Last week, we looked at which Biglaw firms were the highest rated in 2013 by their own lawyers, according to the ATL Insider Survey. As we noted, we’ve amassed in excess of 15,500 responses to our survey from practicing lawyers and law students. The information from our survey provides our readers with a deep resource for comparing and evaluating schools and firms, particularly in the form of our Law Firm and Law School Directories.

Today, we continue to milk the “it’s a New Year/here’s a list” format and present 2013’s highest-rated law schools. Please note this is not to be confused with the ATL Law School Rankings, which assess schools based on a range of employment outcomes (and which are coming out later this year). These ratings are a pure function of how schools were rated by current students in the areas of academics, financial aid advising, career services, practical/clinical training, and social life.

More clues that these are not the ATL Law School Rankings: Northeastern beats Northwestern, while Yale and Harvard do not even make the cut…

Below are the 10 top schools by overall rating (an average of the five categories). Ratings are on a scale from 1 (“very unsatisfied”) to 4 (“very satisfied”). We’ve also included a representative survey comment for each school. To be sure, we’ve received plenty of negative/bitter/scathing comments from respondents at some of these schools. But the clear majority of feedback was positive and the selected quotes are typical of popular sentiment.

1. University of Virginia School of Law – 3.57

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.80
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.30
Career counseling and job search help: 3.65
Social life: 3.69
Financial aid advising: 3.40

UVA is the best combination of ridiculously intelligent people who also don’t take themselves overly seriously. Charlottesville is a wonderful place to spend three years … Any potential UVA student should know that this is a challenging academic environment, but that those who see themselves as entitled will NOT be welcomed. You couldn’t pay me to go anywhere else. Yes, even Yale.

2. Washington and Lee University School of Law – 3.53

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.75
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.89
Career counseling and job search help: 3.21
Social life: 3.42
Financial aid advising: 3.40

Situated in a wonderful location, W & L Law offers more than the grind often seen in Law School. The classes are small, the professors care, and the students share a sense of striving toward a common goal. W & L may not be the highest ranked in the country, but its unique combination of traits and Alumni network scattered throughout the nation make this law school a competitive choice for even the most qualified candidates.

3. Stanford Law School – 3.48

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.78
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.67
Career counseling and job search help: 3.23
Social life: 3.42
Financial aid advising: 3.32

Stanford really is as great as everyone says it is. There are a few things that could be improved (more generous LRAP, better advising) but these are really first-world problems. Academics are great; faculty are ridiculously accessible and doing research or advocacy work with faculty is standard. Professors have you over to dinner – it’s really a nice, small community.

4. (tie) University of New Mexico School of Law – 3.46

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.60
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.65
Career counseling and job search help: 3.42
Social life: 3.40
Financial aid advising: 3.24

UNM School of Law has a tight-knit, supportive environment. The professors all maintain open-door policies and are always approachable. The career services department is committed to helping each and every student find the right place and is incredibly helpful along the way. The integrated clinic program as well as other classes give every student the opportunity to learn real world skills that will be carried forward. Every student who comes to UNM School of Law is encouraged and helped to succeed on every level.

4. (tie) Vanderbilt University School of Law – 3.46

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.80
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.17
Career counseling and job search help: 3.25
Social life: 3.75
Financial aid advising: 3.32

The best combination of quality of life, job prospects, fun/friendly student body, and awesome town. Couldn’t be happier.

6. Northeastern University School of Law – 3.45

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.74
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.97
Career counseling and job search help: 3.16
Social life: 3.52
Financial aid advising: 2.87

Superior clinical programs in addition to co-op … practical training that can’t be beat. Also an incredibly progressive student body and faculty!

7. UC Berkeley Law – 3.44

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.63
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.53
Career counseling and job search help: 3.26
Social life: 3.52
Financial aid advising: 3.24

This is a school where students support each other, rather than focus on competing with each other. Professors are invested in students’ learning and courses are challenging, but engaging. Students are encouraged to participate in journals and student initiated legal projects during their first year, and there are plenty to choose from!

8. University of Michigan Law School – 3.41

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.78
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.43
Career counseling and job search help: 3.04
Social life: 3.64
Financial aid advising: 3.16

[T]his is an incredible place. The members of the faculty are brilliant, approachable, and very accessible. There is also a sense of pride and tradition at Michigan that I really enjoy. It’s more subtle than some of the bigger name schools like Harvard or Yale, and that’s what I like about it.

9. Northwestern University School of Law – 3.40

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.67
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.63
Career counseling and job search help: 3.16
Social life: 3.54
Financial aid advising: 2.98

Northwestern’s unique atmosphere of almost all students with some post-college experience makes it a really interesting place to attend, and I think makes employers more attracted to our student population overall – if you are considering corporate law in particular, NU has *incredible* practical experiences available.

10. New York University School of Law – 3.39

Quality of faculty & academic instruction: 3.69
Practical/clinical training for the practice of law: 3.34
Career counseling and job search help: 3.39
Social life: 3.57
Financial aid advising: 2.97

Professors are absolutely brilliant. They also make a huge effort to connect with students, especially those students who have interests in their areas of expertise. An unrelated point — NYU is inherently happy. I know that seems silly to say, but after talking to a lot of other friends at other law schools, I think the fact that most of NYU doesn’t hate every second of being there means a good deal.

Congratulations to all these fine schools on their satisfied customers students. Happy New Year and best of luck in the second semester to all.

Earlier: ATL’s Top Rated Firms For 2013


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