If you want to make a safe bet, eliminate those wunderkinds who went to the University of Chicago Law School. Instead, put your money on the hardworking stiffs from that other law school in Chicago—Loyola.
Believe it or not, that's the way the numbers work out, according to William Henderson, a law professor at the University of Indiana. Using the job data from the The National Law Journal, Henderson calculates that Loyola grads are six times more likely to make partner at a big firm than University of Chicago grads.
Here's the math: Henderson finds that the ratio of first-year hires to new partners was 0.85 for Loyola (it had 11 first-year associates and 13 new partners in the NLJ 250 firms this year), and 5.12 for Chicago (87 first-year associates and 17 new partners). According to this calculation, every Loyola grad hired by Big Law will make partner, while only one out of five University of Chicago grad will reach that pinnacle.
Yes, there is "a time lag" in comparing first-year hires and new partners, says Henderson, a University of Chicago Law School grad. "But the data can still be interpreted as a reasonable approximation of associate to partner odds [at a given school]."
Think Chicago's partnership stats are bad? They're actually far better than those from Stanford Law School, where the new-hire-to-new-partner ratio for grads is 10.5! Here are the ratios for some of the top law schools, according to Henderson:
So which schools have a good ratio of hires to partners in Big Law? Well, more "local" schools like University of Houston (1.0 ratio); University of Illinois (1.54 ratio); University of Minnesota (2.0 ratio)—although schools with national reputations like University of Texas (1.84 ratio) and Vanderbilt (1.76) are also in the mix. (TaxProfBlog has a nice chart listing schools most favored by the NLJ 250, plus the schools' ranking.)
Of course, it's a lot tougher for grads of lower-ranked schools to get into the doors of Big Law. But those who make it in are less likely to take the opportunity for granted, says Henderson. "The strivers tend to be more concentrated in the regional law schools," he says. "Face it, being a lawyer is a service job—it's cleaning up other people's problems, and a lot of people who go to elite schools don't want to do that."
So what exactly are those graduates of those elite law schools doing? "I don't know what happens to them but in our study, they're not becoming partners at major law firms, nor are they going in- house," says Henderson. "They must have a better Plan B than the rest of us."
Illustration: 1902 Columbia University poster, Wikipedia.
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