in, the size of the company they work for, the number of years they have worked in the field, and their level of education. A patent lawyer typically needs a very specialized skill set that often includes an additional educational background in a related field such as engineering or biology.

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3. Criminal Lawyer Salary

The criminal lawyer’s job description includes defending individuals, organizations, and companies that face criminal charges in state, federal, or appellate court. Some of the main responsibilities of a criminal lawyer are to investigate the case at hand, interview witnesses, study case law and procedural law, construct a defense, and plan a strategy for the case. Negotiating plea deals in less serious cases is also within a criminal lawyer’s field of expertise.

It is important for a criminal lawyer to have superior written and oral advocacy skills in order to successfully argue a case in front of a judge and a jury. Creative thinking and analytical skills also play a significant role in the process of developing a strategy and doing the research for complex court cases.

Criminal lawyers in public service earn significantly less than their colleagues in the private sector. As shown in the graphic below, the median salary of $51,810 for public defenders is well below the average earnings in this field. An associate who practices criminal law at a large law firm can earn up to $115,000 in their first year, making it a much more lucrative career option.

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4. Tax Lawyer Salary

Tax attorneys act as the representatives of a company, organization or an individual in dealing with federal, state, and local tax agencies. On a day-to-day basis, most tax lawyers give advice to businesses and individuals with regard to all aspects of tax legislation. They keep an eye on any changes in legislation and advise their clients on potential effects such changes could have on their finances. Practicing tax law requires excellent math and accounting skills, an analytical mind, and the ability to think critically.

As shown below, the median annual salary for tax attorneys in 2014 was $99,690. Starting salaries tend to be somewhere between $55,000 and $83,000; lawyers who remain in the field of tax law can expect a steady increase in their annual earnings as their career progresses.

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5. Real Estate Lawyer

Real estate lawyers assist their clients in a variety of ways regarding commercial and residential real estate. Issues regarding tenants, neighbors, zoning and property development also fall under the umbrella of real estate law.

Real estate transactions require a considerable number of complex legal documents, so most real estate attorneys spend quite a bit of time in an office reviewing and drafting contracts and other documents, and preparing consultations for their clients. Meticulous document drafting is a key skill in this job. Attention to detail and strong analytical skills are an absolute necessity for real estate lawyers who want to do well in this field.

Real estate attorneys also represent their clients in court. A typical property law case might involve a property owner who is suing a tenant for unpaid rent. Real estate lawyers file court documents, collect evidence to support the claim, and interview witnesses to ensure that their client has a strong case.

The median annual salary of real estate attorneys in 2014 was approximately $90,125,  according to PayScale.com. Highly skilled contract negotiators tend to be the highest earners in real estate law, however, experience and location also influence the earning potential of these attorneys.

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6. Family Lawyer Salary

Family law is a broad field. Family law attorneys may be involved with custody arrangements, adoption, prenuptial agreements, and divorce. Many lawyers in this field choose to specialize, becoming experts in one area or another. For example, divorce lawyers work with clients to dissolve a marriage and help them to determine how best to divide common property. Other areas of specialization include child support, child custody, and domestic abuse.

The median annual salary of a family lawyer, according to PayScale.com, is $70,828. In family law, an attorney’s degree of specialization and experience strongly correlates with compensation. Experienced family lawyers in the private sector are the top earners in this group, and have higher earning potential than their counterparts in the public sector.

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7. Personal Injury Lawyer Salary

Personal injury attorneys work with clients who allege physical or psychological harm as a result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another party. In case of an accident or injury, personal injury lawyers represent their clients to obtain justice and compensation for any losses or suffering. The vast majority of these cases fall under the area of tort law.

To help clients receive compensation for any financial losses, pain and suffering they’ve experienced due to negligence, personal injury lawyers interview clients, evaluate their case, identify and research specific issues in the plaintiff’s case. If a plaintiff makes a claim that involves an injury to the body or mind, this falls into the category of personal injury law. Car accidents, work injuries, and “slip and falls” constitute some of the most common cases in this field.

The average annual pay for a personal injury lawyer is approximately $73,000. Many attorneys in this field do not have a set annual income as they work for contingency fees. This means that they earn a percentage of any compensation settlement the plaintiff receives. As in most cases, lawyers working for non-profit organizations or the government tend to earn the least, while their colleagues in big law firms are the top earners.

8. Civil Rights Lawyer Salary

Civil rights lawyers defend the civil rights and fundamental liberties of the public. A typical civil rights case might involve defending an individual who faces discrimination based on race, age, gender or religion. Cases related to alleged improper conduct by law enforcement also fall under the umbrella of civil rights law.

Civil rights cases sometimes involve claims based on false arrests, excessive force or brutality, and unlawful searches and seizures. Many cases are concerned with questions of human rights, social freedom and equality. Lawyers who specialize in this field are often passionate about obtaining justice for a particular group of people or a specific issue. For this reason, many civil rights lawyers specialize in a particular area of civil rights.

