Not Too Big, Not Too Small...

Population is probably the most variable factor in choosing a law school.  New York is twice as big as Philadelphia, which is twice as big as Seattle, which is...

When trying to decide what size of city or town is in your comfort zone, don't think about vacationing for a week.  Think about running out of milk at 3:00 a.m., seeing a play or concert, going bowling or fishing.  Think about restaurants or hip hop clubs, stained glass stores or comic book shops, churches or Mensa groups.  Think about traffic jams and crowded subways, dirt and crime.  Figure out what's essential  for you and what's negotiable.  

As you imagine what conditions you can or can't live with, check out our list of law schools arranged by population; seeing the names of cities you've visited might help you visualize similar cities.

Population or Voting Power?

In June of 2011 I was taking a break from some work that I HAD to finish, because New York was running a live feed from the Senate floor, and we were waiting for the vote on the same-sex marriage bill.

My employee Erika said, "but New York is so liberal," and I launched into a lecture about rural and urban apportionment of legislators from the birth of our nation to the present. For those of you not familiar with the lesson, it goes something like this:

  • Most of the population of the United States lives in a very small portion of its land.
  • Much of the voting representation is apportioned by land mass rather than population.
  • Even when it's apportioned by population, cities lose. For instance:
    • The New York State Constitution does not count "aliens" in apportioning representatives. Imagine what that does to the biggest port of immigration in the United States.
    • A city or town cannot be divided in its representatives even if it has fewer than the required "equal" number of citizens; so cities of 200,000 may get the same vote as sections of Manhattan with 350,000.
  • In addition, many states apportion their representatives by some combination of acreage and population. In those states, the rural areas ALWAYS get a larger share of the vote.
Some of this disparity was intentional. After the Revolution, states were formed by the new government. Cities had, by and large, been created by grants from the Crown. So the cities were distrusted as bastions of British sympathizers (a/k/a/ Tories). Other disparities, although equally intentional, were based on the very real differences in concerns between rural and urban residents. Those non-represented "aliens" just don't seem to understand the importance of maintaining skiing areas in the Catskills, and those farmers in Greene County don't seem to understand the importance of an influx of aliens to eat the vegetables they grow.

Then, being who I am, I said, "Here, let me show you."

Four hours later we had an approximate distribution of population by state and by rural or urban. Note that word "approximate."

  • Our first problem was that no one lived in New Jersey, and more people lived in the New York MSA (Metropolitan Service Area) than in the state of New York!
    • We were able to solve this problem by fudging a bit. We put Newark, Hoboken, and the rest of North Jersey back into New Jersey and subtracted them from New York, and we took Camden and South Jersey out of Philadelphia as well.
    • We don't want to break the news to Vice-President Biden, but no state seems to own Wilmington.
  • Some cities were jointly claimed; St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Cincinnati have metro areas that crossed state lines. We left them in their more famous state; we figured if we took both KC and St. Lou out of Missouri, it would have no one left at all!
  • We could have added a few more metro areas to California, Florida, and Pennsylvania, but we drew the line at six.
  • We also drew the line defining "urban" at 300,000. This number is entirely arbitrary. I have a client who lives in Bremerton, WA, population 300,000 and he says it's definitely not a city.

We also acknowledge the inaccuracy of all census data. Undocumented residents, people moving around during data-collection times, changing populations all affect these numbers. I could have sworn that Gary Indiana and Carson City Nevada were cities, and I was right; they used to be, but not anymore.

So, given all that collection of caveats and provisos, here's what we learned:

