What Are the Top Criminal Law Schools?

Find out what to look for when selecting a school for your criminal law studies. Review three schools chosen based on their top national rankings and law school rankings. Explore the criminal law programs that each of these schools offers and review a list of ten additional top colleges. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Characteristics of Top Criminal Law Schools?

The best criminal law schools generally have internships and research opportunities that give you experience in criminal law. Top schools have criminal law journals and other publications that are nationally recognized. You might find opportunities to study comparative criminal law and sentencing systems while in another country. You should also look for schools with research centers and clinics that cater to your particular interests in criminal law.

What Are Three of the Top Criminal Law Schools or Colleges?

Northwestern University in Evanston, IL

U.S. News & World Report placed Northwestern University tied at number 10 on the list of best law schools in 2019. Northwestern University features the Bluhm Legal Clinic, which was opened in 1969. The Bluhm Legal Clinic hosts a variety of research centers, such as the Center on Wrongful Convictions, the Roderick McArthur Justice Center and the Center for Criminal Defense. The Roderick McArthur Justice Center is a non-profit public interest law firm that litigates prisoner rights, gun control and death penalty issues. Northwestern University has six student-edited journals, one of which is over 100 years old. You can also take part in additional recruiting opportunities through career nights, dinners and receptions.

In addition to the standard law degree program options, Northwestern University also has accelerated program options. A few joint degrees are offered, including a Juris Doctor/Ph.D. and a Juris Doctor/MBA. You can pursue the following degrees at Northwestern University:

  • Juris Doctor
  • Master of Science in Law
  • Executive Master of Laws

University of Minnesota in Minneapolis

The University of Minnesota (UM) was ranked tied at 20th place for the best law schools in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report. The Princeton Review placed UM on its list of 'Best Law Schools' in 2019.

UM is home to student-edited and faculty-edited law journals that are nationally recognized. UM has nine research institutes, including the Institute on Crime and Public Policy and the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. Through the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, you could have the opportunity to participate in special clinics, seminars and research assistantships. You could study abroad or participate in a semester exchange program. The study abroad and semester exchange programs are designed to give you course options that might not be available on-campus and allow you to experience a legal system in a foreign country.

You can choose from about 15 Juris Doctor joint degree programs, in addition to the standard Juris Doctor program. UM offer the following law degrees:

  • Juris Doctor
  • Master of Laws
  • LL.M in American Law
  • Doctor of Juridical Science

University of Texas in Austin

The University of Texas in Austin (UTA) was 16th in the 2019 law school rankings list compiled by U.S. News & World Report. UTA publishes the American Journal of Criminal Law, which is regarded as one of the best student-edited journals in the U.S. UTA has a variety of law-related research centers, including the Capital Punishment Center and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. You could participate in the Criminal Defense Clinic, which gives you the opportunity to represent actual defendants in court. UTA offers prosecution, judicial and legislative internships. If you're interested in studying abroad, UTA has an exchange program, a semester in London program and an ad hoc program that allows you to propose a study plan at any law university in the world. The Juris Doctor program also has joint-degree options with other departments at UTA. You can pursue these law degrees at UTA:

  • Juris Doctor
  • Master of Laws

8 More Criminal Law Schools

College/University Institution TypeLocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition*
CUNY 4-year, Public New York, NY$11,000
Washington University in St. Louis 4-year, Private St. Louis, MO$53,000
University of Maryland 4-year, Public Baltimore, MD$16,500
University of the District of Columbia (Clarke) 4-year, Public Washington, DC$9,000
Stanford University 4-year, Private Stanford, CA$51,000
Yale University 4-year, Private New Haven, CT$42,000
New York University4-year, Private New York, NY$45,000
University of New Mexico4-year, Public Albuquerque, NM$6,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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