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Best and Worst Law Schools for Jobs

The Careerist

June 1, 2016

Students-reading-Article-201605261207This is for all you ranking-obsessed lawyers and lawyer-wannabees: Our annual listing of law schools with the best and worst employment figures based on information from the American Bar Association.

First, let's take a look at the general picture for the class of 2015. Here's how The National Law Journal summarizes the situation:

A slightly higher percentage of graduates landed in long-term, full-time jobs that require bar passage 10 months after graduation: 59.3 percent had such jobs, compared with 57.9 percent for the previous class. But the overall number of those gold-standard law jobs declined by nearly 1,700 year-over-year. In short, the employment rate went up because of the 9 percent decline in the number of new law graduates, not because of growth in the market for new lawyers.

Bottom line: The market for bona fide legal jobs continues to shrink. So if you're looking to make a solid upper-middle class living, you might be better off going to dental school.
That said, some law schools are definitely worth the investment more so than others. (Click here for NLJ's chart of top 50 schools for jobs—interactive too!)
1. Best schools for jobs: The following law schools placed at least 80 percent of their graduates into  "gold-standard" jobs (full-time positions requiring bar passage that are not funded by the schools themselves)—

1) University of Chicago Law School (90.82% employed)

2) University of Pennsylvania Law School (89.84%)

3) Cornell Law School (89.62%)

4) Duke Law School (88.94%)

5) New York University School of Law (87.42%)

6) Columbia Law School (87.17%)

7) Harvard Law School (85.91%)

8) University of California at Berkeley School of Law (85.25%)

9) Stanford Law School (85.13%)

10) University of Michigan Law School (85.03%)

11) University of Virginia Law School (84.74%)
12) Baylor University Law School  (81.48%)
13) Northwestern Law School (81.25%)
14) Yale Law School (81.22%)
15) University of Kentucky Law School (80.31%)
This year, with almost a 91 percent employment rate, University of Chicago Law School gets the top prize, bumping out Penn, last year's winner. But before you dump Philly for Chicago, keep this in mind: "The actual number of Chicago Law’s graduates finding full-time legal jobs was about the same in 2015, but a slightly smaller graduating class size helped the school move up from No. 5 on the list in 2014," reports NLJ's Karen Sloan.
Though most of the schools on the desirable list are fairly predictable, it's worth noting that small schools like Cornell and Duke seem to be doing exceptionally well by its graduates. (Could students there be getting more personalized attention and love?)

Two big surprises on this coveted list: Baylor University School of Law and University of Kentucky, which seldom appear on the same list with those snotty T-14 schools. Though neither has a very impressive ranking in U.S. News & World Reports (Baylor is #55 and Kentucky is #60), these two regional law schools are finding jobs for their graduates.

Not so impressive in this category is the much more illustrious Georgetown Law Center. Though it holds an enviable 14th ranking in U.S. News, nearly a one-third of its 2015 class was not employed in full-time legal jobs 10 months after graduation. William Treanor, a dean at Georgetown, says, however, that an additional 24.9 percent of its students are employed in positions that do not require bar passage, and "many of these other jobs are significant."

2. Worst law schools for jobs. The following law schools had the highest percentage of underemployed graduates—meaning, they are unemployed, employed in temporary or part-time work, or working in nonprofessional jobs:

Charlotte Law: 51.32% underemployed
Detroit Mercy Law: 44.44% 
Southwestern Law: 40.51% 
Golden Gate Law: 39.87% 
San Francisco Law: 39.76% 
Santa Clara Law: 39.73% 
Ave Maria Law: 39.53% 
Thomas Jefferson Law: 39.00% 
Ohio Northern Law: 38.10% 
Florida Coastal Law: 37.31%

There are a lot more law schools that could be put on this "no-go" list; it just depends on where you want to draw the line as to what you consider an acceptable underemployment rate—and an acceptable risk.

I think spending money on Powerball would be a safer investment.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Why would the worst law schools just be closed or introduce something else. I wouldn't want my child to waste all years studying and end up jobless.

How EXACTLY are these claims vetted, if at all, esp for the suspicous one?

This information will be of great help to students who want to pursue law in their career after high school graduation.what a nice piece

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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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