State Pop Cities # of Cities Urban % urban
Alabama 4.7 Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile 3 2.3 49%
Alaska 0.7 Anchorage 1 0.4 57%
Arizona 6.6 Phoenix, Tucson 2 5.2 79%
Arkansas 2.9 Fayetteville, Little Rock 2 1.2 41%
California 37.0 Los Angeles,San Fran, San Diego, San Francisco, Inland Empire 10 33.6 91%
Colorado 5.0 Denver, Colorado Springs 2 3.1 62%
Connecticut 3.5 Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven 3 3.0 86%
Delaware 0.9 none 0 0.0 0%
District of Columbia 0.6 itself 1 0.6 100%
Florida 18.6 Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Ft. Myers 5 12.5 67%
Georgia 9.8 Atlanta, Augusta 2 5.9 60%
Hawaii 1.3 Honolulu 1 1.0 77%
Idaho 1.5 Boise 1 0.6 40%
Illinois 12.9 Chicago 1 9.5 74%
Indiana 6.4 Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, Evanston 3 2.6 41%
Iowa 3.0 Des Moines 1 0.6 20%
Kansas 2.8 Wichita 1 0.6 21%
Kentucky 4.3 Louisville, Lexington 2 1.8 42%
Louisiana 4.5 New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport 3 2.4 53%
Maine 1.3 Portland 1 0.5 38%
Maryland 5.7 Baltimore 1 2.7 47%
Massachusetts 6.6 Boston, Springfield 2 5.3 80%
Michigan 10.0 Detroit, Lansing, Flint 3 5.2 52%
Minnesota 5.3 Minneapolis-St. Paul 1 3.3 62%
Mississippi 3.0 Jacksonville 1 0.5 17%
Missouri 6.0 St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield 3 5.2 87%
Montana 1.0 none 0 0.0 0%
Nebraska 1.8 Omaha 1 0.9 50%
Nevada 2.6 Las Vegas, Reno 2 2.4 92%
New Hampshire 1.3 Manchester 1 0.4 31%
New Jersey 8.7 Newark, Trenton, Camden, North Jersey 4 5.2 60%
New Mexico 2.0 Albuquerque 1 0.9 45%
New York 19.6 New York, Buffalo, Rochester, Albany 4 18.1 92%
North Carolina 9.4 Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro 5 4.6 49%
North Dakota 0.6 none 0 0.0 0%
Ohio 11.6 Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton 5 7.5 65%
Oklahoma 3.7 Oklahoma City, Tulsa 2 2.2 59%
Oregon 3.8 Portland, Eugene, Salem 3 3.0 79%
Pennsylvania 12.6 Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton 5 9.9 79%
Rhode Island 1.0 none 0 0.0 0%
South Carolina 4.6 Columbia, Charleston, Spartanburg 3 2.1 46%
South Dakota 0.8 Sioux City and Sioux Falls 2 0.4 50%
Tennessee 6.3 Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga 4 4.1 65%
Texas 24.8 Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso 5 16.9 68%
Utah 2.8 Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo 3 2.2 79%
Vermont 0.6 none 0 0.0 0%
Virginia 7.9 Norfolk, Richmond 2 3.0 38%
Washington 6.7 Seattle, Spokane 2 3.9 58%
West Virginia 1.8 none 0 0.0 0%
Wisconsin 5.6 Milwaukee, Madison 2 2.2 39%
Wyoming 0.5 none 0 0.0 0%
United States 307.0   112 199.5 65%

Two-thirds of the people in the United States, 199.5 million, live in 112 cities. I thought about showing the disparity in land mass, but decided I wasn't up for that task. So I'm listing a few states where the major cities comprise less than 1% of the land mass of the state.

  • The population of New York city is about 80% of the entire state, with less than 1% of its land mass.
  • The population of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is about 62% of the state's populace and .4% of the acreage.
  • Chicago has 74% of the state's people with less than a half per cent of its land.
  • St. Louis and Kansas City give Missouri 80% of its people and a half per cent of its land.
  • Phoenix and Tucson give 79% of Arizona's population, but only .6% of its land.
  • Atlanta has more than half of Georgia's population, but only .002 (one-fifth of one per cent) of its land.
  • The Places Rated Almanac's total reports that 379 urban areas contain 2.3% of the land mass of the United States, but 80% of its population.

So even if the cities and rural areas had equal acreage, the differences in their needs would keep the battle going. Any apportionment that favors acreage over people keeps the cities losing. And whoever says that the cities don't really represent America is looking at amber waves of grain, not at huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

So why does this matter to you?

  • If you're a senatorial wanna-be, you should be thinking about this great divide in your voters' concerns.
  • If you're an appellate lawyer, you should be thinking about the issues your state or federal Supreme Court need to consider in making policy.
  • If you want to be "just a plain lawyer" you might need to consider these issues in helping a client buy a house or build a factory.
  • And if you're a law school applicant, you might wonder how legislative apportionments affect the quality of your school.

Law School Locations, from Metropolis to Village

As I mentioned above, the definition of "city" can vary from half a million to 20 times that size! Seattle's definitely a city, but it's not New York. So here's the most reliable data I've found on sizes of cities in which there are law schools.

Population data came from the Places Rated Almanac (Special Millennium Edition) and http://reference.allrefer.com/gazetteer/.

New York Columbia. NYU

Population 8 to 10 Million

Graphic depiction of city size

Fordham. NYLS
St. John's, CUNY  
Brooklyn, Cardozo
Newark Rutgers, Seton Hall
Los Angeles UCLA, Pepperdine
USC, Southwestern
Loyola Marymount
Long Island,NY Hofstra, Touro
Chicago U. Chicago
Loyola, DePaul
Chicago - Kent
John Marshall
Dallas-Ft .Worth SMU

Population 5 to 7 Million


Graphic depiction of city size

Texas Wesleyan
Philadelphia Penn, Temple
Widener, Drexel
Rutgers Camden
Houston Houston, S. Texas
Texas Southern
Miami Miami, Fl International
Nova, St. Thomas
Washington DC Georgetown, GW
American, Catholic
Howard, DCLS
George Mason
Atlanta Emory, GA State
John Marshall
Boston Northeastern

Population 4 Million

Graphic depiction of city size

Harvard, BC  
BU, Suffolk
New England
Detroit Detroit Mercy
Wayne State
San Francisco Berkeley, Hastings
USF, Golden Gate
Phoenix Phoenix, ASU
Orange County,CA Chapman, Whittier
Western State
Ontario U. of La Verne
Seattle UW, Seattle U.

