Home » Law Schools » Rankings and Profiles »

Northwestern Law

From TLS wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Northwestern Pritzker.jpg

Known as an innovative, business-oriented law school, Northwestern Law offers more to its students than just a prime central Chicago location. The school fosters a professional environment with a well-established preference for students with work experience and demonstrated interpersonal skills. Although relatively solid, employment statistics are weaker than most of the top 14 law schools. The total cost of attendance, however, is second-highest, behind only Berkeley for out-of-staters.


1859 Founding of the Law School
On September 21, the Law School was founded, by Henry Booth, as a department of the now-defunct Chicago University. It is the first law school established in Chicago. Booth is inaugurated as the first dean and professor of the school. Twenty-three students enroll in the first year, and tuition costs $100 per year. The school was first opened in the Larmon Block, located at the corner of Clark and Washington Streets, in the same building the Federal court was held, with enough room for one professor and 11 students.

One 2L said: "The student body is excellent, most of which has done something interesting before law school. Students tend to bring interesting perspectives into the classroom as a result, and I think this is a major advantage over schools primarily composed of people straight through from undergrad."

Northwestern Law places a heavy emphasis on global enterprises and practical learning and has highly regarded study abroad, clinical, and interdisciplinary programs in the country. Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World," in which it conducted extensive focus groups with a law firm, corporate, and government leaders, with assistance from a legal consulting firm, to mold the direction of the law school. In an exclusive interview with TLS, the law school dean, David E. Van Zandt, described it as a plan that " emphasizes the foundational competencies that most law schools ignore but that industry leaders agree are critical for success in today's legal careers."

Probably the most important result of the plan was the accelerated J.D. program, which is a three-year J.D. compressed into two years. The same number of credit hours is required, costing the same as a traditional J.D. Its participants enter OCI (the on-campus interview program that is the main source for biglaw jobs) with only one semester of grades.

Students tend to have few complaints besides the cost and the cold. "Northwestern is just a pleasant place to attend law school," a student said. "It has an atmosphere that makes it fun to be in grad school instead of the hell on earth that 1L is rumored to be."


In today's competitive world, law students soon discover that their support for each other is vital to their success. Our collegial, non-competitive environment plays a large role in the student's success.

The Admissions Team at Northwestern Law School continues to work hard, both from their offices at the school and remotely. They are still dedicated to helping prospective applicants in any way possible and can be reached easily through their main email: admissions@law.northwestern.edu. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this time!


Images northwestern08.jpg
Admissions Stats
Class of: 2020-2021 2021-2022
25th - 50th - 75th percentile LSAT 165 - 169 - 171 167 - 171 - 172
25th - 50th - 75th percentile GPA 3.57 - 3.85 - 3.92 3.6 - 3.86 - 3.93
Acceptance rate 19.2% 13.9%
Applications received 5302 7410
Acceptances 1018 1031
Matriculants 2035 1689

Admissions Basics

Applicants should submit a personal statement with a recommended length of one to three pages. In an exclusive interview with TLS, Dean of Admissions John Lee said introspection is a common theme of great personal statements. He said:

I think the best personal statements I've read show that the applicant has actually thought about the topic they're writing about, and they've looked within themselves to write about it. They don't read as being formulaic. There's also some emotion in the writing. I think the personal statements that stick out in my mind are the ones that reflect the individual and are distinctive. I can say that X person wrote this personal statement, and I've never read anything like it.

Dean Van Zandt added:

The personal statement should not be generic. It needs to be tailored to Northwestern Law like you would show interest if you were applying for a job. It's important to show that you have done some research about us, that you understand how we are different, and that you affirmatively want to be a part of our community.

There are also two optional essays: a "Why Northwestern" essay and a diversity statement. Students can choose to write zero, one, or both. Answers should be limited to one or two paragraphs.

The school only requires one letter of recommendation. Unlike most law schools, Northwestern does not automatically prefer academic recommendations. Dean Lee said that, especially for those applicants who have taken time off, the office prefers work-related recommendations to those from professors. "We're looking for depth of detail within the letter of recommendation. It's important that the recommender knows the student well and can speak to his or her ability as a possible law student and/or workability," he said.

The school's website added:

Letters of recommendation help [sic] the Admissions Committee appraise your character, maturity, motivation, and scholarly ability. The most useful recommendations are from those who can offer sound judgments about your qualifications for the study and practice of law.

Dean Lee also added that students should not blow off the LSAT writing sample, as the office does consider it. "If, let's say, we're reading a personal statement, and it doesn't display an individual's ability to write, we'll turn to the writing sample to get a second opinion," he said.

