10 Best Law Schools In The U.S.

So you've completed your undergraduate degree, or are in the midst of it at a 3/3 program, and law school is on your horizon. A 3/3 program is one offered by some schools which allows students to overlap their first year of law school with their senior year of undergrad, finished undergrad and being awarded their degree at the same time as finishing their first year in law school. Whether you are entering as a 3/3 or a first-year applicant, the best law schools are good to keep your sights on. In this article, we'll explore a list of 10 of the best law schools in the United States.

 Law School FAQ

Stack of law books

Following is a presentation of commonly asked questions pertaining to law school. We'll explore what law school it, what opportunities it brings, and also the importance of keeping in mind the cost of law school and the prospect of making money upon finishing it. As we'll see, the best law schools and the worst law schools alike can cost quite a bit of money--generally over $50,000 annually for three years--so choosing the right institution for you is essential to support your successful law school career.

What Is Law School?

What Is Studied in Law School?

What Can You Do with a Law Degree?

How Do I Become a Lawyer?

How Important Is Going to the Best Law Schools?

How We Reviewed

people studying in the library

In the review of the best law schools in the United States, we have focused upon the curriculum and quality, the pros and cons of each university, and the cost of a law degree. As noted below, the cost of a law degree from the best law schools can vary widely. It is important to remember that our review of a law school will be objective, but your decision is entirely subjective. Choosing the best law school for you will be a decision made through a combination of considering the school's curriculum, as well as the culture, location, and staff; so make sure to take your time and check out schools before deciding.

Overall Price Range of the Best Law Schools

open doors along the corridor

The overall price range of a law degree from the best law schools will generally be somewhere around $50,000 annually for academics, in addition to the cost of living. This is given that no scholarships or grants are received. Scholarships may be awarded to persons based upon membership or demographics, application to particular programs, or achieving victory in particular competitions.

What We Reviewed

School

University of California — Berkeley

University of Virginia

University of Michigan — Ann Arbor

University of Pennsylvania

New York University

Columbia University (NY)

University of Chicago (IL)

Harvard University (MA)

Stanford University (CA)

Yale University (CT)


University of California — Berkeley

Curriculum

A pristine Northern California campus with the traditional law school curriculum.

Pros 

 Cons

  • Very low acceptance rate of 23%
  • Bar passage rate of 83.1%
Tuition

Just over $19,000 for in-state residents, and a little over $32,000 for non-residents. Note that here and for all other schools explored, the cost of living is not included, and this can be substantial depending upon the locale.


University of Virginia

Curriculum

A traditional curriculum that achieves an 87.9 percent employment rate at graduation, with a professional assessment of 4.4.

Pros

  • Excellent employment rate at graduation
  • 90.3% employed 10 months after graduation
  • 93.2% bar passage rate

Cons

  • Virginia is not California
Tuition

About $47,900 for in-state and $52,900 for out-of-state students.


University of Michigan — Ann Arbor

Curriculum

In the aquatic Ann Arbor region, this school has a 7.3/1 student-to-faculty ration for the traditional law school curriculum.

Pros

  • 97.9% bar passage rate

Cons

  • Somewhat high student-to-faculty ratio compared to the competition
Tuition

Around $57,000 for in-state and $60,500 for out-of-state students.


University of Pennsylvania

Curriculum

The traditional law school curriculum with an overall score of 89/100 by CNBC.

Pros

  • 97.6% bar passage rate
  • 94.5% employed at graduation rate

 Cons

  • Low acceptance rate of 18%
Tuition

The tuition here is around $47,600 for everyone.


New York University

Curriculum

A strong traditional legal curriculum with an entering undergraduate body with average 3.66+ GPAs.

Pros 

  • 97.3% bar passage rate
  • 27% acceptance rate

 Cons

  • Lower employment rates at graduation than some competitors
Tuition

Tuition at this institution is about $64,000, making it one of the most expensive we've explored.


Columbia University (NY)

Curriculum

Columbia offers a classic legal curriculum in a historic setting that supports learning.

Pros 

  • A bargain for the level of prestige
  • 96.1% bar passage rate

 Cons

  • No in-state discount
Tuition

The tuition at Columbia is about $56,000.


University of Chicago (IL)

Curriculum

The windy city's premiere legal curriculum with strong corporate opportunities.

Pros 

  • 97.7% bar passage rate
  • 95.3% employed at graduation

 Cons

  • Very high average entering GPA of 3.73-3.95
Tuition

In Chicago at this institution you'll pay around $62,000 each year.


Harvard University (MA)

Curriculum

Harvard is the most classic of legal curriculums available in the United States at the historic campus in Cambridge.

