It's like buying real estate: If you want a good return on your law school investment, park your money in the poshest, most established neighborhood. Avoid the lackluster locations if you can, skip the up-and-coming areas, and never, never, buy anything on the wrong side of the tracks.
That's my takeaway from the latest report on the summer job scene for law students from Thomson Reuters, which starts with this reassuring message: "The worst of the summer-hiring slump for law students may be over." According to the report, this is the second year in a row that the summer market for law students is showing signs of improvement.
This year, an uptick in litigation and transactional work is the driving force behind increased hiring, explains consultant Paula Alvary to Reuters. In addition, she adds, firms are projecting improved revenue and earnings for 2012,
But not all law students will be sharing the bounty, cautions Reuters: "Students at top-tier schools may be experiencing more of an improvement in summer hiring than those at lower-tier schools, which tend to send fewer students to the top firms, Alvary said."
For students at the top schools, the current hiring picture is definitely looking brighter:
At New York University School of Law—currently ranked number six by US News & World Report—preliminary data shows that about 70 percent of incoming third-year students got summer associate positions in 2011, up 15 percentage points from 2010. At number five–ranked University of Chicago, the number was 77 percent, up eight points from 2010.
And to give you a sense of how quickly the job market has changed, Reuters offers this historical perspective :
At NYU, 55 percent of incoming third-year students held summer positions in 2010, down from 80 percent a year earlier. At Michigan, the drop was to 51 percent from 75 percent; at the University of Chicago, the numbers were 69 percent and 89 percent, respectively.
In other words, as improved as the market is for students at these top schools, it's not nearly as good as it was prerecession.
But if you want a nearly recession-proof investment, the place to put your bucks is Cambridge or New Haven. Even during the depth of the recession, law students from Harvard and Yale felt little pain:
At Harvard Law School—ranked number two—approximately 77 percent of incoming third-year students had summer associate jobs in 2010, a drop from 85 percent in 2009, according to Mark Weber, Harvard Law's assistant dean for career services. . . .
At Yale, there was no perceptible dropoff between 2009 and 2010: 72 percent of rising third-year Yale students took summer associate jobs each year.
What did I tell you? You can't go wrong buying real estate on Fifth Avenue.
Hat tip: Above the Law.