There’s been a lot of talk recently about the value of a law degree, and whether or not it’s actually worth a million dollars, degrees from some law schools are obviously worth more than others. Let’s be real for a moment here: If you’re taking out six figures of debt just for the privilege of attending, your starting salary damn well better be somewhere near the same amount, otherwise you’re going to be underwater for most of, if not all of, your adult life after law school.

Living with debt is scary, and if you want to have a better chance of being able to comfortably do all of the things you thought you’d be able to after getting a law degree, things like owning a home and having a child, you need to choose your law school wisely. You can start evaluating your options — or giving yourself a pat on the back — by checking out the latest U.S. News rankings for the 10 law schools with the biggest return on investment.

Which schools made the list? Not all of them are in the T14, so you may be surprised…

Before we get to the U.S. News ranking, which measures schools whose students have the least amount of debt relative to their first-year salaries, let’s discuss what we find problematic with it. The list takes into account only private sector salaries, but neglects to list the percentage of the class holding those jobs. If only a small percentage of the class is actually working in these private sector jobs, then its high return-on-investment ranking could be a false positive. If all salaries were included, we imagine that some of these schools wouldn’t even be on the list at all, so please keep that in mind.

Our criticisms aside, which law schools have the best ROI, as calculated by U.S. News? Here they are:

The average median starting private sector salary here was $141,950 and the average indebtedness was $98,551, and it’s incredibly easy to pick out which schools’ alumni are jam-packed full of Biglaw first-years. $160,000 is the magic number, and any other salary hovering close to it means the school has placed more than a fair number of students in Biglaw jobs in secondary markets.

Take note of the fact that although top schools make up half the list, not a single T14 school can be found in the top three spots (although UT Austin cuts it pretty close). Congratulations to the University of Texas for proving that everything really is bigger in the Lone Star State, including the value of the law degrees.

Ultimately, this list told us what we already knew: If you want to get a big return on your law school investment, you have to snag a job in Biglaw. But for what it’s worth, if you want the biggest bang for your buck, it helps to go to a top 50 law school (which is news to approximately no one). Thanks, U.S. News!

10 Law Degrees With the Biggest Return on Investment [The Short List / U.S. News & World Report]


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