It's probably no surprise that, as the seat of American government, Washington, D.C. holds a lot of opportunities for legal professionals. If you threw a rock in D.C. (not that you should), you'd probably hit one of the 80,000 attorneys working in the region.
With the unique professional opportunities available at law schools in the District of Columbia, starting your legal career in the nation's capital is definitely worthy of consideration.
What Do D.C. Law Schools Have to Offer?
As you decide whether to go to law school in Washington, D.C., there are a number of resources to help you weigh your options. To start, you might think about law school rankings, the cost of tuition, and what you want to do after you graduate.
Students in D.C. law schools gain practical experience in positions throughout the government that shape law and policy. With judicial clerkships, law students typically research and draft opinions that have the potential to impact the state of the law for decades. Some law students even screen Supreme Court arguments before they're presented to the High Court.
There are six accredited law schools in D.C., including well-known institutions like Georgetown and Howard University.
You can find a wealth of information about these schools on their websites. The American Bar Association (ABA) also compiles annual standard law school reports containing a wealth of statistics by school, from tuition costs to bar passage rates and everything in between.
Some of their highlights are described below.
Georgetown consistently ranks among the top 15 law schools in the nation. Located just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court, its students have access to a wide range of venues to gain practical experience while earning their degrees.
The location also draws faculty from all areas of government, including the Supreme Court. In addition, Georgetown Law is home to 13 law journals, so there are a number of ways for students to develop their research and writing skills before graduation.
Many Georgetown law students focus on constitutional or international law, and the school's legal clinics are among the best in the nation.
Georgetown's first-time bar passage rate surpasses the national average by about 15 points, with nearly 93% of grads passing the exam on the first try.
Howard University School of Law
Howard University School of Law is one of the country's oldest law schools and the leading historically Black university. With distinguished alumni such as Thurgood Marshall and Mary Ann Shadd, the school bears its social justice legacy with pride.
Those who dream of fighting for civil rights can conduct their studies at the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center. Or they can work on the Human Rights and Globalization Law Review, which publishes articles on women's rights, human trafficking, mass incarceration, and more.
Tuition is around $37,000 a year for full-time students, and the first-time bar passage rate for Howard grads is about 70%.
Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
Catholic University's J.D. program definitely isn't cheap, with tuition costing nearly $60,000 a year. But Columbus offers unique opportunities for specialization; its certificate programs often produce industry leaders in compliance, public policy, securities, and international law. These certificate programs are highly selective, only admitting about 15 students per year.
The school's nationally recognized moot court and trial teams provide students ample opportunities to practice their trial skills. And around 74% of first-time test takers from Columbus passed the 2021 bar exam on the first try.
George Washington University Law School
Located within walking distance of the White House, GW Law's proximity to decision-makers in all branches of government helps place students and grads in jobs throughout the federal government. It has been ranked among the top 25 law programs nationwide, and notable alumni include heads of state, members of Congress, and directors of the FBI.
GW law has one of the largest course catalogs in the nation, offering 275 elective courses on everything from securities regulation to voting rights to animal law.
In addition, GW Law confers a wide variety of law degrees, including a Doctor of Juridical Science, a degree that could be of benefit if you're planning on a career in the academic world.
Full-time GW law students pay around $67,000 per year in tuition. About 80% of students receive some form of student aid, such as merit scholarships, need-based grants, and student loans.
American University, Washington College of Law
Although not located in downtown D.C., American University's law school, ranked among the top 80 in the nation, is still close to the seat of the federal government. Its law school offers a diverse range of academic opportunities for law students, including summer abroad and semester exchange programs.
In addition, for those students still trying to discern their career path, the university has established an academic pathways program in which faculty introduce students to different practice areas to help illuminate their potential careers.
University of District Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
David A. Clarke School of Law is known for recruiting students from diverse backgrounds and providing opportunities for students with lower incomes. Tuition is a fraction of most law schools at around $13,000 per year for D.C. residents and $25,000 for non-residents.
UDC Law emphasizes practical experience, requiring all full-time law students to put in at least 600 hours of supervised experiential work while they earn their degree. Students can knock out a large portion of these hours by participating in the school's Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program following 1L year.
As you start planning your legal career, remember that there is a universe of support to help you along the way. The lawyers at FindLaw have a wealth of experience and are more than happy to share information and advice to help get your career off the ground. Stay connected to FindLaw for Law Students to learn more about what law school and a legal career have to offer.