Lawyers who take on civil rights cases typically earn less than lawyers who choose careers in business fields, such as corporate law. The average starting salary for a civil rights lawyer is approximately $45,000 a year, but very capable and experienced attorneys in this field can make as much as $200,000. Top earners tend to be employed by federal government agencies. Attorneys who work for the federal government make an average of $130,210, as opposed to state government lawyers, who earn a more modest $82,190 a year on average.

9. IP Lawyer Salary

Intellectual property law is a complex field that requires a deep understanding of relevant laws in addition to a creative and analytical way of thinking. Intellectual property lawyers, or copyright lawyers, make sure that new intellectual inventions and innovations created by individuals gain the protection of the law, and are not infringed upon by competitors.

IP attorneyys may specialize in areas such as music, art, design, technology, or writing. Intellectual property counts as the most valuable type of property for many corporations and organizations. Protecting new developments in technology, science, and the arts is therefore a top priority for many companies, creating a considerable need for IP lawyers with specializations in those fields.

According to PayScale.com, attorneys who specialize in intellectual property law typically earn a median salary of $131,728.

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10. Medical Lawyer Salary

For attorneys who have a passion for law and an interest in healthcare, this specialty can be a great match. The tasks of medical lawyers include working with health care professionals to build case theories, interviewing expert witnesses, gathering and analyzing medical records, and malpractice law suits.

Technically, “medical law” is not a separate category of the law, but rather a combination of personal injury, medical malpractice, and health care law. Some medical lawyers work for hospitals and health care clinics, providing advice and guidance with regard to their rights and obligations, and defend them in medical malpractice cases. Others specialize in representing clients who wish to sue health care facilities or individual health care professionals.

Medical attorneys and health care lawyers earn an average annual salary of $150,881, according to Glassdoor.com; medical lawyers working with specialty hospitals typically earn even more.

What’s The Next Step?

Now that you know how much money you stand to make as a lawyer, the next step is to start preparing for Law School so you can land one of these high paying careers!  To review and compare the best LSAT prep courses, please click the button below.

 

LSAT Information

Preparing to take the LSAT is a complex process. It requires a lot of planning, work, and endurance.

You will need to study hard and find ways to deal with the pressure while you keep an eye on registration deadlines and pay your fees.

We’ve compiled some useful information about the process to help you get to the test center so you can CRUSH the LSAT.

LSAT Dates

The LSAT is held 4 times a year in: February, June, September/October, and December. The registration deadline for the test is about one month before the test date, but you should register several weeks earlier to get your first choice of date and location.

The tests are conducted on Saturdays (unless you observe Saturday Sabbath, then you can choose an alternate day of the week).

Check the LSAT test dates well in advance. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly test locations fill up. Make sure to secure your seat in time!

LSAT Registration

You can register for the LSAT online, by phone, or by mail. You’ll get an admission ticket by mail or email. This 5-page document will tell you the date, time and location of the test as well as general information about taking the LSAT.

On the day of the test, you will need to bring the appropriate page of the admission ticket with you to the testing center along with a recent passport-sized photo of yourself. Test-takers also need a valid, government issued ID.

Late registration is possible but will result in an extra $70 fee. If you want to change location after registering, it will cost an additional $36 (if there is space at the new location).

LSAT Cost

Taking the LSAT and applying for law school is not cheap.

The registration itself costs $165, and most law schools require applicants to use the LSAC’s Credential Assembly Service (CAS) for an additional $160. For this fee, CAS will create a report that combines your LSAT score, academic records, letters of recommendation, and professional records and send them to the schools to which you are applying.

It is possible to get full or partial fee waivers if you cannot afford to pay, but this is not easy. More applications for fee waivers are rejected than are accepted.

Signing up for an LSAT test prep course isn’t free, but it is definitely one of the more worthwhile expenses you’ll incur. Live prep courses, online prep courses, tutoring, and LSAT prep books can cost from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Most people find it very challenging to work while they prepare for the LSAT, so you should consider taking a break from your job to study for the LSAT if possible. Make sure to check out our comparison table and reviews of the best LSAT prep courses.

What should you bring on LSAT test day?

As stated above, you’ll need your ID and your admission ticket with a recent passport photo attached to it. This will get you into the testing center.

You’ll also need something to write with. LSAT is strictly a pencil exam, so you’ll need pre-sharpened #2 pencils as well as an eraser and a pencil sharpener. No #1s or #3s. No mechanical pencils. Only #2s are allowed.

You’re also allowed to bring an analog wrist watch (no digital watches or stop watches though!) into the test in order to keep track of time.

You’re not expected to go the whole day without eating or drinking, so you’re allowed to bring drinks and snacks to the test center. Drinks should be in a plastic bottle or a juice box. Snacks should be pre-packaged and mess-free.

To hold all of your carefully selected day-of-the-test items, you need a clear ziptop plastic bag (one gallon or smaller size). No other bags or sacks are allowed; everything must be held within a clear plastic bag.

Make sure you don’t bring your cellphone or earplugs or your favorite hat (unless it is for religious purposes). All of these items are forbidden and will keep you out of the exam.

How Long Is The LSAT?

