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Columbia Is Big Law's Favorite Law School

Vivia Chen

February 24, 2014

Kazina-iStockIf your goal is to land a Big Law job (and let's be honest, why else are you reading this?), Columbia Law School is the place to be. So say goodbye to your sweetie, pack up your duffle, and take the #1 train over to Morningside Heights.

According to The National Law Journal, Columbia has regained its former glory: Despite a plummeting applicant pool—down 27 percent since 2008—Columbia is the big winner among law schools in the annual Big Law job sweepstakes. It bumped out the University of Pennsylvania Law School from the top spot (which held it for the last two years) based on percentage of graduates who landed at NLJ 250 law firms in 2013.

Though the NLJ lists 50 "Go-To" law schools, let's just focus on ones where at least 50 percent got jobs at big firms:

1 Columbia Law School                                       65.5%     65.45% $55,488
2 New York University School of Law                  54.9%     54.93% $51,150
3 Harvard Law School                                         54.6%     53.55% $50,880
4 University of Chicago Law School                    53.0%     53.02% $50,727
5 University of Pennsylvania Law School            52.5%     52.51% $53,138
6 Northwestern University School of Law            51.1%     51.05% $53,468

You'll notice some conspicuous absences on this list: Yale and Stanford. But don't be alarmed. In a related NLJ article, Karen Sloan reports that Yalies and Stanfordians are probably busy clerking.

NLJ also notes that "among the 50 schools on our Go-To list, 27 percent of recent graduates landed associate jobs at NLJ 250 firms, up from 25 percent in 2012," which makes it "the highest percentage we recorded since 2010." Among the top 20 schools on the list, "42 percent of recent graduates went on to large firm associate jobs, up from 40 percent last year."

That's certainly a notable improvement in the hiring picture—but I wouldn't get too carried away. Don't get too giddy just because you happen to get into one of the top 50 schools on that list.

Frankly, I have a quibble about what's considered a "Go-To" school. I think this list is far too liberal: Almost half of the listed schools sent fewer than 20 percent of its grads to NLJ 250 firms. What's more, seven of those schools sent fewer than 10 percent of grads into NLJ firms.

I think the bottom 30 or so law schools on that list should be called "You-Have-a-Shot-at-Big-Law-If-You-Graduate-at-the-Top-of-Your-Class" school. Seriously, how can you call a school a "Go-To" institution for Big Law unless at least a third of its grads get jobs there?

Call me elitist—but isn't that what the Big Law game is all about?

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E-mail: vchen@alm.com     Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist



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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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