Pros 

  • Beautiful campus and surrounding environment
  • The nation's most prestigious law school

 Cons

  • 91.6% employed at graduation
Tuition

The cost at Harvard is about $64,000 for each of the three years of law school.


Stanford University (CA)

Curriculum

Stanford provides a nationally respected traditional legal curriculum sufficient to sit for the UBE.

Pros 

  • 4/1 student-to-faculty ratio
  • 91.3% employed at graduation
  • Low cost of tuition

 Cons

  • Lower bar passage rate than the competition at 91%
Tuition

At just about $47,500, Stanford is one of the cheapest private best law schools.


Yale University (CT)

Curriculum

Of the best law schools, Yale's traditional curriculum is ranked at the top of the nation.

Pros 

  • 99% bar passage rate
  • 4.2/1 student-to-faculty ratio

 Cons

  • Low employment at graduation rate of 83.3%
  • Low employment at 10 months after graduation rate of 83.3%
Tuition

Students pay around $62,000 a year for law school at Yale.

The Verdict

Of the law schools reviewed, the costs vary substantially, while the curriculums are largely the same. The decision to attend one of the best law schools is something that is entirely personal and something you decide upon after considering your goals with your law degree. Stanford was the best combination of pricing, prestige, and ranking, at around $47,000 and ranked at number 2 in our list of the top 10 best law schools. Harvard may have the highest prestige, yet is ranked in at #3, and while Yale is ranked at #1, it has one of the worst employment at graduation rates of the schools reviewed.

Spending over $250,000 to acquire a JD if you intend upon practicing in a small town with a limited number of clients can be a financially ruinous decision. Spending $250,000 to acquire a JD if you will work for a corporation earning $300,000 annually is an investment that is entirely worthwhile. Consider what works for you, and be prepared to study.

For more information on lawyers, law school, and other related matters, check back to Lawyer Search for ongoing updates and articles.

Things To Know Before Signing A Non Compete Agreement

When you find a new job, you must sign a contract before you officially start working. The contract covers the terms of the employment, including issues like salary along with the duties and responsibilities. However, the employer may also need you to sign a non compete agreement. If you didn't sign such an agreement when you started working, you might notice that your employer pressures you to sign the agreement when you are being promoted or getting a pay raise.

Signing the non compete agreement is beneficial for employers as it helps them protect their businesses as it bars employees from starting a similar business. All types of businesses can benefit. So what is a non compete agreement? This content highlights what this agreement is, whether there is a need for signing it and things you should know before signing it.

What Is a Non Compete Agreement?

A non compete agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee that prohibits the employee from engaging in a business that competes with the employer's business for a certain time period and within a certain locality, which is specified in the agreement. Even though the employer cannot force you to sign it, they may terminate or not hire you if you refuse to sign the contract. Note:  courts are not usually supportive of non compete agreements; they will consider factors pertinent to the case to determine whether this kind of an agreement is reasonable.

Therefore, if you are negotiating a non compete agreement with your employer, we recommend you to ensure that it is limited only to aspects necessary for the employer’s protection. You should also ask for severance payment when terminated under such circumstances. The non compete agreement, which is a protective mechanism for the employer from the undue competition by an employee, can also be referred to as a "restrictive covenant" or a "covenant not to compete." The contract is common these days when applying for jobs and in contracts involving the sale of businesses.

The main purpose of the contract is to restrict the ability of employees to go into a business similar to the employer’s within a specific locality for a certain time period. If you sign it, you agree that you won’t compete with your employer by engaging in any business similar to that of your employer, as an independent contractor, employee, significant investor, part owner or whatever other forms of competition your employer identifies and includes in the contract.

Non Compete Agreement Elements

Non Compete Agreement Elements

The contract is typically state-governed and does not fall in the federal law jurisdiction. The non compete agreement covers these elements:

  • The traditional "covenant not to compete" prohibits the employee from joining a competing businesses during a certain period and within a specific geographical location.
  • Non-solicitation agreements bar approaching clients, poaching employees or wooing former employer’s supplies.
  • A confidentiality agreement, also known as a nondisclosure, bars the use or revelation of information of former employers to new employers. The information could include client lists, marketing plans and product formulations.

Is There a Need for Non Compete Agreements?

BUSINESS MEETING

The non compete agreement will legally bind employers and employees. It is important as it prevents the employee from competing with his or her employer after he or she is terminated, for a specified period in a certain locality. Employers benefit from the contract since it discourages an employee from leaving the current position held in the company or business and taking a new position, which presumably pays better, in a competitor's firm. Once the employee joins the competitor firm, he or she can pass on valuable information gained while working for the previous employer. This information can be used to gain a competitive advantage, which is deemed unfair.