The LSAT typically starts at 8:30am, except for the June test, which begins at 12:30pm. The exam is 175 minutes long, and the writing sample is 35 minutes long. Once time for administrative work and breaks is included, the whole process takes between four and five hours. You’re allowed to bring food into the test, but the only time you’re allowed to eat is during the brief 15 minute break after section 3.

Preparing for and taking the LSAT is a taxing process that will require raw determination and endurance. We hope this information is helpful as you begin planning your journey to the LSAT and law school.

LSAT Sections

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a standardized test that is designed to measure abilities and skills that are considered key for success in law school. So what exactly is on the LSAT?

Test Format

The LSAT consists of multiple-choice questions divided into five 35 minute sections (only four sections count towards your final score because one section is experimental) in addition to an unscored 35 minute writing sample. The LSAT is scored on a scale from 120-180, with an average score of 153.

Here is an overview of the different parts of the test and suggestions for how to absolutely CRUSH each one.

LSAT Logical Reasoning

This part of the test determines approximately 50% of your total score and is divided into two sections. The logical reasoning sections of the exam are most related to the work of a law student or a lawyer because these questions involve crafting, critiquing, reviewing, and improving arguments.

Identifying an assumption in an argument is crucial for success in this segment. The following pattern may be helpful: First, find the conclusion, then find the premises that support the conclusion, and, as a final step, identify any and all gaps and holes in the argument.

The LSAT is a carefully constructed exam that deliberately challenges test-takers. Many average-scoring test-takers try to outsmart the test by focusing on predicting the answer choices. However, the test-writers can predict such typical choices, and create answer choices that are similar to the most typical predictions. This makes it impossible to use predictions as a fool-proof tool on the LSAT.

Test-takers who achieve a score of 170 or higher tend to know the tricks the LSAT attempts to play on them, and use this knowledge to seek out the wrong answers. Working out the wrong answers to find the right ones seems to be a winning strategy for many. It can save a lot of time, as questions often ask you to find the “best possible” answer rather than the “ideal” one, and the obviously wrong answers can be easily eliminated, leaving more time to figure out which of the strange and not straight-forward answers are correct.

The top performers are often good at identifying the core of an argument and utilizing this information to rule out incorrect answers. Logical thinking obviously plays a significant role in mastering these sections.

LSAT Logic Games – Analytical Reasoning

In this section you will face the notorious LSAT logic games. Four logic games must be completed in 35 minutes, allowing for just over eight and a half minutes to complete each game.

All the games begin with a scenario that is followed by rules that apply to it. There are normally 3 to 6 constraints, and it is the test-taker’s job to figure out the answers to questions about the scenario. Roughly 50% of the questions in the analytical reasoning section are conditional. This means that they introduce a new rule to the scenario that only applies to that particular question. The remaining questions are based on the scenario and rules alone.

There are three main categories of logic games: assignment, ordering, and grouping. To dominate this section of the LSAT, it is absolutely essential to learn the characteristics of each type of game and the diagramming techniques that go with them.

The LSAT is notorious for introducing twists to the logic games. Recognizing the different game types is crucial to success, but LSAT logic games aren’t always straightforward. Many of the games mix characteristics from different game types, so test-takers must be flexible and creative in their diagramming and problem-solving skills. Some of the logic games can be solved by using different types of diagrams instead.

When it comes to logic games, there are a few important differences between average performers and top performers on the test. The average test-taker either uses diagrams rigidly, or uses a unique approach to each game. Test-takers with top scores tend to use the diagrams flexibly, adapting to twists. Top performers also methodically follow the inference chain, whereas average performing test-takers waste a lot of valuable time with the trial and error approach. Those who do well in this segment tend to find logic games fun and are not intimidated by logic games.

Be prepared to think on your feet and use your creative juices when you’re working on this section of the LSAT. Make sure you practice many questions before the exam to prepare yourself for all kinds of logic games.

LSAT Reading Comprehension

Much like the analytical reasoning section of the LSAT, the reading comprehension consists of four separate parts. Each part is about 60 lines long and divided into 3-4 paragraphs. Five to six related questions follow the passage.

This part of the test is divided in four categories: Law, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities. Test-takers aren’t expected to have prior knowledge of any of these fields. The objective of this section is to measure the test-taker’s ability to read with understanding and insight while under time pressure.

There are many different strategies for this section of the LSAT. Some students try to become faster readers, others read the questions first and then skim the text passages, hoping to find the right answers more quickly. The most successful candidates train for this section by familiarizing themselves with the structure of the text passages on the LSAT as well as the nature of the questions related to the passages.

Both speed and the ability to grasp the core underlying framework while separating it from unessential information in the text are at play in this section. The best strategy for this section is to identify the core issue or argument, analyze which details presented in the text support each side, and finally, determine the position of the author.

The types of questions in this segment can be divided into three categories: Identification, Inference, and Synthesis. Identification is the most straightforward type, because test-takers need only understand the meaning of the text. The second type, inference, builds on identification and requires the test-taker to seek out the relevant part of the passage and derive other deductions from it. Finally, synthesis questions require the test-taker to take everything one step further by combining several conclusions and constructing a broader understanding of the issues at hand.