Applications are accepted starting Sept. 1, and the deadline is Feb. 15. The application fee is $100. Merit-based fee waivers are disbursed via the LSAC's Candidate Referral Service (largely based on LSAT score and GPA), and need-based fee waivers may be granted by submitting documentation of your need. To learn more about obtaining a fee waiver, click here.

For personal statements and application essays, check out the TLS Guide to Personal Statements.

The Interview

Northwestern invites all applicants to interview, either with an alum locally or at the school with an admissions staff member. About 80% of applicants are interviewed. Dean Lee said that evaluation-wise, there is no difference in interviewing either on campus or off:

The write-ups are pretty standardized. We cue the interviewers as to what we're looking for about leadership, questions regarding career focus, questions regarding project management experience, and things like that.

When an applicant schedules an interview, I think it's important to consider the questions they want to be answered. If they want to have answered questions about how Northwestern places in the market that they're currently living in, or the experiences of alumni, then maybe they should consider doing an off-campus interview because those questions will probably be readily answered.

If they have never visited the law school, never sat in on a Northwestern Law class, or want to see what it'd be like to live in Chicago, then maybe doing an on-campus interview would be better to answer those questions.

Students said that interview questions tend to be basic (for example, there are frequently questions about why applicants want to attend law school, what sort of leadership experience they've had, and how their undergraduate and post-undergraduate experiences have prepared them for law school). Dean Lee said the interview provides more information about an applicant and can sometimes markedly influence the office's decision about an applicant. He said:

I would say that the interview tends to act as about half a step in a process. If let's say, a person without the interview would have been placed on hold or on the waitlist. A really strong interview can tip them up higher. And by the same token, if a person, let's say, may have been waitlisted without the interview, a poor interview will push them into the other range.

Work Experience

Work experience is weighted heavily at Northwestern. Most (about 70%) students have taken two or more years off of undergrad. Dean Lee said there is a "slight disadvantage" for those applying straight out of undergrad; indeed, only about 10% of the class did not work for at least a year after undergrad. His advice for college seniors:

If you are applying straight from undergrad, I cannot emphasize the importance of doing the evaluative interview as part of the application process. When we discuss work experience, we are looking for the things that work experience brings maturity, strong career focus, good interpersonal skills, and the ability to work in groups in a professional setting. The interview process helps us answer those questions from those applying straight from undergrad. I think the one thing that college seniors who apply to Northwestern Law often fail to do in their application is to convey the message of why they want to go to law school. That's really important to us, especially when evaluating an application of a college senior.

Because Northwestern has aspects that feel like business school, it should be no surprise that the admissions process values work experience just as business schools do as well. Dean Lee noted several times the importance of those applicants who had unorthodox time off interviewing since he said that "the general overarching theme is that not all work experiences are created equally" and that he is particularly interested in the substance of the experience. He continued:

We are ideally looking for professional post-graduate work experience. What does that mean? It could mean a variety of different things in a variety of different fields. What we're looking for is skills that come out of work experience. We are looking for project management experience, advocacy experience, responsibility and leadership within their different roles. It's not the first line of the resume that's important to us. It's the description of what comes after that first line. I've seen a lot of wonderful-looking titles, but then when you drill down deeper, there's not much there.

When To Apply

Dean Lee said that applicants should put much more emphasis on submitting the best application possible than on applying as early as possible and that an applicant has the same shot at admission whether he applies on Sept. 1 or Jan. 1. He said that applicants should ideally avoid applying less than a month before the deadline. He said:

In the end, I always feel that a strong application is a strong application. If a person submits a strong application at the deadline, or if he submits it the first day we accept applications, we will admit this person. The only thing is that when it comes to scholarship assistance, we do it on a first-come, first-serve basis. So applying closer to the deadline may put a student at a disadvantage about that. However, if we're talking about admission, a strong application is a strong application.

Early Decision

Northwestern has a binding Early Decision program. An interview is mandatory, which must be completed by Nov. 15 if done on campus. The deadline for Early Decision applications is Dec. 1. Dean Lee said of evaluating Early Decision candidates:

At Northwestern, the Early Decision pool is the first pool that we review. So, before we read any regular decision applications or Accelerated JD applications, we read binding Early Decision applications. There's a completely clean slate; we haven't admitted anyone then. So they're getting a fresh pair of eyes from the admissions committee regarding the review. One thing we look at in the admissions process is whether or not students have done their research about Northwestern and whether or not they're committed to the learning model that we have in place. Nothing says commitment to a law school than a binding early decision contract. So, is there a boost? Probably a feather on a scale, but they're the first applications we read.