As such, by making sure that the employee signs the agreement, an employer protects the company’s goodwill and trade secrets. It is also a viable strategy to retain talented and experienced employees from making a move to competitor firms. This allows the employer to benefit longer from its investment in providing a valuable training to staff. However, the agreement cannot include limitations on the employee’s right to earn a living and move on when he or she leaves the current employer.

Employers not using the non compete agreements should consider doing so. There are many benefits of ensuring that the employees sign the agreement. It is free and easily available to download off the internet. However, there are some demerits associated with the agreement since research has established that the non compete agreement can limit job mobility, discourage venture-capital investments and accelerate talent flight.

Provide Information on Non Compete Agreements

contract SIGNING

What Should Be Included

For the agreement to be legally valid, it should:

  • Have an intention to protect a legitimate business interest, such as trade secrets or retaining valuable customers
  • Be reasonable regarding its time, scope and geographical restriction
  • Be supported by consideration, such as money

5 Things Courts Look For To Establish The Reasonability Of The Agreement

courtroom

The court establishes the reasonability of the contract based on the following points:

  1. The potential harm to the employers. The agreement should establish the potential harm to the employer's business. 
  2. The specified time period. The reasonability depends on the nature of the job. For instance, a manufacturing business can have a period of about a year. For yoga instructors, it can be three to six months.
  3. The banned territory. This may be as far as ten miles away from the previous employer for a hair salon but a three-state area could be reasonable for a business or sales manager.
  4. Impact on the employee. Signing the agreement doesn’t mean that the employer will not work for the remainder of his or her life. It is not reasonable for the employer to deprive the employee of making a living or forcing a relocation. Courts typically consider this point more than the others.
  5. Interests of the general public. The contracts should not stifle competition to the point of creating a monopoly.

Courts do not honor provisions that are deemed as unreasonable, a point that is established when negotiating for such contracts. This again depends on the state in question and the court used for such proceedings.

Contract Negotiation

Signature

Employers should first focus on what they need to accomplish. If the employer is the owner of a local small business, you might ask where the contract came from. If it was downloaded from the internet, it is likely to include inapplicable clauses so it is best that you discuss point by point in the spirit that the resulting clauses will benefit you and doesn’t comprise excess baggage. This means that the parties involved should know the benefits and demerits.

The agreement binds both parties. As an employee, you need to ask for assurance in the contract that as you gain experience, you will receive promotions and pay raises so you are not stuck at your entry-level salary as the contract can trap you. Even if your employer is a large corporation, you’re entitled to negotiation. If the employer is not willing to negotiate, you’re free to walk away.

Always consult a lawyer to look into the contract document so that if there are any issues that are not in your favor, he or she can explain them to you and offer advice. You might also want to consult a lawyer if the employer wants you to sign the agreement as a condition for getting severance when being terminated. The situation is even more delicate when being offered a promotion or pay raise. Some states may require an add-on, such as more vacation when signing the contract if you're getting this raise or promotion.

You need to watch out for lawyer fees since some contracts stipulate that the employees pay for the legal fees of the company. Note that how the employer negotiates with you before signing the agreement can be an indicator of how you’ll be treated when employed. Therefore, you might be wary of employers who include too many clauses in the agreement that don't favor you as an employee.

Conclusion

A non compete agreement prohibits employees from engaging in a business that competes with his or her current or former boss’s business. For the contract to be valid, it must protect a legitimate business interest, such as trade secrets. It should also be reasonable regarding its time, scope and geographical restriction and must be supported by consideration, such as money. Again, both parties have to sign it for a court to recognize it. The non compete agreement falls under state jurisdiction.

You should note that the employer cannot force you to sign the non compete agreement but may terminate or not hire you if you refuse to sign it. It's mainly intended to restrict the ability of employees to go into a business similar to the employer’s within a specific locality for a certain period.
 
It is vital for employers since it discourages an employee from leaving the current position and helps protect the company’s goodwill and trade secrets. Some employers may use it as a strategy to keep talented and experienced employees from making a move to the competitor firm.

For employees:  before signing the contract, always consult a lawyer to look into the contract and provide advice. We hope this article has adequately addressed what a non compete agreement is and whether there is a need for signing it.

Guide To Residential Lease Agreements

The time has finally arrived; you are moving out of your parents' home and into your first apartment. Or maybe this isn't your first move to a new rental home. Either way, you are over-the-top excited. You are packed, pretty much, and ready to go. There's just one more thing you have to take care of. You have to go and sign your residential lease agreement.

What, you are asking yourself, exactly is a residential lease agreement? Sure, you know it's your lease, but do you really need to sign one? Just how important is a residential lease agreement, anyway? How will you ever understand all that legalese? Let's see if we can help.

What Is a Residential Lease Agreement?