LSAT Writing Sample

The writing sample section of the LSAT is not scored. However, these essays are sent to all of the colleges to which students apply. Most test-takers feel a bit uneasy about writing an essay at a moment’s notice on an unknown, unfamiliar subject. The purpose of this test is to assess the test-taker’s ability to construct a compelling argument, demonstrate solid reasoning, and provide supporting evidence. It also measures an individual’s overall ability to express thoughts clearly in written form.

The strategy to crush this segment is to keep it simple. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to blow your audience away in your writing sample. You want to demonstrate your ability to construct an argument and support it well. Don’t make it hard for yourself!

Essays must be written in 35 minutes, so there isn’t much time to spare. Making a simple table to outline the main pros and cons of your argument should suffice when you are planning your essay. It is also a good idea to leave at least 25 minutes for the writing process.

LSAT Tips

The LSAT is not designed to measure academic knowledge, but a college background remains useful because certain skills and academic majors hone reading and reasoning skills, both of which are absolutely crucial for success on the LSAT.Students taking the LSAT should take their time preparing for the test. Law schools weight the LSAT very heavily in their admissions process and it takes time to learn the format of the test and to excel on each section. Preparing for the LSAT is like training for a marathon. It takes time, practice, and patience. The exam takes more than 4 hours, and measures skills and abilities as well as raw determination and endurance.

How to Study for the LSAT

It pays to practice under the same conditions you will experience on test day. This means taking full-length practice exams exactly as you would on the exam day. You should time yourself to create the same pressure you’ll experience on the test. If you typically study alone in a quiet space, you should consider taking a full practice test in a public area, such as a student center or coffee shop to acclimate yourself to  having people and noise around in a high-pressure situation.

We have compiled a list of the best LSAT prep courses, most of which provide full-length practice tests with scoring analytics and timers. Be sure to explore different test prep options, including video lectures, drills and strategies for each section. Check out our comparison chart here.

How Long Should I Study For The LSAT?

Study time will vary by student, but a good rule of thumb is to take a practice test several months in advance of the date you plan to take the LSAT. This will allow you to determine how much time you will need to boost your score, and which sections need the most improvement.

Other factors will include whether you have other commitments, such as difficult classes or a job, your ability to focus and concentrate on studying a large body of material, and whether you are a quick learner. Some LSAT prep courses allow you to begin studying a year in advance, others limit you to a few months before your scheduled exam. You should leave yourself enough time to take as many prep tests as possible, determine your personal strengths and weaknesses, and set up a reasonable study schedule that will keep you on track.

Really crushing the LSAT means teaching your brain to perform challenging tasks. The goal is to learn techniques and strategies to help you produce accurate answers quickly and efficiently. Unless you are among the lucky few who naturally test well, this ability takes time to develop. It takes significantly longer if you can’t dedicate much of your time to the process. In most cases, 1-3 months is a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to preparation.

When To Take The LSAT?

The LSAT should be taken no later than the summer or fall of the year you are applying to law school. Many schools require the LSAT be taken by the December prior to your enrollment, and you will want to give yourself enough time to repeat the test if you do not score well the first time. If your plan is to go straight to law school after college, you will need to take the LSAT the summer after your junior year, or the fall of your senior year. It can be challenging to balance preparation for the test with undergraduate coursework, so studying over the summer is often a good idea.

The registration deadline for the LSAT is approximately one month before the test, and it is advisable to register early (6-8 weeks before the test) in order to secure a seat at your preferred location and avoid late fees. Please see our LSAT information page for additional registration details.

LSAT Logic Game Tips

The ultimate secret to crushing the LSAT logic games section is to learn to love them. Students who approach them as just another form of puzzles or Sudoku fare far better than those who fear these tricky questions. LSAT logic games are predictable and it is possible to learn how to solve them efficiently. You already know everything you need to know – a lot of practice will go a long way, and with the right preparation, you’ll find you can absolutely ace this segment!

Although it is true that the LSAT doesn’t repeat questions word-for-word from one exam to the next, the logical reasoning that underlies many of the games remains very similar. The best way to prepare for this section is to look at questions on past tests to understand and learn the patterns. The key is to have no fear!

LSAT Reading Comprehension Tips

In this section you’ll have to read a lot of information in a short amount of time. In that way, it is similar to what you’ll experience in law school. Learn to stretch your attention span by reading more before the test. Read daily. Newspaper articles and more complex texts, preferably on subjects that don’t interest you, are great choices.

It’s important to keep in mind that the content of the passages isn’t nearly as important as the structure of the text. Your primary job is to identify the relevant points in the article. Don’t waste your time trying to learn to speed-read, but concentrate on what’s important: understanding the structure. As you are reading, take note of evidence, critics and supporters, motivations behind actions, and conclusions. That’s all that matters.

LSAT Logical Reasoning Tips

The logical reasoning section is the most important part of the LSAT, as it counts for half the total points. You need to ace this section if you want a top score.

The good news is that it is possible to learn how to approach these problems with strategies that lead to the right answers. This section can be frustrating and is very challenging for many students, but it is by no means impossible. You should familiarize yourself with the different question types (assumption, strengthen, weaken, argument, inference etc.) and pinpoint your weaknesses. Practice your weakest question types until you feel comfortable with them, and your score will improve.