Applicants admitted through the Early Decision program get a merit scholarship of $50,000 a year for three years.


Dean Lee said applicants should feel free to submit as many addendums as they want, keeping in mind that "the more addendums you write, the more the impact on the reader's eyes tends to diminish." He elaborated:

If there's a significant GPA trend and a reason, I would like to see an addendum instead of wasting personal statement space. With regards to addendums about LSAT performance, I think if a person took the LSAT once and then is going to submit an addendum regarding their LSAT not being indicative of their actual ability, I tend to discount that a little bit because, frankly, if you take the LSAT once. It's not indicative of your ability; take it again. I think if a person has taken it a couple of times, then I can see an addendum regarding that as appropriate.

Like most schools, Northwestern sees all LSAT scores but submits and generally uses the highest score.

Transfer Admissions

Northwestern Law School is one of the many schools that accept transfer students. To be eligible to apply, transfer students must have completed 28 credit hours and a 1L curriculum similar to that at Northwestern. Additionally, students must show their intention of completing their last two years of legal study at Northwestern Law. The school reviews applications in the summer for students looking to transfer into the fall semester. For more information, please visit https://www.law.northwestern.edu/admissions/jd-admissions/transfer/eligibility/..

As of May 2, 2022, transfer applicants can access the application through the Law School Admission Council. Detailed instructions for the 2022 application process can be found on the Applying to Northwestern Law webpage. It is also recommended that prospective students review the Frequently Asked Questions regarding transfers before beginning their application.

The transfer application period is intentionally brief. The deadline to submit a completed application is Friday, June 24, 2022. Because successful transfer students are eligible to participate in the on-campus interviewing program (OCI), there is enough time for new transfer students to be introduced to their career advisers. With this guidance, transfer students can effectively prepare for OCI; they can write a Northwestern Law resume, develop a bidding strategy, and meet the OCI deadlines, which typically fall in mid-July. OCI for the 2022-2023 school year will take place during the first two weeks of August.

Dean Lee said transfer applications are evaluated on a holistic basis. He continued:

I would say it's a combination of where a student is transferring from and how they did at that school. When looking at transfer applications, we're looking for students who've demonstrated they can succeed in law school. Also, we're looking for students who will succeed in our learning environment. We're looking at work experience and how they did in law school. We're looking to see if how they did in law school is consistent with how they did in undergrad. We're looking to see the rigor of the law school they attended. It's a combination of a lot of factors. We also ask for a legal writing sample for our transfer application. We're also looking at how well a student can write in a more practical form outside of a timed or untimed contract or civil procedure exam.

To read a fantastic article about transferring, click here.

2009 nw image2.jpg

Tuition and Expenses

In 2022, the tuition at Northwestern Law School was $41,022, and the annual cost of attendance (CoA) was estimated to be $54,740. This means that, in addition to tuition, students would have to budget for living expenses like rent, food, and insurance. For many students, CoA can be a significant financial burden. Scholarships and financial aid can help offset the cost, but it is still essential to be aware of the total cost of attending law school before making any decisions.

Cost of Attendance

Cost of Attendance 2021-2022
Tuition $35,716
Health Services Fee $390
Health Insurance $4,916
Room & Board $9,513
Books $825
Personal $1,584
Transportation $738
Loan Fees $1,058
Total Costs $54,740


At Northwestern, a scholarship committee decides most scholarships on a blended basis of merit and need. Applicants who want to be considered for a scholarship must submit a separate financial aid application along with a FAFSA. Dean Lee said of the process: "It's based on need-level, based on academic credentials, based on work experience; it's another applicant review process. We go ahead and assign scholarships accordingly."

The Law School at Northwestern University offers an extensive program of scholarships and grants, which are awarded on a combined basis of financial need and merit. These awards come from endowed funds, generous gifts from alumni, and general funds from the University. To be considered for scholarship assistance, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid must receive your complete financial aid application by the priority deadline stated following your offer of admission. (If you are admitted after the priority deadline, the Office of Admissions will provide a deadline; the date is typically within seven days of the offer of admission.) Northwestern Pritzker School of Law does not award any conditional scholarships. Scholarships awarded to entering students are automatically renewed for the second and third years, provided the recipients maintain good academic standing and remain enrolled in classes at the Law School.


