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Penn Is Big Law's Favorite School; Howard Is the Top Underdog

Vivia Chen

February 25, 2013

© Scott Maxwell - Fotolia.comWeren't the Oscars just a royal bore? Much more exciting is The National Law Journal's newly released go-to list—the much anticipated compilation of law schools most favored by the firms of the NLJ 250.

First, a quick overview of the market from the NLJ's Karen Sloan:

Most law schools sent slightly larger percentages of their 2012 classes into first-year associate jobs at these firms than they did in 2011. Among the 50 schools most popular with hiring firms, 25 percent of graduates landed associate jobs, up from 22 percent in 2011.

In other words, the legal job market still sucks. So what law school should you attend if you want to maximize your chances of getting a Big Law job? Here are the law school winners in three categories:

1. Best-Performing Law School for New Associate Hires: Penn. By a healthy margin (5 percent more than its nearest competitor), University of Pennsylvania Law School placed the highest percentage of 2012 graduates into NLJ250 firms. Last year, Penn also got first place in this category. 

We have no idea for Penn's magic spell over Big Law. (Are the students more personable? More attractive? Or is the placement office just better?) But considering that it's only rank seventh in U.S. New & World Report, Penn's top job placement standing is pretty awesome.

The following are Big Law's 10 favorite law schools for new hires:

                                                               Number of Grads in 2012     Percent at NLJ 250 firms

1

University of Pennsylvania Law School

163

60.37%

2

University of Chicago Law School

119

55.09%

3

Columbia Law School

245

53.26%

4

New York University School of Law

253

52.93%

5

Northwestern University School of Law

144

51.43%

6

Harvard Law School

297

50.34%

7

Duke Law School

107

48.42%

8

Stanford Law School

86

47.25%

9

University of California, Berkeley School of Law

139

45.28%

10

Cornell Law School

85

44.27%

What's more, Harvard actually dropped to sixth place this year (from fourth place last year), though it still sent the largest number (almost 300) of grads to Big Law (it is the second-biggest law school in the country, next to Georgetown). And, just like last year, Yale Law School didn't appear on the top 10 list (as we all know, Yale grads are way too special to work in law firms).

Another sobering fact is that only six law schools sent 50 percent or more of their grads to big firms. So while the market has stabilized since the economic downturn, going to a top go-to law school is no guarantee that you'll end up with a big firm job.

2. Best-Performing Law School for New Partners: Harvard. Harvard is still king when it comes to making partners, representing the largest number (66) of new partners in the NLJ 250. Even on a percentage basis, Harvard still outperformed other schools: Using the number of total grads from the class of 2012 as a basis, Harvard produced 11 percent new partners. In comparison, Columbia produced 6 percent and NYU 7 percent new partners. (Click here to see complete chart.)

3. Best-Performing Underdog Law School: Howard. What should you do if you didn't get into a respectably rated (in my book, that means top 25; others might draw the line at top 50 or 100) law school? Well, you might check the underdog list—schools that outperformed their U.S. New & World Report rankings in placing graduates at NLJ 25o firms. Here are the top five in the category. (Click here to see complete chart.)

Law School                                           Go-To Rank            U.S. News Rank

Howard University School of Law

31

119

Villanova University School of Law

42

101

Rutgers School of Law–Camden

48

99

Santa Clara University School of Law

46

96

Seton Hall University School of Law

37

69

     

So even if you didn't get into a top 50-ranked law school, you might still have a shot at a big-firm job—albeit a very, very long shot. 

Note: The original post stated that Harvard had the highest percentage of NLJ25o hires last year. Harvard was number four last year. We regret the error.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger Vivia Chen at vchen@alm.com. 

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"Another sobering fact is that only six law schools sent 50 percent or more of their grads to big firms. So while the market has stabilized since the economic downturn, going to a top go-to law school is no guarantee that you'll end up with a big firm job.

This statement assumes that the vase majority of law students were trying to obtain a big firm position. Perhaps students are making other choices like government, small firms, clerking or public service.

The report, while generally positive as it pertains to Tier 1 schools, probably understates the number of good outcomes for graduates of those schools, in that it (presumably) doesn't count students taking judicial clerkships. At Duke, for example, a large number of 3Ls who would be attractive to BigLaw have accepted clerkships. I imagine the same is true of the other top schools.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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