 Population 2 to 3 Million



Graphic depiction of city size

Minneapolis U. of Minnesota
William Mitchell
Hamline, St. Thomas
San Diego USD, Cal. Western
Thomas Jefferson
St. Louis  Wash. U;  St. Louis
Tampa/St. Pete Stetson
Baltimore U. Md.; Baltimore
Denver U. of Denver
Pittsburgh Pitt, Duquesne
Portland OR Lewis & Clark
Cincinnati Cincinnati, N. KY
Cleveland Case Western
Cleveland State
Sacramento Pacific McGeorge

Population 1.5 to 2 Million

Graphic depiction of city size

Orlando Barry, FAMU
San Antonio St. Mary's
Kansas City U Mo. KC
Las Vegas UNLV
Santa Clara Stanford, Santa Clara
Columbus, OH Capital, OSU
Indianapolis U of Indiana
Virginia Beach Wm & Mary; Regent
Austin U of Texas
Milwaukee Marquette
Durham, NC Duke, NC Central
UNC Chapel Hill
Nashville Vanderbilt
Jacksonville Florida Coastal

Population 1 to 1.5 Million


Graphic depiction of city size

Memphis Memphis State
Louisville Louisville
Richmond Richmond
Oklahoma City Oklahoma City
Hartford, CT UConn
Buffalo SUNY Buffalo
Birmingham Samford
Salt Lake City U. Of Utah
New Orleans Tulane, Loyola
White Plains, NY Pace
Tucson U of Arizona

Population 750,000 to 1 Million

Graphic depiction of city size

Tulsa U of Tulsa
Honolulu U of Hawaii
Albany Albany
New Haven Yale
Dayton Dayton
Albuquerque New Mexico
Omaha Creighton
Baton Rouge Louisiana State
Columbia SC U of South Carolina

Population 500,000 to 750,000


Graphic depiction of city size

Akron, OH U of Akron
Springfield MA Western New England
Knoxville U of Tennessee
Little Rock, AR U of Arkansas
Toledo, OH Toledo
Syracuse, NY Syracuse
Charleston, SC Charleston LS
Madison, WI U of Wisconsin
Des Moines IA Drake
Jackson, MS Mississippi College
Harrisburg, PA Penn State, Widener
Portland, ME U of Maine
Provo, UT Brigham Young


Population 250,000 to 500,000


Graphic depiction of city size

Winston-Salem,NC Wake Forest
Lansing, MI Michigan State
Spokane, WA Gonzaga
Lexington, KY U of Kentucky
Salem, OR Willamette
Tallahassee, FL Florida State
Ann Arbor, MI U of Michigan
Eugene, OR U of Oregon
South Bend, IN Notre Dame
Lubbock, TX   Texas Tech
Lincoln, NE U of Nebraska
Boulder, CO U of Colorado
Gainesville, FL    U of Florida
Waco, TX Baylor


Population 125,000 to 250,000




Graphic depiction of city size



Macon, GA Mercer
Topeka, KS Washburn
Champaign-Urbana U of Illinois
Tuscaloosa, AL U of Alabama
Lynchburg, VA   Liberty
Charlottesville, VA U of Virginia
Athens, GA U of Georgia
Bloomington, IN U of Indiana  
Columbia, MO U of Missouri
Lexington, VA Washington & Lee
Iowa City, IA U of Iowa
State College, PA Penn State
Morgantown, WV West Virginia U

Population 75,000 to 125,000


Graphic depiction of city size

Goldsboro, NC Campbell
Lawrence, KS U of Kansas
Vermillion, SD U of South Dakota
Missoula, MT U of Montana
Ithaca, NY Cornell
Grand Forks, ND U of North Dakota
De Kalb, IL Northern Illinois
Cheyenne, WY U of Wyoming
Lewiston, ID U of Idaho

Population 25,000 to 75,000

Graphic depiction of city size

Bristol, RI Quinnipiac
Concord, NH Franklin Pierce
Oxford, MS U of Mississippi
Carbondale, IL Southern Illinois
Lexington, VA Washington & Lee

Population less than 10,000

Graphic depiction of city size

Ada, OH Ohio Northern
South Royalton, VT Vermont
Grundy, VA Appalachian


Take me back to the
"Preliminary "Page

Take me back to
the Home Page