Northwestern Law is a great choice if you're looking for a top-notch law school. The school is committed to offering various loan options for students so that you can find the best option for your needs. Plus, with a wealth of experience and resources, Northwestern Law can help you succeed in your legal career.

Types of Loans

Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

LRAP can provide opportunities for JD graduates pursuing government and public interest jobs. Still, the high cost of law school and lower salaries for these positions might deter some students. Northwestern Law was one of the first law schools in the country to offer a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) to help graduates with the cost of law school and to encourage them to enter public interest and government jobs. The program has been revised over the years as salaries, and student debt has changed, and it is now primarily funded by a generous gift from the Estate of Dawn Clark Netsch (JD '52).

Law School Culture

Northwestern Law's culture is distinct from many others top schools because of its focus on admitting students with work experience. Students also say self-selection plays a role in attracting students who think they might thrive in the business-school-like culture. Said a student: "We interview for admissions; thus, we get fewer people who are well-qualified on paper but horrible to be around."

Many students said they treat law school more as a job than a reprise of college. Some have families or live farther away from the law school, making the school less of a focal point of their lives. A student elaborated:

Most students have been out of school for a few years, so people treat school more like a job. Thus, law school is part of our lives, not all of it. I think that's a point of contrast with some peer schools, at least according to what some people have told me.

At a student body of about 800, Northwestern Law is a small- to medium-sized school. Students say that bodes well for job prospects and decreases competition among peers. A student said:

I think the school has successfully created a non-competitive atmosphere. I don't know my friends' grades, and they don't know mine. I don't know where I stand in the class. Without a metric to compare yourself to, it's hard to be competitive. People share notes and outline pretty freely. I didn't show up to class one day, and three people sent me to class notes without me asking for them.

Another student said that the overall atmosphere is "pretty relaxed" and echoed other students' observations that the school has an overall "business-like vibe." Because of the school's perception of the integrity of the student body, second-and third-year students are allowed to schedule their own exams, with certain limitations.

The Student Body

Students say their peers tend to be smart, driven, and mature. A student said:

Greater and varied work experience led to numerous interesting perspectives on law. It's a fascinating mix of people and pretty great to see. Also, the fact that almost everyone has worked means that almost everyone has a strong work ethic. There are very few people who skated through college and arrive here thinking they can skate through law school. The greatest compliment I can pay is that the people in my class are people I'd like to work with, and they will make responsible, serious, successful colleagues.

The mean age of Northwestern's entering class tends to be higher than those of its peers. Said a student:

We're the old-people school, but that doesn't necessarily translate to a more boring school. I think the age of the students helps create a non-competitive atmosphere and a laid-back feel at school. I have yet to have a serious gunner in a class (some people talk a lot more than others, but never to make other people look/feel bad or to waste our time with hypotheticals), which I'm guessing has to do with the work experience making people feel more secure.

Another student added: "I like the older student body. People seem surer of themselves and less annoying than 22-year-olds. And almost nobody is in law school just because they didn't know what else to do."

Northwestern also has a diverse student body regarding race, ideology, and geography. Students have roots across the country, particularly in the Midwest and the West. Students say there isn't a distinctive political bent.

Geographic Diversity of Class 2021
Midwest 35%
Northeast 20%
West 15%
South 22%
International 7%

The Law Buildings

Northwestern Law students almost universally cite the school's incredible location, including expansive views of Lake Michigan from the library and clinical facilities. One student said the buildings are "extremely nice." A student said:

There are some modern classrooms with many outlets, great chairs, and good AV equipment. However, in the older classrooms, there are hardly any outlets. I'm not sure if that's fixable, but it's a pain in the butt. The library is nice with lots of study places and reservable study rooms.

There's also a large atrium in the middle of the law school with lots of tables and couches, a popular meeting place for students and professors.


Northwestern Law's faculty ratio is 4.2:1. This student-to-faculty ratio is one of the nation's lowest, allowing for more student-faculty interaction. The student-to-faculty ratio also contributes to the feeling of a close-knit community at Northwestern Law. Additionally, the student-to-faculty ratio is one of the factors that makes Northwestern Law a top law school. It comes as little surprise, then, that the school is known for its strength in law and social sciences. Other notable faculty strengths include tax law, trial advocacy and international law.

A current 3L said of professors: "The faculty accessibility is incredible. This flows in part from the smaller class size. Faculty are available in their offices (doors open most of the time), via e-mail, or after class more or less constantly. I have been pleasantly surprised by this since I started."