Like many standardized tests, easier questions precede the more challenging ones. The first twelve questions tend to be simpler and more straight-forward. In the beginning of the test, you should trust your first instinct and answer questions quickly. Once you are faced with more difficult questions, you should take your time and start by eliminating obviously wrong answers first. If you are not sure about the correct answer, eliminating wrong answers improves your odds of guessing the correct answer.

Don’t be afraid to skip a question if it seems too difficult. Make sure to answer all the easier questions first and leave more time-consuming problems until the end to maximize the number of points you earn. Also, you should always guess, even if you have no idea which answer is correct, because there is no penalty for wrong answers, and you have a 20% chance of choosing the right answer and scoring additional points.

For more thorough LSAT preparation and to build confidence, consider enrolling in one of the many excellent test prep courses that are available. Check out the best LSAT prep companies on our website by clicking the button below!

 

LSAT Scoring

LSAT Scoring

The LSAT consists of five 35-minute multiple-choice sections, and a writing sample. One of the multiple-choice sections is an ungraded experimental section (this section looks so similar to the other multiple-choice sections that you will probably not be able to tell which one it is).The 4 sections that contribute to your score include: Logical Reasoning I, Logical Reasoning II, Analytical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.

How is the LSAT Scored?

There are approximately 100 scored questions, and each is worth one point. The two Logical Reasoning sections together constitute about 50% of the final score. Reading Comprehension and Analytical Reasoning each contribute about 25% to the final score. All scored questions are weighted equally on the LSAT.

An LSAT score is based on the number of correct answers. This score is also known as the raw score.

After a raw score has been calculated for each test-taker, a scaled LSAT score is determined by using a special score conversion chart to create a bell curve. The purpose of this is to make sure that LSAT scores remain relatively constant from one test administration to the next. Some LSATs have harder questions than others, so this system compensates for such variations. As a result, a score of 160 will always represent the same level of performance on the exam.

LSAT score range

The LSAT uses a scoring range between 120 (the lowest possible score) and 180 (the highest possible LSAT score). Once a scaled score is calculated, the test-taker receives a percentile ranking. This ranking compares your performance with that of all other  LSAT-takers in the preceding three years.

Typically, a score between 178 and 180 will put you in the 99th percentile of test-takers, a score of 171 will put you in the 98th percentile, a score of 164 will put you in the 90th percentile, and a score of 160 will place you in the 80th percentile. The closer you get to the center of the bell curve, the more the number drops. A score of 155 will place you in the 64th percentile, a score of 150 in the 44th, and a score of 140 in the 13th. Most students’ scores will be concentrated in the center of the bell curve.

What is a good LSAT score?

The average scaled LSAT score is normally somewhere between 150 and 155. To determine the score you need, it is essential to know the average LSAT scores of accepted students at your target law school or schools.

Highest LSAT scores

If you are trying to get into one of the top 10 law schools in the country, an LSAT score of 164-177 is generally required. The law schools requiring the highest LSAT scores include Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School, and New York University Law School; all of which typically accept students with scores above 170.

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(Source: http://schools.lawschoolnumbers.com)

Average LSAT Scores for Law Schools

In general, a score of at least 140 is required to get into most law schools. A score in the 150s will typically get an applicant into most regional law schools. However, LSATs aren’t the only factor that law schools take into consideration when assessing applicants. A student’s GPA is very important as well, followed by recommendations from professors or employers, and the personal essay.

Law school applicants should definitely take the LSAT seriously. It is the single most important part of an application, and most universities place more value on the LSAT score than any of the other factors.  The LSAT measures skills that are considered very important for success in law school, and compares a student’s performance to that of students at other universities who have taken the LSAT.

As a prospective law student, you should research what it takes to get into the law school of your choice and gear your efforts towards that goal. Find out as much as you can about the application process to the law school of your dreams and use that information to your advantage. Much of your success in this process, as in so many other areas of life, comes down to having clear goals and thoroughly preparing for the challenge.

Top Law Schools

Top Law Schools

Choosing a law school is one of the most important decisions of your legal career. The school you attend will determine the kind of education you get, but more importantly, it will affect your job opportunities and career options after you pass the bar exam.Although there are many excellent law schools in the United States, firms and companies love to hire graduates of from these top universities:

1. Yale Law School

Consistently ranked the #1 law school in the country, Yale Law School is small, exclusive, and extremely competitive. Home to one of the largest law libraries in the world, it has an enrollment of approximately  600 students. Located in New Haven, CT, it has the lowest student-faculty ratio in the country. Prominent graduates include two U.S. presidents (Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton), ten Supreme Court Justices, nine U.S. attorneys general, and a large number of U.S. senators and state governors.

Yale Law School famously abolished grades in the 1960s, which cuts down on in-class competition and makes it difficult (if not impossible) to determine who is at the top or bottom of each class. The school ranks students on a simple credit/no credit system for the first year, with a traditional honors system in place for the second and third years. Students are guaranteed to get to know their law school professors and classmates very well because of the small classes. Students are encouraged to design their own law school experience rather than being bound to an inflexible curriculum.

