The Best 170 Law Schools: 2008 Edition features a brand new ranking list for students: “Best Classroom Experience.” The quality of your classroom experience at law school will be influenced by a number of factors. Are your professors good teachers? How well does the curriculum balance legal theory with practical lawyering skills? Are diverse opinions tolerated in the classroom? These are some of the factors we considered to come up with the schools on the list. According to The Princeton Review’s survey of 18,000 students from the nation’s best 170 law schools, these 10 schools offer their students the best experience in the classroom.
While you will get a rigorous legal education at Loyola, don’t expect to attend an endless series of boring lectures. The school’s “brilliant [and] accessible” teaching staff draws praises for being able to “communicate the complex clearly. They’re also a damn funny lot, which goes a long way when you’re slogging through a 14-week course on civil procedure.” On top of that, the teaching staff is generally described as “wonderful and supportive,” always willing to lend academic or personal support. A first-year law student recounts, “All of the professors really care about their students; I even had a criminal law professor that would bring cookies and brownies in for the class.”

Students who considered Loyola Marymount also looked at Pepperdine University, University of California-Davis, University of Southern California and Southwestern University School of Law.

2. Duke University (Durham, N.C.)
“Accessible” seems to be the foremost trait of the knowledgeable faculty at Duke Law School. “I think most of my classmates, including myself, have been to at least one of our professors’ homes for dinner,” says one second-year law student. Though many students wish for “a more diverse faculty,” students across the board rave about professors’ open-door policies and “special interest in helping you succeed.” Instructors “are proud to be a part of the Duke community,” and it shows in their teaching. “My constitutional law professor from last year is now the adviser on my independent study, and he treats me like I’m a client — he always e-mails me back within a few hours, which is nuts since he always happens to be arguing in front of the Supreme Court!”

Students who considered Duke University also looked at Columbia University, New York University, Georgetown University and University of Pennsylvania.

3. Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.)
“The academic experience at SLS is wonderful.” For some students, it “could not possibly be better.” “Resources are deep, especially because the class is so small.” The small class size “leads to countless opportunities to participate” in and out of the classroom. “There is a lot of freedom to chart your own academic course after your first semester.” (“It’s like a liberal arts college, only it’s a law school,” submits one student.) SLS has poured tons of resources into its clinical and public interest programs in the past five years. “Stanford now offers many courses geared towards public interest–minded individuals and the Public Interest Center offers much help in job placement.”

Students who considered Stanford University also looked at Harvard University, Yale University, New York University and Columbia University.

4. Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tenn.)
The course selection at Vanderbilt leans to a “general legal education.” In recent years, however, many students have called for “more formal specialization programs,” and the “responsive” administration is taking action. Already in possession of a “very strong business law program,” the school is “currently working on creating … a program in technology and entertainment law.” In addition, “new concentrations [are] being developed by the faculty” in areas such as “regulatory concerns and litigation.”

Students who considered Vanderbilt University also looked at Cornell University, Georgetown University, University of Michigan and University of Virginia.

BU’s “incredibly personable” professors “love to teach.” “They encourage debate and [a] thorough understanding of the material,” explains one student. They “put 150 percent into every single class” and in return “expect a lot out of you which makes you work harder.” Their “quirky teaching styles … make even tedious subjects interesting,” leading one professor to “sing to us about restitution to the tune of ‘SexyBack’ by Justin Timberlake,” says an impressed first-year law student. Not surprisingly, the faculty is “very approachable outside of the classroom,” and students find it “very refreshing to have such a small school feel at such a large university.”

Students who considered Boston University also looked at Boston College, Fordham University, The George Washington University and New York University.

Students swear that their school has, “without a doubt, the best faculty in the country.” The professors are “unquestionably the greatest part of this school.” Somehow “they manage to produce brilliant work” while maintaining “a real emphasis on teaching” and making students “feel like top priority.” “It’s incredible to take classes from Cass Sunstein, Richard Epstein, and numerous others as a first-year law student, and to find out how accessible they are,” beams one satisfied student. These “rock stars of legal academia” “treat students with respect,” “are often in the common areas, and readily have lunch with students.” “I have been amazed by the accessibility of my professors, particularly considering who they are,” says a third-year law student. “They are always available for office hours.”

Students who considered University of Chicago also looked at Columbia University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Virginia.

7. Chapman University (Orange, Calif.)
“While I don’t doubt that there are institutions throughout the country with professors as knowledgeable and experienced … I highly doubt that any other school offers students the chance to interact and participate with those top scholars in the actual representation of clients in cases of particular constitutional import. I certainly don’t know of many second-year law students students whose work is cited by the Senate Judiciary Committee!” In the area of academic support, a first-year law student writes: “All of my professors have been willing to meet with students to review exams and assignments, some even scheduling weeks of extended office hours to accommodate everyone and even holding meetings to conduct review problem sessions.” In addition, many “successful upperclassmen run small study groups.”

Students who considered Chapman University also looked at Pepperdine University, University of the Pacific, University of San Diego and University of San Francisco.

8. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
The University of Michigan Law School “is definitely a special place.” “Just entering the law quad puts into perspective the good fortune students have in attending this great institution,” says a third-year law student. A faculty features “a good mix of ‘institutions’ and up-and-comers,” making for “an interesting and unique educational experience.” The “engaging” and “hilarious” professors here are “academic rock stars” who “challenge you and help you think about the law in novel ways.” “Our professors are definitely brain ninjas,” declares a second-year law student. Professors “have open-door policies” and are “truly available to meet with you and help you in any way they can.” The administration is “very approachable.” “Michigan students adore their school, and the school adores them right back,” says one student. “I’ve e-mailed various deans and had my e-mails returned within minutes.”

Students who considered University of Michigan also looked at University of Chicago, Northwestern UniversityColumbia University and Pennsylvania State University.

9. Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)
Many professors are considered to be “masters of their fields,” which, “can at first be intimidating,” but then “They will insist that you call them by their first name” and “You will find yourself wanting to hang out during their office hours.” First-year classes tend to be big, but even in the larger lecture courses the instructors are “are able to facilitate great conversation and debate.” In the smaller classes, the “genius of conversational teaching is fully developed,” and an ongoing orientation program offers first-year students lessons on how to take notes, study for exams and develop other study skills. The Law Center’s unique alternative First-Year Curriculum B concentrates on making law school applicable to the legal world, and focuses heavily on jurisprudence and historical context, combining Torts and Contracts into one yearlong class.

Students who considered Georgetown University also looked at Cornell University, Vanderbilt University, University of California-Berkeley and University of Pennsylvania.

10. Northwestern University (Chicago, Ill)
Northwestern’s “brilliant” and “very friendly” faculty is made up of “nationally and internationally renowned scholars” who have “a great sense of humor.” Students have “an unparalleled opportunity to learn from the best, starting right at the beginning.” “My classes and instruction have ranged from very good to simply outstanding,” relates a second-year law student. “I’d go so far to say that my constitutional law class was one of the most intellectually stimulating courses I’ve encountered.” Professors are “accessible” and “The professors seem to really enjoy talking to students outside of class.” “It is not uncommon for them to stop me in the hallway and chat about a class topic, my journal comment or even college football,” explains a student.

Students who considered Northwestern University also looked at University of California-Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and Georgetown University.