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Who's the Mother of Big Law Partners?

Vivia Chen

December 26, 2012

By auremar_fotolia1. Sorry Harvard: Your influence is overrated. So your dream is to be a hotshot Big Law partner one day. Where, oh, where should you go to law school to fulfill that lofty goal? On the basis of sheer numbers, Harvard Law School is the logical choice (in 2011, Harvard grads represented the largest number of new partners in Big Law).

But consider this latest news flash: Harvard's preeminence might be exaggerated. Here's what law professor Robert Anderson of Pepperdine says on his blog:

On a per-capita basis the University of Chicago Law School is undoubtedly the largest producer of partners in the largest 100 law firms. No matter what measure of enrollment is used, Chicago comes out first and no other law school poses a serious challenge. Although Harvard has produced more than twice the number of partners in these firms as has Chicago (946 versus 426), it has produced about three times the graduates as has Chicago during the relevant period.

In other words, Chicago is a leaner, meaner, much more efficient Big Law partner machine. Harvard, in comparison, is a lumbering giant.

2.  Get 'em while they're hot: Seton Hall Law School offers a 50 percent discount on tuition. It's not easy to run a law school these days. Jobs for law grads are scarce, and application rates are dropping. So what's a middling law school in a crowded market to do? In the case of 69th-ranked Seton University School of Law, it's time to throw a big sale! 

Reports Karen Sloan of The National Law Journal:

Applicants accepted into Seton Hall who meet or exceed the national median academic standards—a Law School Admission Test score of 158 and a 3.5 or higher undergraduate grade-point average—will pay $22,330 a year in tuition, rather than the regular $47,330. That's better than half off.

So who will likely be the takers? If you got into a top 10 or 15 law school, it's highly unlikely you'll jump at this offer. But would you sell out for a 25th-ranked law school? My guess: No. How about one ranked around 40th or lower? You'd at least think about it.

3. Food for thought (and debate). The National Law Journal's Leigh Jones has a Q&A with foodie lawyer Matthew Sanderson, who's behind the Texas Restaurant blog. I hate to sound provincial, but I find it hard to believe this statement: "The Dallas–Fort Worth area has more restaurants per capita than any other U.S. metropolitan area, according to the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business."

The Big-D has more eateries per capita (or by any other measure) than New York? Gimme a break! The B-school at SMU must be counting every Taco Bell, KFC, and Dunkin' Donuts in the area.

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger Vivia Chen at vchen@alm.com. Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist


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I know lots of Chicago law school grads. They're kind of boring, conventional, over-confident and a little (or a lot) paranoid. I guess that's a combination that works in Big Law. Despite appearances, Harvard Law seems to produce more liberal and socially conscious grads. Less Big Law-friendly. So it makes total sense!

As a USC alum, I've always believed that Harvard's influence was exaggerated.

Do New Yorkers ever visit the sprawl of the DFW area? They'd see how lots of little eateries - especially a zillion or so that focus mainly on beer - could survive there.

In the way that matters, though, New York surely out-eats Texas. Where real estate is scarce and people crowd into everyplace 24/7, of course fewer is more.

I've met Chicago Law grads.
I can believe that the school producing such lawyers is geared, if not outright enslaved, to the feeding of the corporate (read, capitalist) enablers known as Big Law.
Whether that's a bad thing is a very different question.

Considering the psychological slant of your blog, I thought research had been done on the actual mothers (the ones who raised the partners) of big firm lawyers. That made my mouth water.

If any research has been done about that, and you are as interested as I am in seeing what it shows , please let us all know.

If not, since Ph.D.s need original research, anyone out there know someone looking for a psychology or sociology Ph. D. topic?

Happy New Year.

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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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