A residential lease agreement is the commonly used legal document between landlords and tenants. While they can adapt this lease agreement to meet the specific needs of landlords, it still must follow all applicable state regulations and contain all the required legal disclosures. The lease agreement establishes the rules that will be followed by both the tenant and the landlord.

You may also see a residential lease agreement written under one of these other names:

  • Renters Agreement
  • Apartment Lease Agreement
  • Basic Rental Agreement
  • House Lease Agreement

When to Sign a Residential Lease Agreement

residential house

You should sign a lease agreement if you will be renting any property that is considered livable. A livable property could include an apartment, a townhouse, a house, a mobile home, a condo, or even a single room. The lease will set the term, or the length of time you will live at the property, which is usually one year.

Who Should Sign a Residential Lease Agreement

signing an agreement

A lease agreement should be signed by every adult who will living at the rental property. Each adult should be considered a tenant and be held responsible for an equal share of the rent, deposit, and any related fees. Each person is also equally responsible for the care and maintenance of the rental property.

Is There a Need for a Residential Lease Agreement?

document needs signature

The residential lease agreement puts the responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant in writing. This helps to keep confrontations to a minimum and, hopefully, helps to avoid any legal headaches. Both parties are protected by this legal document should a dispute arise. Below are some commonly disputed areas between landlords and tenants.

Repairs and Maintenance

man cleaning the yard

Perhaps one of the biggest areas of misunderstanding between landlords and tenants is who is responsible for certain repairs and maintenance. This will be clearly defined in the lease agreement, and should be followed by both parties to limit confusion. If you are unsure if you are permitted to make a repair, contact your landlord first. Repairs and permanent changes, such as installing new cabinets or painting walls, should never be done by tenants without their landlord's approval.

Generally speaking, the tenant is responsible for keeping the property neat, clean and presentable. Also, he or she is responsible for repairing or paying for the repair of any damage caused by his or her own neglect. The tenant must notify the landlord if a major repair is needed.

The landlord is responsible for maintaining the safety and integrity of the property. He or she must repair any dangerous living condition and fix defective areas such as plumbing, major appliances (if included with the property) and heating and air conditioning. The landlord must inform the tenant of how to request a repair and how the repair will be handled.

Deposits and Fees

safe

The end of the term has arrived, and that means that the question of what is to be done with the security deposit has come up. The standard security deposit on residential lease agreements is equal to one month's rent and is paid and the beginning of the lease. The lease agreement will state any reasons why the security deposit will not be refunded, for example, to pay for damage done to the property. It will state how long after the lease is ended, the landlord may hold the deposit before refunding it to allow for inspection of the property. The lease will also state whether or not the security deposit can be applied towards the last month's rent, which is not usually the case.

Fees can include a charge for a returned check, along with late payment fees. Cleaning fees may be applied at the end of the lease to pay for professional cleaning, and this will be clearly written in the lease agreement. Many landlords also charge a pet fee for those tenants who wish to bring their pet with them. This fee is to cover any potential, additional cleaning that may be required due to the presence of the pet. It will detail the amounts of the various fees in the lease agreement at the time it is signed.

Rent

real estate

The amount of rent for the term of the lease agreement will be agreed upon at the time the lease is signed. This amount cannot be arbitrarily changed by the landlord during the lease. The lease agreement will state the due date, acceptable forms of payment, and if there is a grace period. It will also specify if payment is to be made by mail, in person, or if either way is acceptable.

Landlord Entry

person signing a document

The residential lease agreement will specify the landlord's right to enter to property. The lease agreement will indicate whether the tenant needs to be present when the landlord enters. In most cases, the landlord has the right to enter the property in the absence of the tenant. It will state the amount of notice the landlord is required to give the tenant prior to entering the property.

FAQ'S on Residential Lease Agreements

document and a pen

What is the Difference Between a Month-to-Month and a Fixed-Term Lease?

Will I Have to Pay My Utilities?

Can I Move Someone in With Me?

Can I Have a Pet?

What if I Get a New Job During the Lease?

What if I Get an Eviction Notice?

Conclusion

Residential lease agreements are important for the landlord and for the tenant. They provide the guidelines for both parties to follow to ensure a positive landlord/tenant relationship. They also provide legal protection to both parties should an irreconcilable dispute arise.  So, now that you know more about residential lease agreements, you should have an easier time understanding yours when you go to sign it.  Still, be sure to ask questions about anything and everything that you want clarified. Residential lease agreements can vary slightly from landlord to landlord, read carefully, make yourself informed, and be sure to understand the fine print before you sign.

Then, enjoy your new apartment. There's nothing quite like having a place you can call your own. Even if it is stacked high with boxes and kind of cluttered right now.