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Top Law Programs in The World

Many international students intend to pursue a career in law. What do you need to know before choosing the law school that would suit you best?

First, in different countries, law schools use different names for a degree in law. Usually, ‘the first law degree’ is called BA, LLB, or JD (in the United States or Canada). This program usually takes around 3 to 4 years to complete. These are 'qualifying law degrees’ for the purpose of taking a ‘bar examination’ or other exams, depending on the country, and qualifying to practice as a lawyer. 

Second, some law schools in the United States or Canada require candidates to have a Bachelor’s degree and some work experience before applying. Law schools value internships or employment experience that demonstrate legal knowledge or some legal related skills. This may mean working at a legal firm, interning in governmental agencies, conducting advocacy work for a nonprofit organization, or performing research for a professor. 

Third, after completing the first law degree, it is possible to take a law master’s degree that takes around one year to complete and can advance your knowledge in a particular field of law. Usually, for a law master’s degree (LL.M., MJur), the academic standard is significantly higher than that required for a first law degree, and courses are not introductory. Then, if you are willing to pursue a career in legal education, there is a Ph.D. level (DPhil in Law, S.J.D., J.S.D.) or many other programs available. 

To identify the top law programs in the world, we used QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 by subject: Law, World University Rankings 2021 by subject: Law, Shanghai Ranking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2021 – Law.

Harvard Law School

Home to the largest academic law library in the world, Harvard Law School is an excellent place to study law. The best by subject ‘law’ by the QS World University Ranking, Harvard is the United States' oldest higher education school, and is widely considered as a top university in terms of impact, prestige, and academic pedigree not only in the United States, but also in the whole world.

Several law degree programs are offered at Harvard:

J.D  is a 3-year degree program that gives a foundation for legal study (civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, legislation and regulation, property, and torts) and then the opportunity to focus on the areas of particular interest.

LL.M. is a one-year degree program designed for those who already have excellent legal training. This program typically includes 180 students from about 70 countries.

  1. J. D. is a more advanced degree for those who wish to pursue a career in legal education.  

The University of Oxford, Faculty of Law

One of the oldest universities in the world, Oxford has excellent traditions in teaching and student life. A Law degree obtained in this school will open you many doors: the opportunity to qualify as a solicitor or barrister or to start a career in legal education. Being on top of various rankings, this school boasts the largest doctoral program in Law in the English-speaking world. Apart from courses for law students, the university offers many MSc programs (in criminology, taxation, human rights, and other disciplines) that last up to one year for those who have a first degree not in law, but in sociology, politics, history, or other relevant subjects.

The school offers several excellent law degrees.

BA in Jurisprudence equivalent to LLB is a regular undergraduate three-year course. Students for the BA in Jurisprudence study in ‘pair tutorials’ for which they write an essay so that the focus of the meeting is on the student's own work on the subject. 

BA in Jurisprudence equivalent to LLB with Law Studies in Europe is a four-year course which follows the same syllabus as the regular course, but with one year abroad at a university in France, Germany, Italy, Spain (studying French, German, Italian, or Spanish law), or the Netherlands (studying European and International law).

BA in Jurisprudence with Senior Status is a shortened version of the regular course designed for those who already have at least one university degree.

BCL (Bachelor of Civil Law),despite being called ‘Bachelor’, is a graduate, master’s level course for students from common law backgrounds. This program is one of the most highly regarded taught masters-level qualifications in the common law world.

Magister Juris or MJur offers a similar provision as the BCL, but for students from a civil law background.

DPhil in Law is one of the many research programs at the university. It requires you to write a thesis that would make a significant contribution to its subject. \

Yale Law School       

Being on the very top of Shanghai Ranking, Yale Law School is one of the world's best law schools, with an unrivaled academic atmosphere, a vibrant intellectual life, and numerous chances to engage with the law. Yale Law School provides students with a broad and strong academic experience that allows them to design their own route, whether they are interested in constitutional law or criminal law. The Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) program is also available for a limited number of non-lawyers who want to gain a basic understanding of legal thinking and investigate how the law applies to their field.

JD is a three-year law degree that offers all introductory courses and has a large and varied clinical program. Law students, supervised by faculty members and practicing attorneys, write briefs, prepare witnesses, try cases, negotiate settlements, argue appeals, and engage in many other law-related activities.  

LL.M.  is a one-year program open to those committed to a career in teaching law.

J.S.D. is a select doctoral program open only to graduates of the LL.M. program at Yale Law School.

Ph.D. is a doctoral program designed to prepare J.D. graduates for careers as legal scholars. 

The University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law

One of the oldest British universities, the University of Cambridge has been offering law courses since the thirteenth century, when the core subjects of legal study in all European universities were Civil law (the law of ancient Rome) and the Canon law of the Church. Since then, this school has been considered one of the best in the world to study law, and it maintains this status nowadays. 

BA Law is a law course that has always been, from its inception centuries ago, an academic degree that provides the opportunity to explore the subject of law with great depth under the dedicated tutelage of leading legal scholars.

LLM is a nine-month taught course for legal studies at an advanced level.

MCL - the Master’s degree in Corporate Law program provides students with the chance to study the legal and regulatory framework within which corporations are controlled and funded 

Ph.D. is the program for advanced legal research.

New York University, School of Law

NYU Law is an intellectual powerhouse, with over 40+ legal clinics and externships. The Law School has long been a pioneer in bringing about advances that have reshaped legal education, and ensured that its graduates are practice-ready in today's environment. A leader in international law, NYU Law is home to the Hauser Global Law School Program and the Guarini Institute for Global Legal Studies. 

It also offers the NYU Law Abroad program in Buenos Aires and Paris. Along with ‘traditional’ programs, NYU Law offers dual JD degrees (for example, JD/LLM in Taxation or International Law, JD/MA, JD/MBA, and many others) as well as dual JD degrees with other American universities (Harvard, Princeton) and many LLM programs in different fields (Corporation, Environment, Taxation and many others). 

JD is a standard first law degree with many possibilities offered by the university for a dual degree.  

LLM - a variety of master’s courses offered at the university aiming at students who wish to study law in all fields possible - from International Human Rights Law to  International Business Transactions, from Environmental and Energy Law to Criminal Law, and many others. 

JSD is the school’s most advanced law degree that provides intense training in academic research, aimed at those intending to pursue a career in academia. 

Stanford Law School

This top-ranked institution offers limitless opportunities to create your own joint degree, invent a new course, or explore law’s intersection with the most dynamic disciplines of the day. It boasts a high bar passage rate and support for students when they need to launch a career. Experimentation, exploration, the translation of new knowledge into entrepreneurial solutions - this is the reason why many students choose this institution. Along with law programs, the university offers the Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program which is a nonprofessional degree designed for students with no prior legal training.

JD - the students of this program benefit from broad access to courses offered at Stanford outside the law school, as well as a myriad of conferences and other multidisciplinary research programs. Stanford Law School offers three types of joint degrees—JD/Master’s (both for those who intend to practice law and who plans an academic career), JD/MD (law combined with medicine and biosciences), and JD/Ph.D.—in 21 subject areas.

LLM is a degree with a specialization (Corporate Governance & Practice, Environmental Law & Policy, Law, Science & Technology, and others) that is limited to students with a primary law degree earned outside the United States.

SPILS is the Stanford Program in International Legal Studies that is oriented toward international candidates who are committed to pursuing careers in teaching, research, the judiciary, public policy, or service in government or non-governmental organizations 

JSD is a program for those pursuing advanced research in legal studies.