Most students echoed that viewpoint, adding that there are "lots of conversations after class, during office hours, and over e-mail. Also, northwestern professors will go the extra mile for students during the clerkship process."

Students added that most professors take on research assistants, so for those interested in clerkships and academia, there are ample opportunities to form close relationships with professors.

A few of Northwestern Law's star professors include Steven Calabresi (founder of the Federalist Society), Martin Redish (civil procedure, First Amendment), Ronald Allen (leading scholar on evidence and procedure), David Dana (environmental, property, and IP law), and Andrew Koppelman (law and political science).


Northwestern Law's practical orientation is manifested strongly in its curriculum. All 1Ls must take a yearlong Communication and Legal Reasoning class, which focuses on teamwork and analytical exercises. One student said: "NU seems more pragmatic than other law schools. We spend much less on theory and more on how the law can be applied in practice. There is a preponderance of business-y' classes."

Another student said there is a lack of "academically focused, let's think deeply of the law' classes. But they've been trying to improve this."

Images northwestern4.jpg

First-year students take the basic law school doctrinal classes: torts, contracts, civil procedure, criminal law, property, and constitutional law, along with the communication class. Students take four of the core classes the first semester and then two the second semester, with the option to take two electives ("This gives 1Ls a lot of control over their curriculum," a student said. "There were a lot of options for electives; I had a really hard time choosing."). Some students call the first semester "rigorous," especially compared to many other law schools at which students take only three doctrinal classes a semester. Further, the communication class is analogous to other law schools' legal practice and writing classes and is graded, whereas at many other schools, it is not. A student called the fact that it is graded a "common gripe" and a "ton of work for two credits." Another required class is Legal Ethics.

The school uses a bidding system for registering for classes. A student said: "I've had no trouble getting the classes I want. The bidding system lets students prioritize, so it's pretty much assured that if you want something and bid a lot of points on it, you'll get it."

Students can specialize in one of four formal concentrations: Business Enterprise, Civil Litigation, Dispute Resolution, International Law, or Law and Social Policy. Students report that the schedule can be flexible, requiring students to take 16 credit hours of "related course study" and "at least one substantial research and writing project."

A grading curve is mandatory for all courses with more than 40 students. Most first-year classes are held with sections of about 60 students, with some classes being bigger. Class rank isn't recorded or reported.

The B-School Tilt

Northwestern Law has been met with praise and criticism for approaching the study of law from a business-school angle. Skills like group collaboration, presentations, and practical application are emphasized, whereas at some other law schools, they are barely touched upon. Dean Van Zandt explained the approach in an interview with TLS:

In the eyes of employers, our graduates already stand out as better prepared to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. As our graduates continue to differentiate themselves in the workplace, we will begin to see other schools adopting a similar approach. The marketplace has changed, and globalization means that most law school graduates must work strategically with lawyers and non-lawyers across organizational, institutional, and global boundaries. Competencies like communication, teamwork, quantitative skills, project management, and leadership-along with traditional case law analysis-will prepare students to help their future clients and organizations better.

Students say that the curriculum at Northwestern Law is "incredibly practical, with a considerable amount of team-based collaborative work built in." Said another student:

I think it would be crazy to pretend a business-school-like vibe doesn't exist, but I don't think it's overbearing. I have no background (academic or work) in business, I have no interest in corporate law, and it has not been a problem for me. If a business-school-like experience means the classes are practical and the administration's focus seems to be on making the students marketable to employers, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

Class Offerings

Northwestern Law offers a wide breadth of class offerings, including all the basics along with specialized seminars such as "Free Speech and the McCarthy Era." Students say that offerings in transactional law and litigation are particularly robust. Said a student:

The litigation-oriented curriculum is incredible at Northwestern. We have classes on trial advocacy taught by the chief judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and by other extremely talented professors. Attorneys from Bartlit Beck, one of the best litigation boutiques in the country, teach a high-tech evidence class that is supposed to be fantastic. Plus, between the Bluhm Legal Clinic (a mini law firm within the school in which students can participate for credit or over the summer) and externship opportunities with the U.S. Attorney's office, the Chicago DA's office, federal judges in Chicago, and other employers, there are a huge number of ways 2Ls and 3Ls can sharpen their litigation-oriented practice skills. These opportunities are a major advantage for Northwestern over, say, Michigan or Cornell, since, by virtue of their remote location, those two schools simply cannot get the kind of interaction we do with large firms, judges, and prosecutors from one of the largest legal markets in the country.