Brief History

Originally known as the New Haven Law School, this institution gradually became affiliated with Yale College in the mid-nineteenth century. Law students began receiving degrees from Yale in 1843, but the school almost had to close its doors in 1845 and 1869. In the 1870s, the modern law library was created and the Yale Law Journal was begun. The degree of Master of Laws was offered for the first time in 1876. Yale become prominent in the 1930s when it helped promote legal realism, a doctrine that changed the way American lawyers understood the function of legal rules, courts and judges. Prominent deans, such as Charles Clark, began to hire outstanding faculty to train the nation’s best young legal minds.

Yale prides itself on its reputation of emphasizing public law in addition to private law, and positioned itself to play an important part in the rise of the administrative state, the globalization and internationalization that followed the Second World War, and the domestic civil rights movement. Today, it is internationally recognized as one of the preeminent centers of legal expertise in the world.

Admissions – 8.8% acceptance rate
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 170/173 /176
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.82/3.90/3.97
Tuition – $56,200 per year
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., J.S.D. (Doctor of Juridical Science, a more advanced degree for those pursuing a career in legal education), M.S.L., Ph.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 96.3%
Job Placement – 92%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

2. Harvard Law School

Harvard is one of the most well-known law schools in the United States, and for good reason. This private Ivy League school has a history that spans nearly 400 years, and its graduates are frequently hired by big law firms looking for new talent.

Brief History

Originally founded in 1636 as the “New College” in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, this prestigious university became Harvard College in 1639, when clergyman John Harvard died and bequeathed his money and books to the college. Harvard Law School was founded in 1817 by Isaac Royall, a wealthy slaveholder from Antigua who immigrated to Boston. It is the oldest continually operating law school in the United States and has the largest academic law library in the world. The student-edited Harvard Law Review, one of the most cited university law reviews, was first published in 1887. Women were first admitted to Harvard Law in 1953. Famous graduates include two U.S. presidents (Rutherford B. Hayes and Barack Obama), 11 U.S. attorneys general, 15 Supreme Court justices, and a large number of U.S. senators and state governors. Harvard consistently appears in the top three of U.S. News & World Report‘s annual rankings of the top law schools.

Admissions – 15.4% acceptance rate
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 170/173/175
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.75/3.87/3.95
Tuition – $55,842 per year
Job Placement: 96.9%
Bar Pass Rate – 97.1%
Graduation Rate – 98%
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M, S.J.D
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

3. Georgetown Law School

Georgetown University was founded in 1789 and is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States. Located in Washington D.C., the Georgetown University Law Center, also known as Georgetown Law School, is the second largest law school in the United States after Harvard. This school is extremely exclusive and difficult to get into, not least because it receives more applications than any other law school and only admits approximately 540 students a year. It boasts 12 law journals and has been ranked in the top 14 law schools every year since U.S. News & World Report began ranking them. 15 clinics allow students to get hands-on practice in the field before they graduate, and joint degree programs (such as J.D./Ph.D, J.D./MPH, and J.D./MBA) are popular.

Brief History

In 1870, Georgetown Law became the first law school to be founded by a Jesuit institution in the United States. In 1890, the law school moved into a new building separate from the undergraduate university in a different part of the city. Since then, the school has grown dramatically and is known for its specialized degrees in international and trade law, tax law, environmental law, health law, and national security law. Connections to the federal government, internships and clerkships at the Supreme Court and big law firms in the nation’s capital make this an excellent choice for students interested in public service or corporate law, although graduates often leave for jobs in New York and other cities as well.

Admissions – 29% acceptance rate
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 165/169/170
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.43/3.72/3.82
Tuition – $53,130 per year
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., S.J.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 90.96%
Job Placement – 91%
Quality of Campus and Facilities: 10/10

4. Columbia Law School

The Columbia School of Law is a well-known Ivy League school in New York City. Regarded as one of the most prestigious law schools in the U.S., it has a small student body, low student-faculty ratio and one of the highest employment rates after graduation. It also has a high price tag at just over $60,000 a year in tuition alone. Students who plan to practice law in New York will have their pick of firms and legal positions if they do well in their classes and internships.

Brief History

Columbia Law School was founded in 1858 in Manhattan. The law school’s first dean, Theodore W. Dwight, promoted academic training via office instruction, which was relatively common at the time. The Dwight Method of law was taught at Columbia until 1891, when the school adopted the more popular case method. In the 1920s and 30s, the school became affiliated with the legal realism movement espoused by Yale and other Ivy League schools. Today, the school is consistently ranked in the top five in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Admissions – 21.3% accepted
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 169/171/173
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles –  3.54/3.70/3.8
Tuition – $60,274 per year
Degree Options- J.D., LL.M, S.J.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 95.6%
Job Placement – 97%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

5. Stanford Law School

The Law School at Stanford University is another top-ranked law school. Currently tied with Harvard for the number 2 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of best law schools, this school is located in beautiful Palo Alto, California. Stanford Law was an early adopter of law school clinics, in which students get hands-on practice by helping actual clients with their legal issues. Its small class size, accessible professors, idyllic location and excellent job prospects make this a first-rate option. A new academic building and graduate residence where students can live among their classmates is very popular, and an honors, pass, restricted credit/no credit system has replaced traditional grades to reduce pressure on students. The new state-of-the-art Robert Crown Library is a favorite with students for studying. Unlike many dark and musty libraries at other eminent schools, this library has airy and well-lit spaces with plenty of access to seating and power outlets.

