Best profs, most competitive students and other honors

If you want to get a law degree from Yale University, your LSATs and GPAs better be pristine, because it's the hardest law school to get into. If you're craving a competitive atmosphere, look no further than Baylor University in Waco, Texas. And to be taught by the most dynamic and engaging professors, apply to Boston University.

The rankings are in from Princeton Review's survey of 18,000 students attending 167 law schools, resulting in lists of the top 10 schools in 11 categories that give prospective students a glimpse into life at each school. Rankings are based exclusively on student opinion polls, with a few lists that combine statistical data reported by the schools.

The 2012 edition differentiates itself from other guide books, said David Soto, Princeton Review's director of school rankings, because it uses “that consumer report-type method” in collecting student surveys from currently enrolled students across all years of law school and “like a Zagat survey, we incorporate student quotes.”

The Framingham, Mass.-based education services company, most commonly known for its test-prep courses and tutoring services, sends out an 80-question survey to an average of 107 law students from each American Bar Association-accredited school about academics, student body and campus life, themselves and their career plans.

The most post-graduation success is found at two Chicago law schools, Northwestern University and University of Chicago, which were No. 1 and No. 2 on the “Best Career Prospects” list, based on how many aspiring lawyers from the Class of 2010 scored a job nine months after they graduated.

The University of Chicago also placed in the top three for “Best Professors” and “Best Classroom Experience,” which considers the type of curriculum being taught and interaction with other students. Both Florida International University in Miami and Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. boast a smorgasbord of cultures on campus and ranked in the top three for the “Most Diverse Faculty” and “Best Environment for Minority Students.”

The “Toughest to Get Into” list, the only category that's based on just statistical data like the admissions rate and students' test scores, ranks Yale, Harvard and Stanford at the top, while the “Best Professors” list relies on a heavy amount of student sentiment. Boston University, known for its wide array of courses, seminars and clinical and externship programs, came in at No. 1, followed by Duke University.

The Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. ranked No. 1 when it comes to overall “Quality of Life,” followed by University of Virginia and its harmonious work-life balance, with Orange, Calif.'s Chapman University rounding out the top three.

“More selective schools are the usual suspects [on the list],” said Soto, adding that lists don't fluctuate too much year to year. “But the interesting thing about the rankings is there are some unusual suspects on the list and not traditional schools you would think about.”

Some surprises includes Baylor University in Texas, Brigham Young University in Utah and Thomas M. Cooley in Michigan, which students rank as the top three most competitive schools.

The No. 1 law school in each category are as follows:

"Best Professors" - Boston University

"Best Career Prospects" - Northwestern University

"Best Classroom Experience" - Stanford University

"Most Competitive Students" - Baylor University

"Toughest to Get Into" - Yale University 

“Best Quality of Life” - Duke University

“Most Chosen by Older Students” - University of New Mexico

“Most Diverse Faculty” - Southern University

“Best Environment for Minority Students” - University of Hawaii at Manoa

"Most Conservative Students" - Ave Maria University

"Most Liberal Students" - Northeastern University