Let's get to the point: The market for lawyers is still crummy. And if your dream is to make it in Big Law, you should do everything you can to get into Harvard Law School. Not that it's the greatest law school in the land, but because Harvard keeps popping up at the top of the lists for new hires and partnership.
First, the big picture: Law firms are doing better, and partners are raking in the dough again—but they're not sharing. One key indicator is that they're very tight on hiring even from the top law schools. Reports Karen Sloan for The National Law Journal:
The 20 law schools most popular with hiring firms in 2007 sent a combined 55 percent of their graduates to NLJ 250 firms—the nation's largest by attorney head count. For the class of 2011, that percentage was 36.
Moreover, the NLJ says that "no single law school sent more than 57 percent of its graduates to NLJ 250 firms"—a marked contrast to 2007, when Columbia Law School sent 75 percent, and Northwestern University, NYU, and University of Chicago law schools sent about 70 percent of their graduates to big firms.
Though it's tougher all around to get those lucrative firm jobs, Harvard grads seem to fare better. Here's what the NLJ finds:
1. Harvard grads represented the highest number of new partners in 2011. (Followed by the University of Virginia, Georgetown, Columbia, University of Texas, NYU, Vanderbilt, University of Michigan, George Washington, and Fordham.)
2. Big firms can't seem to get enough Harvard grads. In 2011, Skadden hired 28 Harvard grads; Latham, 16; Gibson, Dunn, 11; Sidley & Austin, ten.
3. Harvard ranked fourth of all law schools for sending the highest percentage of grads to big firms. I would guess, though, that a sizable chunk of Harvard grads opted for clerkships. (Penn ranked first, followed by Northwestern and Columbia. Others in the top ten after Harvard are Stanford, Boalt, Chicago, Duke, NYU, and University of Virginia.)
So if you didn't get into Harvard Law, where should you go? Based on schools that landed on the top ten for both new hires and new partners, these are the next-best bets:
1. Columbia Law School (it ranked fourth for new partners, and third for most hires among NLJ 250).
2. University of Virginia Law School (second for new partners, tenth for most hires).
3. NYU School of Law (sixth for new partners, ninth for most hires).
Of course, what's notable is the school that's missing from the top ten on these lists: Yale.
What can I say? Guess Yale is just too good for the crass materialism of Big Law.
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