Brief History

Stanford University was founded in 1891 by former California Governor Leland Stanford, who had studied law in New York before he moved to California after the gold rush. Stanford University and a museum were established by the Governor and his wife to memorialize their son, who died of typhoid fever in 1884. The forward-thinking couple decided from the beginning that the university would be coeducational, non-denominational, and practical, in an effort to produce “cultured and useful citizens.” Stanford University began to offer courses in legal studies in 1893. Although the department began to refer to its program as a “law school” as early as 1908, Stanford’s law program did not become a modern professional school until 1924, when a bachelor’s degree became a prerequisite for admission and the law school became a graduate school. In 1932, the school added the LL.M. and S.J.D. degree options to the J.D. Stanford Law School has admitted a diverse body of students, including women and minorities, from the very beginning. Throughout its history, the school has honored this progressive tradition. It was also one of the first schools to introduce diversity law and courses on technology law.

Admissions – 10.3%
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 169/171/173
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.76/3.87/3.95
Tuition – $54,366 per year
Degree Options – J.D., LLM., S.J.D., MLS (Master of Legal Studies)
Bar Pass Rate – 88%
Job Placement – 96.2%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

6. UCLA Law School

A relative newcomer to the group of prestigious law schools, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law was established in 1949. Consistently ranked in the top 20, UCLA is known for its tradition of innovation, excellent faculty, and bright students. Its location in sunny Los Angeles and comparably reasonable tuition and generous financial aid packages make this school even more attractive to prospective applicants. Students can choose from the following six areas of specialization: Business Law & Policy; Critical Race Studies; the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law & Policy; Entertainment, Media and Intellectual Property Law; International and Comparative Law; and Law & Philosophy.

Brief History

In 1919, the Los Angeles Normal School (primarily established to educate teachers) was merged with the University of California to become the Southern Branch of the University of California. Eventually, this university became known as UCLA. Established in 1949, UCLA Law School was the first public law school in Southern California and is the youngest of the top 20 law schools in the United States. The UCLA Law Review was first published in 1953. Additional law review journals, such as the UCLA Asian/Pacific American Law Journal, the UCLA Chicano/a – Latino/a Law Review, the UCLA Women’s Law Journal, and the National Black Law Journal, underscore the school’s commitment to minorities and legal issues that affect minorities. In the 1970s, the school embraced the clinic system, which allowed students to gain practical skills in live legal clinics while still in law school. In the 1990s, the school created an Empirical Research Group and think tanks to foster unbiased academic discussions on policy and legal issues.

Admissions – 27.9% accepted
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 164/168/169
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.57/3.75/3.88
Tuition – $45,226 per year for in-state residents, $51,720 for non-residents
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., S.J.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 82%
Job Placement – 92%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 8/10

7. Cornell Law

Cornell Law School is a private Ivy League institution in upstate New York. With a student body of just under 200 in each class, it maintains one of the lowest student-faculty ratios in the country (9.9 to 1), and boasts a high bar exam pass rate. It is also extremely expensive, with tuition alone costing almost $60,000 a year. The school is a favorite with big law firms in New York City, however, those who hope to land a federal judicial clerkship will have less luck, as Cornell Law is near the bottom of the list of universities that place their students in those positions.

Brief History

The Law Department at Cornell University opened in 1887, but did not officially become a law school until 1925. Over time, the school developed a prestigious law library. Students can specialize in international law, and multiple international programs and study opportunities are available. The school publishes a number of leading law journals, including the Cornell Law Review, Cornell International Law Journal, and the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy.

Admissions – 29% accepted
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 166/167/169
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.54/3.68/3.77
Tuition – $59,360 per year
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., J.S.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 94%
Job Placement – 96%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 7/10

8. Duke Law

Duke University (originally called Trinity College) is located in Durham, North Carolina. The Law School was founded in 1930 and has been included among the top 14 law schools (typically in the top 10) since U.S. News & World Report began ranking them in 1987. Duke Law is known for its small class sizes and high bar exam pass rates. The beautiful and extensive campus covers more than 8,600 acres and includes the lovely Sarah P. Duke Gardens, striking Gothic architecture, and an impressive Chapel on its West Campus. The East Campus was formerly the home of the women’s college, and is characterized by Georgian-style buildings. Law journals include The Duke Law Journal, The Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, and the student-edited online publications Duke Law & Technology Review and the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy among others.