However, several students said that the more corporate- and business-themed classes command the course listings, with the litigation opportunities often focused on the clinics and externships.

One of my complaints about the school is that there is an obvious emphasis on business and transactional law. As someone who thinks tax law must be the most boring class ever, I yearn for more litigation-themed offerings. So as I try to choose classes for next semester, I can't help but notice that the offerings for business/corporate people are far more rich and varied. I still have plenty of classes to choose from, but I'm worried that by 3L I might be low on options and have to take Trusts and Estates.


Images northwestern2.jpg

1L Summer Placement

Northwestern Law students enjoy an advantage over students from law schools that aren't located in the center of huge legal markets. "We have pretty much everything already here," a student said.

The main advice that the school's career services office gives to 1Ls is: apply everywhere. "Most of the things you'll get through connections," a 2L said. "Apply to your home regions. Send out letters to every DA office. All the government agencies will take people for free. In the past we had like 25% / 30% of 1Ls in firm jobs, that's probably gone way down." There's also a very small 1L OCI, but it's mostly small IP firms.

For their 1L summers, most students either stick around Chicago or return to their hometowns. "I don't know anyone who is unhappy with their 1L job," a student said. "I know a lot of people who got judicial externships (like mini-clerkships) and firm jobs. Other students are doing research for professors and working in the clinic. A couple of people have government internships."

The Student Funded Public Interest Fellowship Program, run by Northwestern students, provides a limited number of summer stipends.

Career Services

Student opinions on Northwestern Law's career services office, which it calls the Center for Career Strategy:

- They're great. They offer constant advice and personal services (resume review, personal meetings), meetings with career consultants that they bring in from outside the school, mock interviews, etiquette dinners, lunchtime panels featuring different types of employers, etc.

- The career office is good, and my counselor in particular, is great, but I have heard some complaints. There is one counselor who has trouble remembering her students. Other counselors (and even mine) seem slightly too positive about our job prospects. They're trying to keep our morale up, but it's a jungle out there. I'd prefer honesty.

- One weakness is that I think we need more career advisers. We have three for a class of about 250. A couple more counselors would help the career office offer more personalized advice, which is very needed in this economy.

- The Career Center is great. They provide a lot of personalized services and have been very open during all the turmoil in this economy with what is going on, what is likely to get worse, and what we can do to try to ride it out.


Northwestern is not known for its production of legal scholars. However, the Law Scholars program is an initiative for students who wish to pursue academic careers. Students participate in a faculty-student research project during their first summer and are assigned, faculty mentors.

Quality of Life

The Northwestern Law School building is right along Lake Michigan, separate from the school's main campus in Evanston and just north of the bustling Chicago "Loop" area. One student called the area "clean, pretty, safe, and with every amenity imaginable. It's also very close to public transportation and great shopping. It is, however, one of the most expensive areas in the city."

Images northwestern06.jpg

There are several apartment buildings close to the area that are very popular with law and medical students (whose campus is directly next to the law school's), and several 2Ls and 3Ls live more north in the Lincoln Park, Lake View, or Old Town neighborhoods.

Students said that on nice days they can cross the street to study on the Lake Michigan beach. There are many restaurants nearby, and popular bars are a short cab ride or long walk away. Millennium Park and Grant Park, where events are often hosted, are also near the law school. Said a student:

I really like the Streeterville area. The area has several restaurants, many of which fit a student budget well, all the services you need as a student (a few grocery stores, dry cleaners, hardware store, etc.), some nice places to go running along Lake Michigan, and a few other good things like that. The area is safe, the apartment buildings have nice views, and you simply cannot beat a five-minute walk to school. On the downside, I think the bars in the immediate area around the school are pretty substandard, but that's what the rest of Chicago is for. Also, rents are a little higher than I'd prefer; but you can save a few hundred dollars per month if you move about a mile away from school.

There are perks and drawbacks to the school's separate location from the rest of the school. On the one hand, most students would probably rather be in the law school's prime downtown Chicago location than the main campus's more suburban Evanston locale. However, some students cite the inaccessibility of the rest of the campus as a downside in terms of taking other classes or participating in events hosted by various Northwestern University programs.

Social Life

A student said that people go out "fairly often. I'd say less than the UVA stereotype but much more than the UChicago stereotype. Bar Reviews are usually pretty well attended." Said another student:

Most students seem to have social lives, which is pretty hard during 1L. The 2Ls and 3L seem more active. There's Bar Review every Thursday night during the year (different bar every week), and at least half of the people I know attended that. The girls in my section got together a couple of times outside of class during the year (chocolate tasting and a musical). There's a lot to do in Chicago, and most of my classmates took time out to go out to dinner or to a club on the weekends.

