The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
The legal job market has seen better days.
Only slightly more than half of the members of the class of 2011 had long-term, full-time work requiring a law degree nine months after graduation, according to the ABA Journal. Data collected by U.S. News over the past three years shows median starting private sector salaries for lawyers are falling and average debt loads for law grads are steadily rising.
In this kind of climate, many prospective law students want to get the best bang for their buck when it comes to their legal education.
[Learn more about paying for law school.]
The average law school indebtedness of 2012 law school graduates with debt was $108,293, while the average median starting private sector salary for all 2011 graduates was $76,125, according to data provided to U.S. News by 194 ranked law schools.
While that might be sobering news for many aspiring law students, at least the current law students at the University of Texas—Austin have something to smile about. The school reported the highest salary-to-debt ratio – a calculation based on the data available of how many times a student's reported starting salary covers his or her debt load. University of Texas law students graduated with an average debt load of $86,312 in 2012 and earned a median starting private sector salary of $155,000 in 2011.
In comparison, the Florida Coastal School of Law had the lowest salary-to-debt ratio, with students earning median starting salaries of $45,000 in 2011 and graduating with an average debt load of $143,111 in 2012.
[See the full U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings.]
Of 194 ranked law schools surveyed by U.S. News during the 2012-2013 school year, 186 schools reported both the average indebtedness of their graduates and the median starting salary of graduates who accepted full-time jobs in the private sector.
Five of the 10 law schools with the highest salary-to-debt ratio are in the top 10 law schools ranked by U.S. News. Other schools where students had low debt relative to starting salaries include The J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, the Boston College Law School, Rutgers Law School and the law school at University of Michigan—Ann Arbor.
Among the 10 schools where students had the highest salary-to-debt ratio, the average median starting private sector salary was $141,950 and the average indebtedness was $98,551.
Below are the 10 schools whose students leave with the least amount of debt relative to their first-year salaries in the private sector. Schools designated by U.S. News as Unranked were excluded from this list. U.S. News does not calculate a numerical ranking for Unranked programs because the program did not meet certain criteria that U.S. News requires to be numerically ranked. For this list, only private sector starting salary data was considered.
|Law school (name) (state)||Median private sector starting salary (2011 grads)||Average student debt (2012 grads)||Salary-to-debt ratio||U.S. News law school rank|
|University of Texas—Austin||$155,000||$86,312||1.796||15|
|University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill||$117,500||$74,485||1.577||31|
|Brigham Young University (Clark) (UT)||$84,500||$56,112||1.506||44|
|Stanford University (CA)||$160,000||$110,275||1.451||2|
|Yale University (CT)||$160,000||$110,741||1.445||1|
|University of California—Berkeley||$160,000||$115,349||1.387||9|
|University of Pennsylvania||$160,000||$118,278||1.353||7|
|Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--Newark||$117,500||$87,272||1.346||86|
|University of Michigan—Ann Arbor||$160,000||$120,136||1.332||9|
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News Law School Compass to find LSAT information, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed 200 fully ABA accredited law schools for our 2012 survey of law programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Law Schools rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News's rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The indebtedness and salary data are correct as of Aug. 13, 2013.