Brief History

In 1865, Trinity College established a Law Department as one of its eleven academic departments in the city of Trinity, North Carolina. The Trinity College School of Law opened in 1868 to train lawyers, but was closed and reopened several times before and after the university moved to its present-day location in Durham. In 1902, tobacco and electric power magnate James Buchanan Duke and his brother, Benjamin Newton Duke, provided an endowment that allowed the Law School to reopen. In 1924, Trinity College was renamed Duke University in honor of their father, Washington Duke. The first woman was admitted to the law school in 1927 and the first African-American students were admitted in 1961. In 1932, the Duke Legal Aid Clinic, one of the first programs of its kind in the country, was created to give students practical experience. A full-text electronic archive and repository of faculty scholarship was created in 2003. Today, the school publishes nine academic journals and has many notable alumni, including former President Richard Nixon.

Admissions – 20.9% accepted
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 166/169/170
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.58/3.76/3.85
Tuition – $55,588
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., S.J.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 95.4%
Job Placement – 96%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

9. University of California-Berkeley

The University of California at Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law is located in the San Francisco Bay area and has always been ranked among the top 14 law schools in the United States. It is tied with the University of Michigan as the top public law school in the U.S. Also known as Berkeley Law, this institution’s specialties include intellectual property, environmental, and international law and is home to 13 law journals. Its beautiful location and relatively small class size make it an attractive option for those who want to attend a first-rate law school on the West Coast.

Brief History

The first law classes were taught at the Berkeley campus in 1882, followed by the creation of the Department of Jurisprudence in 1894. In 1912, the department was named the School of Jurisprudence, and finally became the School of Law in 1950. From its beginnings, Berkeley Law admitted all qualified applicants, irrespective of gender, religion, or ethnicity. The first Bachelor of Law degrees were awarded in 1903, followed by the first J.D. degrees in 1906. The first African-American earned a law degree in 1922, and by 1940 more than 100 women had graduated from the law school. The law school was originally named after its location in Boalt Memorial Hall, however, the law school recently changed its name from “Boalt Hall” to “Berkeley Law” to more closely associate itself with the UC Berkeley campus on which it is located.

Admissions – 20% accepted
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 164/167/169
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.67/3.79/3.88
Tuition – $48,166 per year for in-state residents, $52,117 for non-residents
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., J.S.D., Ph.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 88%
Job Placement – 96.52%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

10. Vanderbilt Law

Vanderbilt University Law School, also referred to as “Vandy” or VLS, is located in the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee’s low cost of living and the law school’s scholarships, which often cover up to 1/3 of the cost of tuition, helps keep expenses down. The attractive 330-acre campus is notable for 18th century buildings, a national arboretum, a safe urban environment, and southern hospitality. The school emphasizes opportunities and experience in public interest, social justice, and clinical legal education. Class sizes are small, with only 175 students enrolling each year. Publications include the Vanderbilt Law Review, Journal of Transnational Law, Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law, and Environmental Law & Policy Annual Review.

Brief History

Established in 1874 with 7 students and 8 professors, Vanderbilt Law is one of the oldest law schools in the South. Classes remained small throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries and had to be suspended during World War II. A $1 million gift in 1947 allowed the program to grow in the next few decades, until it eventually had to move into its own building due to overcrowding in the early 1960s. By the early 21st century, its reputation expanded beyond the region to become a nationally acclaimed law school that is consistently ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report. Today, the school is known for its programs in Intellectual Property Law, International Legal Studies, Energy, Environment and Land Use Law, Criminal Justice, Social Justice, and Law and Government. A recent joint-degree law and neuroscience program that leads to a J.D. and Ph.D. is supported by a $4.8 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Admissions – 34.6% accepted
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 163/167/169
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.45/3.74/3.85
Tuition – $49,722 per year
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., Ph.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 95.5%
Job Placement – 91.2%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

11. University of Chicago Law School

The University of Chicago Law School is a prestigious school with a reputation for intellectual excellence and academic rigor. Located just south of Chicago, its urban location gives students full access to all the city has to offer. Students have a reputation for being serious and studying hard. In 2014, an impressive 98% of graduates found employment within a few months of graduation, continuing the high-employment trend of this top 5 law school. With a student enrollment between 500 and 600, the law school experience is intimate and students really get to know their professors. Students are graded on a quarter system, allowing for three different sets of classes a year, as opposed to two for those schools on a semester system. The school’s excellent clinics often draw students from around the country and balance its focus on intellectual interpretations of the law.

Brief History

The University of Chicago Law School is among the youngest of the top ranking schools, opening its doors in 1902, ten years after the University of Chicago was founded. Initial donors to the school included John D. Rockefeller. Chicago Law’s first president, William Rainey Harper, turned to Harvard Law School for help in establishing the school and hired a Harvard professor as the school’s first dean in 1902. The school grew dramatically in the two decades following World War II and is known today for its application of social science to the law and for its economic analysis of the law.

Admissions – 18.4% accepted
LSAT 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 166/170/172
GPA 25th/50th/75th percentiles – 3.67/3.90?3.95
Tuition – $55,503
Degree Options – J.D., LL.M., J.S.D.
Bar Pass Rate – 94.6%
Job Placement – 98%
Quality of Campus and Facilities – 10/10

The United States is home to some of the most prestigious law schools in the world. Our criteria considers quality of life, job prospects, quality of education, and passing rates on the bar exam. Attending any of these top law schools will give students an excellent start to their legal career.