Popular areas to grab a drink seem to be the Old Town, Lincoln Park, and the Wrigleyville areas, all of which are quite accessible by public transportation or short cab rides.

Students said that because there is a "slightly more mature student body," there is a "larger percentage" of people who don't go out, but there are also "a lot of people who get drunk all the time." Another student said, "People tend to do their thing. There are not necessarily school-organized social events. This isn't UVA with the softball tournaments."

Another student said people would often hang out informally in the Streeterville area during the week. Chicago has much more to offer than law schools that aren't in the heart of big cities. For example, students can attend Cubs games, comedy shows, and musical events throughout the year. A student added:

One of the small things I appreciate most is the Student Funded Public Interest Fellowship auction in the fall, where the student body gets together over drinks and bids on great stuff that people have donated, like a vacation in the Rockies, a night of drinks and bowling with a well-regarded professor, or things like that.


Streeterville offers several high-rise apartment buildings in the area immediately surrounding the law school. However, several of these buildings are expensive for a student budget. "People will complain about affordable housing," a student said, with some of the most popular apartment buildings offering one-bedroom apartments at upwards of $1,300 a month.

The most popular buildings are McClurg Court Center, Grand Ohio, The Streeter, and the Ontario, all of which are within a few blocks of the law school. "A huge chunk of students will live in the area directly south of the law school, and then several people sort of sprinkled in the 1 to 2-mile range," a student said. Several other students are spread out throughout the entire Chicagoland area.

Students say that transportation between the law school and Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and Old Town-three of the most popular areas for students not living in Streeterville-is relatively easy and quick, often less than a 15-minute bus ride away. Students are advised to live near express bus stops.

Degree Programs

Northwestern has made waves in the legal community twice by being the first university to offer a three-year J.D.-MBA program and then again in the summer of 2008 when it announced a two-year J.D. program.

Each year more than 100 law students take courses in the Kellogg School of Management or a course taught jointly by law and business school faculty. The school also has an integrated J.D.-Ph.D. program for those students interested in entering the world of academia. However, unlike most schools, Northwestern University generally does not grant terminal master's degrees. Therefore, students pursuing such a joint degree must do so at another school. Northwestern Law grants a one-year leave for this, but needless to say, it is not a very popular option.

J.D.-MBA Program

For those interested in pursuing a J.D.-MBA, Northwestern is arguably one of the top schools to attend. In the 2014 U.S. News rankings, the Kellogg School of Management had the country's fourth-best MBA (tied with MIT's Sloan School of Management), and students can finish the dual degree in three years instead of the usual four.

This joint degree option is one of the most popular, with J.D.-MBA students making up about 10 percent of the total J.D. student body. The admission rate is comparable to the J.D. program, and dual degree students, on average, have 4.5 years of full-time work experience. Students spend their first full year of the program taking classes at the law school and their second taking classes at Kellogg. The third year is generally at the law school, but students may take classes at Kellogg. The LSAT is not required for admission, though the GMAT is. Students need only submit one application to be considered for the program.

Accelerated JD Program

Northwestern Law is a highly respected institution that offers students a range of programs to choose from. The JD degree is the primary program, but joint degree options are available, such as the JD-MBA, JD-PhD, and JD-LLM in Taxation. The Two-Year JD program is designed specifically for internationally educated attorneys, and there are also opportunities for students to transfer or become visiting students at Northwestern Law. These options provide students with an excellent education that will prepare them for success in their chosen field.

AJD students participate in the Fall On-Campus Interview (OCI) process upon completion of their first term, with one semester of grades. AJDs thus receive the same 2L summer employment and permanent employment opportunities and benefits as three-year J.D. students. In terms of the percentage of students acquiring jobs through OCI, AJDs have been at least as successful as students in the three-year J.D. program.

Prospective students must complete either an on-campus or an off-campus interview as part of the application process. Applicants must have at least two years of substantive post-undergraduate work experience, preferably in a non-legal setting, and ideally have demonstrated managerial and leadership experience to qualify for the program. Prior classes have consisted of students with diverse professional backgrounds.

A student in the program said most people are pleased with it so far. He noted that "almost all of our class has a strong business background," with many students coming from investment banking or consulting fields. He described the program as composed of "extremely driven people who are very driven to learn the law, but they're also keen on helping their classmates." He called his class a "cohesive group" and said there are regular bar reviews.

Beyond the Classroom

Northwestern Law students have ample opportunities to apply their interests outside of their classes, such as clinics, journals, and other activities. Said a student:

Most students are members in at least two to three organizations. Many students, although a minority, are very active and have leadership positions in more than one organization. Overall, though, everyone has some involvement outside of classes and it is unusual to find students who are interested only in the academic aspects of law school. NU has some very popular sports including basketball during the year and kickball during the summer. The med school is right down the street, and the competition between medicine and law can get pretty fierce. The minority groups are very active and have a lot of resources such as outlines, for example.

Northwestern Law has about 50 student organizations, including the standard affinity groups and service organizations and more eclectic clubs, such as Habeas Chorus, the student a cappella group, and a Scotch-drinking club. The school also offers a plethora of team-building activities and workshops. Every year the students put on the "Wigmore Follies," a parody of life in law school.


About 90% of NU students participate in clinical courses before they graduate. The clinical programs moved into a new space in 2007 with beautiful views of Lake Michigan.

Students say that some of the most popular clinics are the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, the Children and Family Justice Center, the Civil Litigation Center, and the Entrepreneurship Law Center (a transactional clinic that, a student notes, is "not nearly as much work as the litigation ones").

Clinics can sometimes be tough to get into since they can cost many "points" of the school's class bidding system. (Students are allotted a number of points, and different classes go for different amounts of points.) A student said, "If you want to get into it, you can, but you'll be using most of your points so you won't be able to get into other things."


Northwestern has six student-edited scholarly journals: the Northwestern University Law Review, the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, the Journal of International Law and Business, the Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property, the Journal of International Human Rights, and the Journal of Law and Social Policy.

The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology is one of the most widely read and widely cited criminal law publications in the world; it is the second most widely subscribed journal published by any law school in the country, according to the journal's website.

The Law Review publishes four issues a year. According to its website, students are selected for Law Review based on grades and a writing competition. It says:

We offer membership to 26 students evaluated equally on first-year grades and on the quality of their writing competition entries. An additional 10 offers are extended to students based solely on their writing competition as long as they are within the top two-thirds of students GPAs in the writing competition. The fall write-on competition takes place during the fall of the second year and is open only to transfer students. The journal extends approximately 4-6 offers per year to participants in this competition.

Other journals also select their members by combining applicants' writing competition scores and grades.

Moot Courts

Moot court competitions are particularly popular at Northwestern Law, with one program even required for all first-year students (in it, students present briefs and argue cases against other students in front of a court of alumni and faculty). There is also a law school-wide moot court competition for second-year students.

Northwestern Law has seen recent success in the Jessup International Moot Court Competition, the biggest moot court competition in the world. The school has traditionally had strong moot court teams across the board.


Northwestern offers a plethora of practicum seminars in which students take subject matter-based seminars (such as criminal law, civil government, and corporate counsel) and meet once a week in conjunction with working about 12-15 hours a week at a corresponding Chicago institution. For example, those participating in the Public Interest Practicum often secure externships with the ACLU or Legal Assistance Foundation. In contrast, those in the Judicial Practicum might work for district or court of appeals judges.

Study Abroad

Northwestern Law stays true to its stated focus on globalized education by offering school year and summer study abroad programs. Popular Northwestern programs are in Australia, Belgium, Amsterdam, Israel, Argentina, and Singapore. Still, students can participate and earn credit for summer study abroad programs offered by other American Bar Association-approved institutions.

Images northwestern01.jpg

Contact Information

Northwestern Law School
Admissions Office
375 East Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611-3069
Email: admissions@law.northwestern.edu
Phone: (312) 503-8465
Fax: (312) 503-0178


Established 1859
Location Chicago, IL
Dean Hari M. Osofsky
2022 US News Ranking 13th
LSAT Median Score 171
GPA Median Score 3.86
Bar Passage Rate 96% (2022)
Employment Rate 88% (2022)
Cost $71,432
Average Debt $158,071
Application Deadline February 15, 2023

Forum and Discussion

Northwestern Law Discussions
Law School Admissions Forums
Law Student Forums
Law School Class Forums


Rank #13

Guide to Fee Waivers
LSAC Guide
How to Learn to Do Well on a Law School Exam
Success in Law School - A Unique Perspective
The Guide to Law School Loans
Forum: Northwestern 3Ls Taking Questions and Challenges
News: Above the Law

Interview: Dean David E. Van Zandt of Northwestern University School of Law
Interview: Johann Lee, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Northwestern University Law School